'Ginger & Rosa' Revel in the Possibilities of '60s London

London teens Ginger and Rosa are on the cusp of adulthood as the Cuban Missile Crisis looms. Confronted by the possibilities of a changing world, the girls struggle to find their separate identities while maintaining their friendship.

Ginger & Rosa

Director: Sally Potter
Cast: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: PG-13
Release date: 2013-07-23

Adrift at sea, Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) lie next to each other in bunks. On the radio, a BBC news anchor announces that the Royal Air Force has positioned and prepared missiles to fire against Russia in the case of Soviet aggression. Eyes wide and panicked, Ginger rolls over to face her friend and asks, "Did you hear that?" Distracted by the faint sounds of piano music and crying, Rosa doesn't answer her friend's question but instead peers through a hole in the boat's wall. In her limited line of vision, Rosa sees Ginger's father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), sobbing. As Ginger stares at Rosa staring at her father, she realizes that something is changing.

The two friends, teenagers in London at the height of the Cold War, are inseparable as they skip school to wander the city's enticing streets and attend nuclear disarmament meetings. Ginger in particular is drawn to the meetings, where passionate young organizer Tony (Andrew Hawley) inspires her to protest the coming nuclear holocaust and awakens deep, sometimes troubling feelings in the teen. A faithful companion, Rosa is less consumed than Ginger with the end of the world and the impossibilities of unrequited love. She focuses instead on her growing fascination with enigmatic lefty Roland.

Director Sally Potter's narrative about teens in '60s London focuses on the repercussions of the Sexual Revolution and the daunting possibilities of nuclear war, but it also addresses the gaps created between the girls and their mothers during this intense time of social upheaval and change. Ginger's mother, Natalie (Christina Hendricks), is a housewife and former painter struggling to keep her family together. She and her daughter share the serious, weighty feelings of artists without the means to express themselves. Rosa's mother, Anoushka (Jodhi May), isn't present in much of the movie, leaving the impression that she and her daughter are both convicted by flights of romantic fancy.

Nowhere is Rosa's desire for real, passionate love more evident than in the way she begins to see and approach Ginger's father. Shortly after the two spend the night at sea in Roland's boat, Rosa announces that she is writing a letter to Roland. When Ginger scoffs and questions why her best friend would do such a thing, Rosa replies that she feels like she can truly understand his pain. The camera focuses on Rosa's intense stare as she declares that who she's writing a letter to isn't Ginger's problem anyhow. Confused and upset, Ginger rushes to a jukebox in the pub where the two are sitting. The camera focuses in on her jittery fingers as she punches in her selections and glances shyly at a young man standing nearby.

Then it's the next morning, and Ginger is laying in bed with a bad hangover. Her mother storms into her room, tersely declaring "you and Rosa!" before pacing back towards the door. Summoning enough bravado to test her boundaries, Ginger insists that she was out drinking because her mom came to school to ask that girls be given lessons in the domestic arts. At the moment that she is attempting to distance herself from her mother's way of life, Ginger also feels compelled to protect her mother from the truth. Despite the differences between the pair, Ginger senses that she simply can't share her growing suspicions about Rosa and Roland with her mom. Frustrated, she lashes out and refuses her mother's advice.

Despite problems at home, the two teens continue their painful pursuit of adulthood. Ginger is introduced to activist Bella (Annette Bening), who encourages her to become more radical and serves as a female role model who is the exact opposite of her own mother. Both girls put distance between themselves and their mothers in their own ways, with Rosa growing increasingly infatuated with Roland as time passes. The tension that the girls' conflicting desires creates seeps into the film slowly, saturating all of the characters until Cold War clashes between governments and ideologies are mirrored in the personal conflicts of the girls and their parents.

Ginger & Rosa rises above the feel-good nostalgia of so many coming-of-age movies because it handles its tender moments just as well as its more chaotic ones. The story's Cold War setting lends credence to the pressure the girls feel to find a path in a world very different from their parents'. Those sometimes silly growing pains of teen life gain real importance when placed in relief against the simultaneous threat of nuclear annihilation and promise of increased sexual freedom. That the girls aren't alone in their struggle with this intense time of social change may not be apparent to the teens, but it is apparent to the audience, who is treated not only to stunning performances by Fanning and Englert but also to the spot-on performances of the well-considered cast.

The DVD release of Ginger & Rosa includes two featurettes, cast interviews, deleted scenes, and audio commentary from writer/director Sally Potter. The 'Anatomy of a Film' and audio commentary features stand out among the features, all of which are strong. The 'Anatomy' featurette has interactive controls that allow the viewer to choose different aspects of the film to be explored from the point of view of the cast and crew, with production materials from the film included. Sally Potter's audio commentary offers the perspective of the writer and the director in one neat package. Whether talking about technical decisions, the film's shooting locations, or the narrative motivations behind each scene, Potter enriches the audience experience and allows an even wider window into Ginger & Rosa.





Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.


Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.


That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.


Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.


Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.


Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.


'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.


Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.


Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.


Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.