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United Kingdom/Denmark/Canada/Croatia 2012
Directed by
Sally Potter
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Ginger & Rosa

Writer-director Sally Potter’s coming-of-age story about an independent-minded teenage girl feels strongly biographical (the girl, Ginger was born in London in 1945, Potter was born in London in 1949) and that sense of first-hand experience is the film’s greatest strength, followed by the depiction of burgeoning 1960s Left/beatnik sub-culture with its duffel-coats, jazz records and ban-the-bomb marches.

Potter’s reputation as a strongly distinctive directorial voice seems to have helped her put together a first-class cast for what is a relatively small film. Dakota Fanning's younger sister, Elle, plays Ginger whilst Alice Englert, daughter of the Australian director Jane Campion, plays Rosa. Christina Hendricks plays Ginger's mother, Annette Bening is a Simone De Beauvoirish feminist and Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt are Ginger’s gay god-parents.

Potter’s script well integrates the general apprehension of the time regarding the end of the world as a whole (the Cuban missile crisis provides the specific backdrop) with the end of Ginger’s childhood world. On the one hand Russia and America are facing each other off, whilst on the other Ginger's bohemian parents are splitting up and her “best friend forever” Rosa starts an affair with Ginger’s father (Alessandro Nivola).  This latter is a somewhat hard-to-swallow scenario particularly as the father, freethinker though he may be, carries on with Rosa in front of Ginger. This is a problem of character development as much as laws of probability. In other words, Potter needed to have worked more on motivating this development more believably instead of letting it look like a dramatic contrivance which it does, particularly in the culminating and rather staged confrontation scene.  Awkward and unsatisfying as this aspect of the film may be. the sense that this is all drawn from real-life carries it over the line.  

Fanning is particularly good in what is by default the lead role, especially considering that she is 13 playing 17 whilst the rest of the cast handsomely fill out the support roles with the exception of Spall who has no ability to underplay and whom Potter rather obviously cuts around.

Although essentially a chamber piece, Ginger & Rosa is a worthy addition to the body of films such as An Education which deal with the transformation of post-war British society.




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