EMMA Watson, one of the stars of this adaptation of the American classic, has marked its release with the usual round of interviews and appearances. She has topped this with a stint playing “book fairy”, depositing copies of Louisa May Alcott’s novel at various feminist landmarks for lucky strangers to pick up.

Many will remember their own first copy of Little Women. Mine was pink: that was how “woke” we were in those days. Greta Gerwig is the latest writer-director to bring the novel to the screen. As switched on and modern as the director of Lady Bird and the star of Frances Ha is, there is still a touch of pink about her version of Alcott’s tale. If you are looking for a red in tooth and claw reimagining of Little Women to fit in with the #MeToo era, this is not it.

Gerwig sets the tone from the outset with a quote from Alcott: “I’ve had lots of troubles so I write jolly tales.” When we meet the four March sisters, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth (played by Saoirse Ronan , Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen respectively), they are living through anything but jolly times. The country is in the grip of the Civil War, their pastor father is at the front, and money is tight.

Jo does her bit for the family coffers by writing. Her first work accepted for publication, she is advised to make readers happy and always have the heroine married by the end. Jo and her family are great friends with the boy next door, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), whose position in life, wealthy, free to do as he pleases, go where he pleases, stands in stark contrast to their restricted lives as women of little means.

Gerwig tells the story in a flashback and forth style that is confusing at times, but everything is there just as you remember it, from the dances and the curling tongs catastrophe to *that* tragedy.

The March sisters are perfectly cast, Ronan as the self-sufficient Jo especially, with Meryl Streep and Laura Dern typically wonderful as Aunt March and Marmee, the matriarch who holds the family together. Chalamet makes a slight, beautiful Laurie.

This is the eighth film of Alcott’s novel. There have been at least five television adaptations, including a BBC series shown over Christmas a couple of years ago. One has to wonder what Gerwig brings to the party, with the answer being not much.

Yes, her Little Women is lovingly done and handsomely staged, but there is nothing here to frighten the horses. While that might disappoint some, Alcott, with her understanding of the need for jolly tales in troubled times, would surely have approved. Gerwig could have no higher compliment.