Director: Mike Mills

Under the roof of Dorothea’s (Annette Bening) home in Santa Barbara you’ll find her songs Jamie and William, her daughters Abbie and Julie, Talking Heads records, classic cars, photography, sex, and existential crises. It’s a combination of these characters, belongings, and actions that make up the vast majority of 20th Century Women. The new comedy/drama from writer and director Mike Mills features an ensemble cast including Lucas Jade Zumann, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and Elle Fanning.

20th Century Women

More specifically, the film is about Dorothea and Jamie’s respective struggles of growing old and growing up. In a fit of desperation to give her son a good role model as he enters manhood, Dorothea turns to the women that inhabit their house to teach her son about life and their experiences. The result of this decision leads to conversations of menstruation, orgasms, pregnancy, happiness, romance, art, and what it means to be a woman and a man. The time period feels like a character of its own. While the film takes place in 1979, Mills shows us glimpses into the past and future through montages of archival photographs and music. This serves a similar purpose as the voice-over does for the characters.


The film is not without it’s problems. The runtime is a total of 180 minutes, which feels unnecessarily long, and the themes of the film become redundant. However, there is no denying the charm and heart behind every scene and conversation. It is rare to find characters that are this multi-dimensional, each with their own set of goals, flaws, and quirks. The viewer becomes acquainted with these people from all angles and time periods in their lives. The film shines due to its inherent intimacy and the vulnerable and relatable moments. Unfortunately, given that the film is so entrenched in the white suburban culture of the late 70s, it neglects to call attention to the prominent issues of the time. Essentially every ethnic group other than Caucasians are ignored, which may be isolating for some. 

Elle Fanning

20th Century Women opens in theaters on Christmas day, so spend the holidays with a lovable ensemble and an amazing soundtrack that any reader of The Stranger Song is sure to enjoy. 

If you enjoyed this movie, we recommend…

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) – Marielle Heller

Mistress America (2015) – Noah Baumbach

De Lux – Voyage

Brandon Winters

December 4, 2016