8 November 2013 | Buddy-51
subtle, thoughtful coming-of-age tale
Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, "Ginger and Rosa" is a complex tale of two adolescent girls, best friends from childhood, coming of age in early 1960s England.
Ginger, so named because of her flaming red hair, is the more socially awkward of the two, and it is she who has recently become obsessed with the threat of global nuclear annihilation. Rosa seems a bit more worldly and experimental overall, more willing to take a dip in that tantalizing pool known as adulthood with all the attended mysteries - and risks - it has to offer. This creates a bit of a problem for the two when Rosa becomes romantically involved with Ginger's handsome step dad who has recently separated from Ginger's mom.
Ginger struggles to find herself amidst the Cuban Missile Crisis, Ban the Bomb rallies and the tumultuous lives of the people around her. Failed marriages, unfulfilled lives, unreliable friendships - these become the preoccupations of a young girl who has the added concern of a world seemingly on the path to blowing itself up to deal with. Or is that broader concern just a convenient way for her to deflect and sublimate the pain brought on by her relationships with her mother, stepfather and best friend, not to mention the perfectly ordinary growing pains common to adolescence? Writer/director Sally Potter doesn't feel the need to answer that question, and one of the movie's strongest assets is that it doesn't deal with its subject matter and themes in black-and-white terms. It feels real precisely because it doesn't pigeonhole its characters or provide a neat, carefully planned-out narrative for the audience to follow. We're allowed to observe these people from an appropriate emotional distance and to render our own judgment - or lack of judgment - on them. They may be screwed up, but we see a lot of ourselves reflected in them, even if we don't care to fully admit it.
Elle Fanning turns in a remarkably self-assured performance as Ginger, and she receives excellent support from Alice Englert as Rosa, Alessandro Nivola as the step dad, and Christina Hendricks from "Mad Men" as her mom. Moreover, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Benning appear as unconventional but sympathetic neighbors who Greek-chorus their way through the film.