Ginger & Rosa | Movie review
A fear of bombs, literal and emotional, defines Sally Potter’s ’60s-set teen drama.
Set in London during the nuclear-dread autumn of 1962, Ginger & Rosa is said to be at least partially inspired by writer-director Sally Potter’s memories of childhood. Depending on just how autobiographical the movie is, she may deserve a mountain of praise—or at least a hug. For one, the filmmaker has evoked her Beatles-era youth without the aid of easy cultural signposts. (G&R is the rare ’60s flashback that doesn’t feel like a music-and-fashion highlight reel.) Secondly, and more substantially, if Potter’s experience remotely resembled that of her teenage surrogate, kudos to her for having the fortitude to return to that dark place.
Still graced with the wholesome fragility she brought to Somewhere and Super 8, Elle Fanning plays angsty, redheaded Ginger, coming of age in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As if fear of the bomb weren’t enough to deal with, her best friend Rosa (Beautiful Creatures’ Alice Englert) betrays her by making eyes with her ex-radical father (Alessandro Nivola, very believable as an arrogant “big thinker” and sham role model). The melodrama that follows seems both hyperspecific and wholly familiar, as though Potter—best known for the early Tilda Swinton vehicle Orlando (1992)—were attempting to twist complicated young-adult feelings into palatable indie drama. (The pat finale is especially misguided.) Still, whether it’s memoir or personalized fiction, Ginger & Rosa displays a shrewd understanding of late adolescence—a time when every emotional slight lands like an atom bomb.