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Ginger & Rosa (4 stars)

1960s-set drama featuring a strong performance from Elle Fanning

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Ginger & Rosa

The handholding, bath-sharing and general giggliness that kicks off Sally Potter’s sixties-set drama suggests a warm paean to the hermetic intensities of female friendship: a Heavenly Creatures without the murder, say, or a modern spin on the playful likes of Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating or Vera Chytilová’s Daisies. But things decay quickly between Ginger (Elle Fanning) and her enigmatic ‘bestie’ Rosa (Alice Englert, beautiful daughter of Potter’s directing contemporary Jane Campion), as the looming Cuban missile crisis and the erratic behaviour of the adults in their lives throw certainties into disarray. Fanning is delightful, creating a character who’s compelling without being airbrushed or idealised; and Potter proves adept at capturing adolescent intensity without mocking it. What chiefly emerges is the sad fact that teenagers can’t rely on adults being any more consistent or wise than their own peers; and that any blueprint for life, such as the moral non-conformism of Ginger’s father Roland (Alessandro Nivola), brings its own consequences and compromises.

Plot developments here are a touch predictable from the off, and a preponderance of actors playing against their natural accents creates a somewhat constructed feel. Christina Hendricks, for one, never quite finds her stride, and Englert doesn’t get enough screen time to bring her character out. But the emotions feel bracingly real, due in no small part to the tone set by Fanning’s committed performance. And while this is a far rawer work than might be expected by existing fans of Potter (the iconoclast who altered Tilda Swinton’s gender for Orlando, and scripted the whole of Yes in iambic pentameter), it has a distinctive and frequently ravishing aesthetic of its own, aided by Robbie Ryan’s stunning cinematography, which combines flirtatious hand-held immediacy with gorgeous compositions that surface out of nowhere to stop the heart.

Selected release from Fri 19 Oct.

Ginger & Rosa

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • UK
  • 90 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Sally Potter
  • Cast: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Annette Bening
  • UK release: 19 October 2012

Ginger (Fanning) and Rosa (Englert) are teenage best friends in early 60s London whose lives are disrupted by the looming Cuban missile crisis and the unreliability of the adults around them. Potter adeptly captures adolescent intensity without mocking it, and Fanning in particular gives a committed, delightful performance.

Ginger and Rosa - Trailer

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