Movie Review - Ginger & Rosa

British actors play Americans in movies and TV shows, but it's rare to see the reverse. Writer-director Sally Potter does hire American actors to play British roles and Potter is able to capture a very specific place and time of post-WWII England, Cold War-era London and 1960s nuclear fears, which possess universal themes that reach both nations and so many more across the globe. As such, the accents from actors whom we know aren't British don't affect the performances because the cast is so great and Potter's direction is so bold that we become too involved. As such, Ginger & Rosa is one of the best films of the year.

Elle Fanning (Super 8) stars as Ginger, a young girl who is born in London in 1945 on the same day that Hiroshima is devastated with the atom bomb. When she's 16, she starts to experience two scary realities. One reality is the separation of her parents. The second is what would come to be called the Cuban Missile Crisis. Facing these two realities forces her to get to know who she is, as well as who her parents are as individuals.

Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) co-stars as Rosa, the best friend of Ginger who was actually born on the same day and at the same time as her redheaded companion. She at first is on a similar trajectory. The two seem so simpatico and so in sync that aside from their hair-color the two could be the same. The two play patty-cake and their movements are in such unison as almost to make them perfect mirrors for each other. Yet, as the movie goes along, the two diverge.

There is a scene early on where the two hang out in an alley and kiss boys. It's evident that Rosa is more experienced and more into it than Ginger. Ginger prefers to read poetry and philosophy like T.S. Eliot and Bertrand Russell, as well as listen to jazz, whereas Rosa prefers to read girly magazines and figure out ways to attract men. She does have more of a religious aspect than Ginger.

Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) also co-stars as Natalie, the mother of Ginger who used to be an artist, a painter who gave up her career in order to be a mother. She fell in love with with Ginger's father Roland, played by Alessandro Nivola (Jurassic Park III and Junebug). Like with most women who fall for Roland, she probably romanticized his idealism, which is almost anarchistic. He rejects authority or traditional institutions. He's an atheist who believes in total freedom. He's like a precursor to a hippie.

Other than Rosa, Ginger doesn't really have any more friends. If Rosa hadn't been literally born next to her, Ginger might be more of an outcast or loner. When she's not with Rosa, Ginger spends time with her godfathers, Mark One, played by Timothy Spall, and, Mark Two, played by Oliver Platt. Mark One and Mark Two are a middle-aged, gay couple. Their compatriot is an American militant named Bella, played by Oscar-nominee Annette Bening (American Beauty and The Siege).

Ginger becomes interested in Bella due to her advocacy of nuclear disarmament. Ginger is by the end obsessed with doing whatever she can to make sure what happened in Hiroshima never happens again, especially between two countries who have the ability to annihilate each other and the whole world, if a nuclear war broke out. Bella takes Ginger to some protests, and Ginger genuinely is scared of a nuclear war, but eventually that fear might be a substitute for a fear that is deeper and potentially more damaging on an emotional level.

Fanning's performance is that of a girl trying to reconcile that. What's heartbreaking is that the physical explosion of an atom bomb perhaps isn't as painful as the emotional explosion of the bomb that gets bottled inside Ginger. She essentially learns a secret that she buries down but the pressure of it builds until eventually it's ready to go nuclear.

The fallout of which is some of the best drama and melodrama that has played in a film in a long time. The entire cast is present and all of them balance it out well. The beauty is that Potter doesn't drag out it too long.

The denouement is a perfect four-minute scene that is essentially a four-minute-long, single shot where Potter points the camera at Ginger and Roland and frames them in a very telling way. The scene is mostly narration as Ginger writes a letter to Rosa. Not only are the words perfectly poignant but Fanning's body language and facial expressions perfectly match the voice-over to a tee.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for mature disturbing thematic material involving teen choices - sexuality, drinking, smoking, and for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.


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