Review: Ginger & Rosa

Alice Englert and Elle Fanning in "Ginger and Rosa"

It’s London, 1962. Two teenage girls (Elle Fanning and Alice Englert) who’ve grown up together are inseparable despite having personalties that are polar opposites. Together they skip school, discuss religion, politics, hairstyles and boys, and dream of lives much bigger and more important than those of their frustrated homemaker mothers (Christina Hendricks and Jodhi May). But as the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates and the sexual revolution begins, the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered as one follows a family friend (Annette Bening) into the thick of the Ban the Bomb movement and the other begins a heady affair that may lead to her downfall.

This is exactly the type of film that will polarize audiences. It’s a slow burn peopled by some realistically unlikable characters, but if you give the film a chance to unfold at its own (admittedly snail-like) pace, you’ll be rewarded in spades with a rich and studied portrait of the complicated relationship that often materializes between teenage girls — especially when they’re as close as sisters. Both Fanning (who’s becoming a reliable performer who makes great choices) and Englert (you might remember her from Beautiful Creatures earlier this year) deliver stand out performances that ground the sometimes melodramatic material and the supporting cast is equally impressive, even though they’re not given a whole lot to do — this is truly the girls’ story.

You also get the sense that this film is an especially personal one for Potter since growing up in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis is something that she herself did. The film gets the period details dead on, from the girls ironing their hair to them wearing their jeans in the bathtub in order to shrink them, and it lends even more credibility to the events as they unfold, as though Potter were ripping a page from someone diary. That’s a difficult thing to do in a world that’s seen coming-of-age stories in every possible permutation there is. Ginger & Rosa still manages to feel fresh and affecting even though this is well-travelled territory.

Is Ginger & Rosa Opening Weekend Worthy?

If you’re a fan of Director Sally Potter’s other work – definitely. If you’re interested in seeing thoughtful films about the female experience – absolutely. If a slow-paced period piece about teen girls sounds less than appealing to you then you’re fine to find another film to sate your cinematic appetite this weekend.

More About Ginger & Rosa

Ginger & Rosa Trailer

Ginger & Rosa Production Gallery


Kristal Cooper has been a film buff since the age of two when her parents began sneaking her into the drive-in every weekend. Since then, she's pursued that passion by working for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Canadian Film Centre as well as spending many a happy hour inside Toronto's wonderful theatres (she still mourns the loss of The Uptown). She is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture and feminist issues, and continues to slog away at her day job as a small cog in the giant machinery of the Toronto film community.

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