Sally Potter’s latest film explores friendship, love and family in 1960s London during the Cuban Missile Crisis through the eyes of two teenage girls. Elle Fanning and newcomer Alice Englert play inseparable friends, Ginger and Rosa. The two have done everything together practically since birth. Now that they’re teenagers, their interests are starting to slightly deviate. Rose becomes obsessed with finding love and being loved, while Ginger is less concerned by that and more about the looming possibility of nuclear war. A pivotal event causes Ginger become obsessed with stopping the bombs from exploding literally in the world and metaphorically in her own personal life.
Elle Fanning turns in a fantastic performance as Ginger. This is her movie, and she carries it so effortlessly. There’s no doubt how talented this Fanning sister is or that she’ll make it far in this business. Ginger is young and still has that childhood precociousness. She was not in a hurry to grow up, like her friend is. Yet, out of friendship and loyalty, Ginger indulges Rosa’s likes and needs until Rosa begins to skirt a territory that makes Ginger feel utterly uncomfortable. It no doubt made me feel uncomfortable too.
At first, I wasn’t sure what Ginger and Rosa would be all about. I have to stay there’s a lot more to it than from what can be seen on the surface. I really like the play between the crises in the world and in Ginger’s own life and how she decided to cope and react to them. Ginger was convinced that the world was ending, her world was ending. I was surprised by how affecting it was. For the first half, I thought I was feeling apathetic and removed from the whole thing, but then the movie’s emotion knocked me out suddenly, thanks to Fanning’s excellent performance.
Alice Englert, who we saw recently in WB’s Beautiful Creatures, holds her own opposite Fanning, even if her screen presence isn’t as engaging, which might have more to do with her character, Rosa, than Englert’s acting alone. The supporting cast is definitely noteworthy. Christina Hendricks and Alessandro Nivola are in fine form as Ginger’s young mother and free-wheeling father. Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Benning also star as Ginger’s family friends and offer her some well-needed guidance. Their addition to this cast and story was very welcomed and enjoyable.
I haven’t seen a coming of age movie like Ginger and Rosa in a while. The film does a good job of tackling topics of that time, such as activism against nuclear warfare, a woman’s lack of fulfillment with being a housewife, or a daughter’s need for love after the abandonment of a father. However mostly, it focuses on friendship, growing up and how things are always changing. Not everything can stay the same or last forever. Ginger and Rosa explores all that with engaging characters, a sensitive and affecting story, and good filmmaking.
Ginger and Rosa is now playing in select theaters. Click here to see when and where it will be playing near you.