By Jess Lomas
April 1, 2014
In Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, two best friends learn forever may not be as long as they’d always thought it would be. Set in London while the Cuban Missile Crisis is in full swing, best friends Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) yearn to escape their repressive mothers and the domestic boredom they want no part of. Growing up the girls have done everything together, but as Ginger becomes increasingly preoccupied with the potential end of the world and attending ban the bomb rallies, Rosa focuses more on her developing sexuality.
Despite the title, this is Ginger’s story, told from her point of view as the threat of nuclear war collides with her disintegrating family. There’s her fragile mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) and radical writer father Roland (Alessandro Nivola), whose unremitting fighting leads to a separation. Ginger’s godfather Mark (Timothy Spall), his partner – also named Mark (Oliver Platt) – and their houseguest, activist Bella (Annette Bening), make up the rest of Ginger’s support network, begging her to be content as a carefree girl a little while longer. Yet, the problems of 1962 weigh on Ginger’s shoulders, especially when she is forced to keep a secret of her father’s; something she believes will cause the end of the world for everyone she loves if admitted out loud.
The film nails the transitional period of the era, perfectly blending the bland and understated post World War II decor and attitudes with the burgeoning Swinging Sixties looming on the horizon. Even within Ginger and Rosa’s relationship there is evidence of this, with the girls content to share a beige wardrobe early in the feature before Rosa transitions to all black, complete with eye liner and Brigitte Bardot hair. These are the subtleties that impress on reflection, and, in an otherwise competently layered story, it is only the main and incredibly predictable plot development with Ginger’s father that weakens the overall impact of the movie.
This is a tepid drama, riding on the shoulders of a truly breakout performance from Fanning. Her understated and beautiful interpretation of the fragility of teenage friendships and the heartache that can occur as girls become women is made only more impressive by her age during production, a mere 14 years old. Ginger and Rosa is a small flick that reminds audiences how exciting it is to see raw and sincere performances despite what kind of package they’re delivered in.
Ginger and Rosa will be available from Quickflix on April 2, 2014.