Sally Potter creates stories that resonate across generations with characters that are luminous. In Ginger and Rosa, she takes an experience from her youth and crafts it into an exquisite meditation on the schism between personal and collective identity and responsibility.
Set in 1962, Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) are best friends and the daughters of best friends, Natalie (Christina Hendricks) and Anoushka (Jodhi May). Rosa’s father left early on and Roland (Alessandro Nivola), Ginger’s father who refuses to be called dad because of its bourgeois implications, is a writer and activist proud of his conscientious objection and imprisonment during WWII.
Ginger and Rosa are discovering life as 17-year-olds, smoking, making out with boys and feeling contemptuous of their mothers. The Cuban missile crisis looms and Ginger is increasingly worried about the threat of nuclear war. Her solution is to become an activist whereas Rosa is looking elsewhere for meaning, each choice a metaphor for what they most yearn for.
For Ginger, her crisis is not just about ideology but also to have a voice in the world. She sees her mother’s life and wants more. This is Elle Fanning’s movie, the camera rarely leaving her expressive face as we see her struggle to find her path. She has some co-conspirators in godparents Mark (Timothy Spall), Mark Two (Oliver Platt) and their bolshie American friend Bella (Annette Bening) who add levity and an objectivity that her parents lack.
The one point of colour, Ginger’s fire bright hair, draws our eye against the film’s muted colour palette of 60s England, where women’s liberation and flower power are yet to make their mark. Ginger and Rosa dress alike and the symmetry of their looks and likes and lives begins to give way as they make conflicting choices. The roles of the mothers and the daughters show the options for women at a time of significant change.
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