Ginger and Rosa


 This coming of age drama by Sally Potter detailing the relationship between two teenage best friends, Ginger and Rosa, captures by skilful evocativeness and clever detailing the changing attitudes of the early sixties and places wide eyed optimism and idealism against the ravages of reality and austerity of the post war generation who wanted a better world but found that it was not as easily achieved as they at first believed. The two central performances by Elle Fanning –Ginger- and Alice Englert –Rosa- are impressive and the film explores the changes in their relationship as they approach adulthood and the ways in which those changes threaten to destroy the bond which at one point seemed impenetrable.

Set against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 the two teenagers concerned about their future attend CND meetings and take part in ‘Ban the Bomb’ demonstrations. Supported by a network surrounding adults most specifically Roland –Ginger’s father who is so modern and wayward in his thinking that he has dispensed with such petit bourgeois epithets such as Father or Dad in favour of first name familiarity and pretentious bohemianism- and her mother’s politically active friends- portrayed by such luminaries as Annette Bening and Timothy Spall -their beliefs are given credence. Ginger’s mother-Christina Hendricks- however emerges as the seemingly weak, unstable figure who has sacrificed her own life in favour of supporting her husband and caring for her child. It becomes clear that all is not well in the marriage however as Roland has a penchant for using his position as a lecturer for seducing his impressionable young female students and gradually his attentions wander towards his daughter’s friend Rosa.

An affair then follows and relations between the two girls become strained and matters are not helped when Ginger leaves home to live with her father and finds herself in a strange position of having her best friend adopting the role of her father’s mistress and new companion. Roland emerges as the villain of the piece and having been a conscientious objector in the World War 2 propagates idealistic beliefs on pacifism whilst not recognising his own cowardice in relationships close to home. He is cast a selfish human being who far from caring about others is only ever intent on saving his own skin and spouts rhetoric such as ‘mindless obedience is the killer’ which although having some gravitas emerges as a mere excuse when uttered from his lips.

Eventually Ginger- always the more sensitive of the two girls- is unable to cope anymore and matters come to a head when it is revealed that the situation is more serious than anyone had believed before. It is then that all the surrounding adults realise they have put too much pressure on the young to grow up quickly and have been so busy sorting out their own problems and insecurities whilst neglecting their duties as parents and guiding forces.

The period detailing of this film manages to capture perfectly the black and white austerity of the era it is depicting. Although it is in colour the humdrum existence of its characters is obvious and the styling is spot on. The CND leader with his curly hair-signifying encroaching freedom- moustache and sheepskin jacket show a new liberation and energy about to emerge as this is the decade which shortly after the Cuban Crisis had died down was about to be kicked into gear by the Beatles with the swinging sixties  soon to follow.

It is a film which is light on laughs and  the dialogue is often stilted and strained though this is indicative of an era when people were encouraged to put up and shut up and not encouraged to rock the boat. It is also confusing as to why so many American actors were drafted in –with some accents not quite hitting the mark- to capture what is so obviously an English era. It is still an impressive film however and if  thought provoking existential angst is your thing then this comes highly recommended.

Ginger and Rosa is at the Filmhouse, Lothian Road from October 19th

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