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Ginger & Rosa

2012 | 90 min | R | 2.39:1

Ginger & Rosa


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Theatrical release date

 15 March, 2013
 19 October, 2012

Country of origin

 United Kingdom



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Screenshots from Ginger & Rosa Blu-ray

Ginger & Rosa Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 13, 2013

With “Ginger & Rosa,” writer/director Sally Potter searches for ways to isolate the internal churn of adolescence as it’s rocked by troubles ranging in intensity, from global fears to silent shame. It’s an intimate story brought to life by a sharp cast, who locate the wounded spirit Potter is looking to communicate, while the inherent burn of the screenplay creates a welcome heaviness despite a few corners cut in characterization. “Ginger & Rosa” is emotional and real, even when it takes a few soap opera detours, always returning to a place of scrambled teen introspection that’s engaging and, in many ways, relatable.

The year is 1962, and London is watching as nuclear tensions develop between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Enjoying a lifelong bond of friendship, teens Ginger (Elle Fanning, “Super 8”) and Rosa (Alice Englert, “Beautiful Creatures”) are growing concerned about the possibility of war, with Ginger taking an active role of protest, while Rosa combats the emptiness of her life with religion. At home, Ginger spies her frustrated mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) deal with free-spirit father Roland (Alessandro Nivola), watching the household fall apart, resulting in a separation. Moving in with Roland, Ginger hopes to develop her artistic gifts and sharpen her mind, while Rosa takes a romantic interest in the man of the house, casually poisoning the friendship. Seeking comfort in the company of her godfathers (Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt) and family friend May (Annette Bening), Ginger attempts to manage her pain, finding the pressures of the world overwhelming her ability to cope with it all.

The director of “Orlando,” “Yes,” and “The Man Who Cried,” Potter has enjoyed a turbulent career of uneven artistic accomplishments, yet her work is rarely difficult to dismiss. “Ginger & Rosa” contributes a youthful perspective to her filmography, showing signs of autobiographical content with this tale of a young woman desperately striving to find her voice via art, working to express herself as a way of managing her daily intake of disappointment. It’s screenwriting that’s lived-in and communicative, though not always fulfilling with its backstory. Although the opening of the effort is stunningly economical, little is understood about Rosa’s home life with her harried single mother (Jodhi May), with the relationship displayed in a simple manner to convey resentment, urging the girl into Roland’s reassuring embrace. Despite a title that promises a duel exploration of angst, Ginger is the lead character here, and we see the world and its toxins through her eyes. Rosa is more decoration than partner in crime, which creates some gaps in the narrative flow of the picture.

Potter’s attention to character serves “Ginger & Rosa” well, permitting an understanding of the teenager’s suffocating domestic situation. Natalie is a painter and musician unable to express herself through art, trapped in a housewife role when the reality of child rearing crashed into her life. She resents Roland, an ex-convict and writer who rejects religion, celebrating thought and independence despite his position as a parent, stepping away from his family to indulge himself as a single man. Ginger is trapped between the extremes of responsibility, with the stress of the world at large adding to a whirlwind of emotions, facing the potential of extinction as the Cuban Missile Crisis paralyzes the world. Managing the needs of her heart with her concerns for the future, Ginger attempts activism, joining protest marches to find purpose, escaping from the shocking offenses forming right in front of her.

Potter and Fanning generate such clarity of feeling, preserving the horror of the moment and fury of thought, sustaining the character’s eroding innocence in a genuine manner that builds to a climatic explosion. It’s a wonderful piece of acting that drives the sensation of exasperation that eventually claims the story. “Ginger & Rosa” doesn’t provide a rounded feeling of engagement, but it’s significant with its state of confusion, while using a time period of unrest to amplify the development of consciousness and its hunger for punishment. Although it only tackles a modest amount of conflict, the feature puts forth a real understanding of personality and fallibility, creating a searing portrait of a teenager attempting to survive her fears through a barbed process of acceptance, embarking on therapy through the cleansing creation of poetry.

Starring: Alice Englert, Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Annette Bening, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Spall
Director: Sally Potter

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