Yesterday, the girls and I were wondering what to do with our evening, as we were all three of us alone for the weekend. We were browsing through the movies currently playing and weren’t too inspired, until I came across Ginger & Rosa, which got a promising 79% on Rotten Tomatoes (I do like to check the Tomatometer). My curiosity was piqued and for lack of any other inspiration, we decided to make a movie night of Ginger & Rosa.
First, a brief synopsis: Ginger and Rosa are born on the same day in 1945 to mothers who are good friends. Quick flashes forward show us that Rosa’s father soon abandons his family, and Ginger’s parents Natalie and Rolan, (played by Christina Hendricks and Alessandro Nivola) are not happy together. Ginger and Rosa are inseparable, until Ginger’s interests begin to tend towards activism against the Cold War, and Rosa’s remain focused on boys, smoking, and more dangerously, Roland. As Ginger becomes more and more convinced of the world’s imminent destruction, she becomes desperate to save the world and her broken family. (Adapted from the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis.)
The whole movie is seen from Ginger’s (Elle Fanning) point of view. She is in every single scene, and though she does not narrate, all events are presented from her perspective. By shooting the film this way, director and writer Sally Potter successfully draws her audience into Ginger’s world and make her boredom, then curiosity, confusion, anger and sadness feel personal to the viewer.
The girls, especially Ginger as mentioned, are the focus of the story and the two young actresses deliver powerful performances. They are also surrounded by an extraordinary cast of supporting characters, played by greats such as Oliver Platt, Annette Bening and Timothy Spall. Not only do these three characters bring some small measure of stability and sanity to Ginger’s life, but the actors themselves help make Fanning’s acting shine by delivering excellent performances themselves. The casting of this film is superb.
Ginger’s parents are, as parents would naturally be, a hugely important part of her life. Though rebelling against her frustrated painter mother, and in awe of her free-thinking, romantic pacifist father, Ginger is in desperate need (as any teenager is) of their attention and support, which she simply isn’t getting. Too engrossed in his selfish pursuit of independence and true love, Roland is blind to how his actions affect his family. Miserable with her lot as a homemaker and the neglect of her husband, Natalie’s depression makes her incapable of being the mother Ginger needs. The only stability and parental guidance Ginger gets is from Mark and Mark 2 (Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt), her two godfathers. But even they know they cannot take the place of the mother and father.
There isn’t much dialogue in the film, and it moves along slowly like a pot simmering over low heat, getting ready to boil so slowly that you hardly see it happening. Throughout, there is a sense of tension and danger in each scene, leading towards a climax which you cannot predict how it will happen until it does.
While all this might sound horribly depressing (and yes, it’s true this film is not light and warm-hearted), the movie does not leave the audience entirely without hope. Intelligent, observant and with a maturity which neither of her parents possesses, Ginger is able to draw conclusions from her experiences and make choices which prove her not entirely devoid of hope.
We are left at the end with uncertainty for her future, but assurance that Ginger understands the value of forgiveness, something which she has had to learn on her own.
This isn’t one of those powerful films which will send you home deep in thought or discussion, but it is an insightful film. It shows us what it is to be a teenager again, and how much, though teens may deny it, we need guidance in our adolescent years.