Published Sep 23, 2012Navigating the sexually-charged and politically-shifting dynamic of '60s London, England, best friends Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) bridge the gap between idealistic youth and adult disappointment in Sally Potter's surprisingly straightforward, but thematically rich coming-of-age tale, Ginger & Rosa.
Having a more grounded, realist feel than Potter's most notable and oblique works, like Orlando and Yes, there's something indirectly autobiographical about her latest that makes it readily accessible while thoughtful and astute.
The heart of this story is aspiring activist Ginger, whose preoccupation with the Hiroshima attack is exacerbated by the Cuban Missile Crisis and her academically motivated, pseudo-libertarian father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola).
Her thirst for knowledge and quiet resentment of artist/housewife/mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) is juxtaposed with lifelong best friend Rosa's religious simplicity and overt use of sexuality to compensate for a lacking father figure.
But more than just a tale of two young girls with vastly different ideologies coming to terms with the world around them, this clever character study finds its strength from power dynamics and perspectives shifting as heroes and ideals crash down around them.
Initially enamoured by her witty, freethinking father, Ginger starts to see faults in his persona, whether it's his callous twisting of his less articulate wife's words when she expresses her hurt for his inability to appreciate a meal she's made for him or his tendency to use an argument as justification for his id impulses.
Similarly, Rosa's lack of ambition and passive response to the world around her manifests in a miscalculation of her sexuality and ultimately betrayal through sheer naive trust in her elders. Her decisions, while understandable, are what eventually tear down Ginger's world, forcing the young political thinker to question everything she once held dear.
Despite the eventual climactic blow out, Potter's handling of the material and her characters is mostly through body languages, expressions and veiled commentary. Similarly, Fanning's complicated depiction of a young girl reluctantly acknowledging the many faults in the world around her is restrained and acutely observed.
These two well-balanced approaches to moderately familiar material are what make this intimate tale something special and undoubtedly timeless. (BBC)