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Ginger & Rosa

Ginger & Rosa

Released 19 October 2012
Director Sally Potter

Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Christine Hendricks, Annette Bening, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Johdi May
Writer(s) Sally Potter

Andrew Litvin, Christopher Sheppard

United Kingdom, Denmark, Canada, Croatia
Running Time 90 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating 15A

An ideological mess.

Bolstered by a strong lead performance from Elle Fanning, Ginger & Rosa is a delicate little film that oozes potential, but its deviation from coming-of-age drama into more politicised territory leave it cluttered and unbalanced. Much like its protagonist, Sally Potter’s new film doesn’t have much to say and it’s always uncertain about the little it does. Previously called Bomb, this perhaps may have been the more apt of titles as the breakdown of Ginger’s familial structure is shadowed by the film’s backdrop of the Cold War and potential nuclear winter.

It’s London, 1962; political tension and sexual revolution are in the air. Both born on the day the H-bomb struck Hiroshima (shown to us in footage at the film’s opening, the blast serves as an oh-so-subtle catalyst for the cataclysmic ruptures in personal lives that will follow), Ginger (Fanning) and Rosa (Englert) grow up as inseparable teenagers, sharing clothes, cigarettes and boys. When Rosa falls for the charms of Ginger’s father Roland (Nivola), a self-pitying lefty intellectual, it puts a strain on the girl’s relationship and adds to domestic woes concerning Rosa’s mother, Natalie (Christina Hendricks with a dodgy London accent). This all becomes too much to bear for Rosa, who descends into an obsession with the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Great cinematography featuring a palette of warm, vibrant colours and an upbeat jazz score set the film up well for a coming-of-age tale of two girls and the rift that threatens to tear them apart. The trouble is that when these cracks appear, they ignore confronting their broken relationship and go separate paths of left-wing politics and passionate idealism, which makes for a dull affair.

Muddled plotting aside, the acting cannot be faulted. Fanning is wonderful as the naive but passionate (for something, anything) Ginger. She passively reacts to all that is going on around her and Fanning masterfully lets her facial expressions do most of the work; perfectly conveying Ginger’s confusion and sense of injustice Alessandro Nivola is also excellent as a father who uses his political beliefs as an excuse for his deadbeat ways. He names his daughter Africa (Ginger’s real name) and cries while listening to Schubert and Nivola captures his falsehood and smugness in a believable way.

Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt and Annette Benning also give solid support turns as Ginger’s political educators, but as the ending reminds us, she is still a child and most of it is going way over her head.

So, why couldn’t Potter just focus on that?

- Cathal Prendergast