In Lena Dunham’s Catherine Called Birdy Things In 1290 Are Very Familiar

Andrew Scott and Bella Ramsey in ‘Catherine Called Birdy.’ Prime Video
Andrew Scott and Bella Ramsey in ‘Catherine Called Birdy.’ Prime Video

Lena Dunham’s new film Catherine Called Birdy is based on a book of the same name that spoke to the nascent feminist heart of many middle school girl. The trailer for the Amazon Prime release shows much of that spirit remains in this adaptation, which was written as well as directed by Dunham. Lady Catherine, played by Game of Thrones’ “Little Lady” Bella Ramsey, is a very young girl in the year 1290 who lives in a small medieval village with her family. Catherine is often called Birdy, a nickname that reflects she is still just a child, though her father is already trying to marry her off. Though it appears she might just spread her wings and fly away.

In the trailer, Birdy is shown scaring off inappropriately aged-suitor after suitor with lies about extra ears and smallpox, despite the threats from her dad, played by Fleabag’s Andrew Scott. In addition to Ramsey and Scott, the cast includes Joe Alwyn, Ralph Ineson, Billie Piper, Isis Hainsworth, and Russell Brand.

“Would I choose to die rather than be forced to marry?” Birdy wonders as she falls back in exasperation onto her bed, like any modern tween. “I do not think either option is appealing. Or fair.”

The trailer includes a heated speech from Birdy about the dehumanization faced by her gender in a way that feels all too familiar. This was Dunham’s intention. She told Teen Vogue in an interview that even if some of the things Birdy faces might feel uniquely medieval, there are still a lot of parallels to the year 2022.

“I wanted to highlight this girl who was living in the wrong time,” Dunham explained. “If she was living in 2022, she would be a pretty classic tomboy or able to explore the gender binary. She’d be able to play all the sports she wanted. All of her dreams, which in 1290 are to go to a hanging and run around without a skirt on, would be achievable. But there are still as we know, huge challenges to being a woman in this day and age, and a teenage girl.”

Dunham added, “While it feels very far away that a 13-year-old is being asked to marry a 50-year-old, we still have plenty of barbaric customs that control the way people’s bodies are dealt with. There’s so many aspects to modern life that still speak to themes of the book. I really love that we were able to highlight aspects of that, and the way the world has changed but also the way it’s stayed the same. And do it with some humor.”

Catherine Called Birdy will be premiering at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, then released in theaters September 23, and stream globally on Prime Video starting October 7.