Susan Granger’s review of “Ginger & Rosa” (A24 Films)
Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa” is the coming-of-age story of two British girls, born on the same day and raised together, whose relationship is shattered when one falls in love with the other’s father.
On August 6, 1945, as the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, two girl babies were born to two pregnant mothers, holding hands in the maternity ward of a London hospital as their respective husbands pace in the waiting room.
Skip ahead to 1962. The inseparable girls are now 17 years-old and emotionally affected by the widespread media coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the catastrophic consequences of a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia. Daughter of frustrated painter Natalie (Christina
Hendricks) and philandering Roland (Alessandro Nivola), a conscientious objector who served time in prison during W.W. II for his political beliefs, Ginger (Elle Fanning), is a nascent poet and ardent political activist, joining the
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, attending meetings and marching in pacifist demonstrations. At the same time, Rosa (Alice Englert), whose father left her mother (Jodhi May) years earlier, turns to religion and gives Ginger a crucifix. Eventually, Roland takes his own flat and Ginger moves in with her father. Problem is: where Ginger goes, so does Rosa. And rebellious Rosa’s budding sexuality is inflamed by amoral Roland – with disastrous consequences.
While writer/director Sally Potter (“Orlando”) concentrates on idealistic Ginger’s emotional angst, propelled not only by fear of a nuclear holocaust but also by the betrayal of both her father and best-friend. Aided by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, Potter fashions a dazzling, dramatic showcase for Elle Fanning, who was only 13 at the time of filming. The stalwart supporting cast is headed by Alice Englert (daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion) and includes Annette Bening, as an American dissident, along with Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt as Ginger’s godfathers.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ginger & Rosa” is a sensitive 6, notable primarily because of Elle Fanning’s incandescent performance.