Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel about a family of women in Civil War-era New England is again brought to the screen in this adaptation. The focus is on the March sisters, four young girls raised by their mother (Susan Sarandon) after their father leaves for battle as part of the Union Army. At the center is Jo March (Winona Ryder), an idiosyncratic would-be writer said to be based on Alcott herself, but the film also focuses on the stories of her sisters — the more conventional Meg (Trini Alvarado), the innocent Beth (Claire Danes), and the precocious Amy (Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis, who represent Amy at different ages.) The film spans years, following the girls’ struggles with life’s challenges and illustrating how their family connection remains strong in the face of tragedies large and small. Australian director Gillian Armstrong emphasizes the story’s feminist elements, particularly in Jo’s journey to independence.