Ginger & Rosa | Film reviews, news & interviews
Ginger & Rosa
Passion and pain colour this coming-of-age tale from director Sally Potter
The latest film from innovative firebrand Sally Potter is something of a surprise given her back catalogue. Her last feature, Rage (2009) premiered on mobile phones and the internet and comprised a series of to-the-camera monologues; the one before that Yes (2004) was told in iambic pentameter; and, she is of course the maestro behind gender-bending masterpiece Orlando (1992). Ginger & Rosa – a sweet and sour coming-of-age story - by contrast seems pretty conventional, following two teenage girls who have been best friends since their simultaneous birth.
It’s London, 1962, and Ginger and Rosa (Elle Fanning and Alice Englert, pictured below right) are growing-up amidst domestic turmoil and global volatility. When we meet them they’re inseparable but it’s already apparent that they’re about to head in two very different directions. The sensitive Ginger is interested in poetry and politics, while the more volatile Rosa harbours religious beliefs and is a hopeless romantic. Ginger is encouraged in her activism by her gay godfathers Mark (Timothy Spall) and Mark Two (Oliver Platt) and their poet houseguest Bella (Annette Bening).Their support becomes a godsend as Ginger’s homelife become increasingly oppressive.
Ginger’s unhappy mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) has swapped her aspirations as a painter for domestic drudgery and endures an adulterous spouse. The adulterer in question is Ginger’s father Roland (Alessandro Nivola), a left-wing academic who spent time in prison as a conscientious objector. As Roland takes an incendiary interest in Rosa, the girls attend Youth Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament meetings and the film builds to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which coincides with a family meltdown.
Dealing in youthful ambition and disappointment in one’s parents, the whole film is shot explicitly from Ginger’s perspective and boasts a lush, loose aesthetic (director of photography Robbie Ryan’s impressive CV includes Fish Tank and The Angels’ Share). Ginger & Rosa was filmed almost exclusively with handheld cameras and it’s a terrifically visually lively film – like a fresh autumnal breeze lit up by the warmth of open fires. In its energy it apes the tumultuousness of being a teenager and plainly associates everything we see with Ginger and her flame red hair.
As Ginger, Fanning is a delicate delight (an obscenely talented young actress - she’s already impressed in Somewhere and Super 8), giving us gentle ripples of emotion under the film’s intimate but sympathetic gaze. Ginger & Rosa is a film that leans heavily on its performers yet, somewhat oddly, Potter has chosen an international cast to play the film’s key roles: Hendricks (pictured above left), Fanning and Nivola are American and Englert (the daughter of Jane Campion) was born in New Zealand. Whilst they’re a fine collection of performers, on occasion their English accents head for the hills (Hendricks has magnificent screen presence but she’s the main culprit here). Furthermore, everyone’s playing it a bit plummy considering the film’s London housing estate setting.
Sally Potter’s seventh narrative feature might be far from her most original, but she sneaks plenty of subversion under the radar - it may also be her most personal film considering that she was Elle Fanning’s age in 1962. Ginger & Rosa is, at its best, a deft balance of small and large scale tragedy, infused with rust and spice.
- Ginger & Rosa is on general release from Friday and screens as part of the London Film Festival
Share this article
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Boundary-pushing documentaries were among strong offerings in the festival's closing days
Woody Allen haunts Peter Bogdanovich's putative comeback
Swedish depiction of the collapse of male character will make you squirm
Edinburgh puts other festivals in the shade with an amazing array of female filmmakers
British cycling captured on film, from 1899 to 1983
Vienna, the zither, a twist of Lime: Carol Reed's newly restored noir masterpiece returns
Weak documentary about a transcontinental rail journey freighted with art 'happenings'
Masterful McKellen captures the great detective in his twilight years
Gael García Bernal is the stranger saving farmers from bandits in this jungle western
Breezy fantasia of Hollywood success will please existing fans of the HBO series but not win converts
Barbara Stanwyck cracks her whip in Sam Fuller's Tombstone power-struggle rethink
Stylised but slim French romcom