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Film / 20th Century Women

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20th Century Women is a 2016 Coming-of-Age Story film written and directed by Mike Mills.

Set in 1979, the film centers on a group of five characters living in a Santa Barbara, California boarding house:

  • Dorothea (Annette Bening), the boarding house's proprietor and a single mother;
  • Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), Dorothea's teenage son who's struggling with adolescence;
  • Julie (Elle Fanning), Jamie's childhood friend and object of his affection;
  • Abbie (Greta Gerwig), an artist dealing with a recent cervical cancer diagnosis;
  • William (Billy Crudup), a handy man who helps maintain the boarding house.


20th Century Women contains examples of:

  • Bittersweet Ending: While the main characters are still shown as supportive and caring towards one another, they all eventually drift away from one another save Jamie and Dorothea, while the latter dies 20 years later.
  • Childhood Friends: Jamie and Julie have been friends since their early youth.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jamie's father skipped out on him and Dorothea, and he never got to know him.
  • The Great Depression: Dorothea grew up during the Depression.
  • Handy Man: William is skilled with his hands and helps with repairs and renovations around the boarding house.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Dorothea trained to be a fighter pilot in World War II, but the war ended before she could begin service.
  • Oh, and X Dies: Dorothea tells the audience she'll die of lung cancer in 1999.
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  • Period Piece: Set at the tail-end of The '70s leading into The '80s.
  • Posthumous Narration: Dorothea tells the audience she'll die of lung cancer in 1999.
  • Punk Rock: Jamie and Abbie are interested in this genre of music. Via narration, Dorothea points out that the punk movement —in its purest form— is dying out by 1979.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Jamie is romantically interested in Julie. His feelings aren't reciprocated.
  • Really Gets Around: Julie is pretty much sleeping with every guy Jamie knows but Jamie, to his chagrin.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: With director Mike Mills's previous film Beginners. While both focus on the impact of a parent on a child, Beginners is about a father's impact on his grown-up son, while Women is about a mother's impact on her teenage son.
  • Starving Artist: Abbie is a photographer.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The film doesn't really focus on any one of the five primary characters, and they're all given POV narrations at different points throughout.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Abbie is diagnosed with cervical cancer because her mother took a drug meant to promote fertility.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Each of the primary characters tell the audience what happens to them after the film's end, via narration:
    • Dorothea finds a new boyfriend in 1983 and dates him until she dies of lung cancer in 1999.
    • Julie moves to New York City for college, stops speaking to her mother, and loses contact with The Fieldses.
    • Abbie marries and has two children with her husband, despite the cervical cancer.
    • Jamie has a son of his own, after Dorothea's death.
    • William lives with Dorothea for another year before moving to Sedona, Arizona, and is briefly married.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Jamie's feelings for Julie are unrequited, and as shown in the epilogue, the two eventually drift apart and marry different people.


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