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Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird has critics swooning and is reducing jaded film writers to weepy puddles searching for the right superlatives to describe it.

Here goes our attempt: This vivid, funny, and poignant coming-of-age tale stars Saoirse Ronan as the titular teen, who is aching to break out of her sedate Sacramento suburbia and away from her parents (Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts) for something bigger and better — though what that is exactly, she’s not sure. Gerwig’s screenplay is sharp and witty, and Ronan, Metcalf, and Letts, as well as young superstars-in-the-making Beanie Feldstein, Timothée Chalamet, and Lucas Hedges, give precise, lived-in performances that deliver one authentic moment after another.

Gerwig came on the scene over a decade ago with films such as Hannah Takes the Stairs, the mumblecore trailblazer she starred in and co-wrote. Since then she’s carved out a place as the slightly screwball heroine in films such as Greenberg, 20th Century Women, Frances Ha, and Mistress America, the last two of which she penned with her longtime partner, the writer and director Noah Baumbach. But she’s had directing aspirations since the age of 5. “I was always trying to direct musicals in kindergarten; I wanted everyone to do my production of Starlight Express,” she says. “But I remember realizing that there was going to be a problem because the playground was gravel, and I couldn’t figure out how to get the skates to work.”

Lady Bird opens in theaters Friday. Hear more from Gerwig about the film in the video above.