Two childhood friends, closely aligned by their rebellious personalities and horridly dysfunctional home life, find their friendship growing apart as personal boundaries are crossed. Director Sally Potter develops a strong compelling story in Ginger & Rosa, filled with cinematic highlights, but unfortunately often finds itself lost to the audience.
The film is really the story of Ginger (Elle Fanning), who is front and center for the whole film. Blending together the ’60s nuclear red scare with a troubled home, Ginger uses the anti-nuclear activist meetings as a front for her depression. Her strong-willed political thoughts, while genuine, also act as a reflection of the chaos of her family life, especially when her father Roland (Alessandro Nivola) starts crossing boundaries in a truly disturbing way. Internally, Ginger feels very conflicted between remaining ‘cool’ in the eyes of her friend, Rosa (Alice Englert), and her father, while desperately needing an outlet to release her heavy mixed emotions that she hold tightly wound inside.
The story is tremendously intriguing. The problems the film faces doesn’t come from our interest in the story, but rather the depth of which it is covered. Watching the troubled adolescent use peace activism as a scapegoat for her emotions is captivating. Many of the scenes delivered by Elle Fanning are immensely moving, as her tears send a wave of sadness through the screen. But as powerful as the scenes are, other parts of the film leave you wanting more.
Much of the film is spent watching Elle Fanning crumble inside, but there are glimpses of joy coming from her involvement in political activism, even more so in her involvement with the lead member of the activists. She is clearly taken by him, and strikes up a few moments of intriguing conversation, but nothing progresses. In fact, he drops out of the picture, pops back in for a sec, and then vanishes once more. Despite building him up as a mysterious character, we receive very little depth. He appears to be an important figure in Ginger’s life yet nothing is explored of him.
At other moments, like Ginger, the audience too feels conflicted. Sally Potter’s work with Elle Fanning is sensational, drawing in a strong connection with the audience on a highly emotional level. However, we become lost as philosophical jargon overruns the dialogue. Not all philosophical conversations are out of place, but many seemed strangely timed in accordance to the story.
Most of the acting is strong to astonishing. Fanning, like previously stated, is phenomenal and is proving to be a far better actress than her better known sister Dakota. You feel every emotion of Elle’s character so vividly, she truly gives her most powerful performance to date here. Elle’s godfathers and family friend are brilliant as well. Annette Bening, Oliver Platt, and the ever so talented Timothy Spall provide a much needed teaspoon amount of comedy to lightly lift the mood, so that the film doesn’t sink too far into depression.
Final Verdict: Ginger & Rosa is a film that you won’t regret seeing. So much of the story is compelling that it is enough to overlook its faults. At the very least, watching the young Elle Fanning in full force is enough to turn heads. At the same time, there are several dull moments and don’t be surprised if you feel your attention lost in parts of the film. If there was ever a movie to complicate your emotions, it’s Ginger & Rosa. You will feel toyed with and confused, while your heart is strongly pulled.