Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Annette Bening, Oliver Platt, Timothy Spall, Christina Hendricks
Written and Directed by Sally Potter (Orlando, Rage, The Tango Lesson)
The sheer size of a crisis really comes down to perspective, doesn't it? Take the Cuban Missile Crisis, which had the world facing a nuclear catastrophe of epic proportions. That's pretty heavy. But to an individual on the brink of losing her family, her best friend, her childhood and all that she has come to know? You might as well drop a bomb. In Ginger & Rosa (opening today), these themes and more are explored in a touching and intimate film from director Sally Potter (see links below for my exclusive interview with her).
Born on the same day shortly after World War II, Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) grow up to be best friends. The film takes place during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, with Ginger and Rosa mid-way into their teenage years.
With the cloud of doom hanging over their head, there is real fear that each day may be their last. Every generation has dealt with similar fears, from both World Wars, to heck, the so-called year 2000 end of days, to modern day terrorism and threat of nuclear warfare.
So Ginger and Rosa are told to live each day as if it were their last. That sounds good on a greeting card, but when Rosa actually acts on her momentary desires, without care of consequence, she finds that true freedom requires a bit of responsibility.
Ginger lives in a broken home, where her on-again, off-again parents destroy any sense of normalcy for her. Her father Roland (Alessandro Nivola) is a free-thinker, a truly unique man who doesn't buy what society is selling him. He lives on ideals and talks a good game, but he too lives his life on impulse.
Ginger finds refuge in her "godfathers," played by Oliver Platt and Timothy Spall, and their friend Bella (Annette Bening), who are there to support Ginger. She and Rosa can't sit idly by and watch the world come to an end, so they decide to participate in a local protest in opposition to the world crises.
There are films that contain lessons and then there are films like Ginger & Rosa, that instead feel more like explorations of character and soul. As a worrier myself, I identified with Ginger's struggles. Growing up, I was often told to only "worry about what you can control." Surely, it is adults that seem to wield the power when you are young. Ginger is forced to grow up by her circumstances as she attempts to gain a foothold - and a bit of control - over her world that is rapidly spinning out of control.
What a beautifully vulnerable performance by Elle Fanning, who was only 13 at the time the movie was filmed. Director Sally Potter smartly chooses to follow Ginger with the camera through nearly every scene. Much of the film takes place right on Ginger's face, as we see her silent reactions to the things happening around her. Although it's early, it is one of the best performances of 2013.
There is a lot to like in Ginger & Rosa and a lot to relate to. Although some of the plot developments seem a bit cliched and melodramatic, they represent the everyday crises that we all face in our every day lives. The size of which, threaten our own worlds with the same intensity as a nuclear warhead.
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