Sally Potter’s most accessible film to date, Ginger & Rosa (2012) boasts an all-star cast of acting talent including rising star Elle Fanning, British stalwart Timothy Spall and the buxom Mad Men star Christina Hendricks. An adolescent drama masquerading as an allegory for the futile nature of nuclear intimidation, Potter’s seventh feature is a gruelling melting pot of teenage emotions amplified by the fear of mutual destruction. The film focuses on the friendship shared by Ginger (Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert), two girls both born on the same day that the H-bomb struck Hiroshima.
Now in their mid teens, the pair does everything together, from playing truant to experiencing their first cigarette. However, when Rosa falls in love with Ginger’s charismatic, yet exceptionally irresponsible father the pair discover the seemingly unbreakable bond they once shared shattered by their ideological differences. By mirroring the heightened disquiet surrounding the Cold War with an intensified emotional journey normally associated with a coming-of-age tale, with Ginger & Rosa Potter has successfully created an adolescent film that effectively portrays the crippling emotional traumas and internal anguish of those tricky teenage years.
Never glamorising or romanticising youth Potter has fashioned a refreshingly natural and relatable allegory for teenage confusion which despite its period setting remains timeless. However, once the film pulls back away from the insular world of its young protagonists to reveal the larger picture that frames Ginger’s torturous upbringing there’s very little for the audience to become absorbed in, with Potter’s allegorical methodology culminating in a strangely detached and disconnecting story.
The unease evoked by the Cuban Missile Crisis is used to parallel Ginger’s soul-crushing feelings of paternal disillusionment and confused sexual development. Potter is clearly attempting to render the introspective magnitude of Ginger’s feelings whilst reminding us that much like the threat of the Cold War, the scars will indisputably remain, however, there’s a brighter future ahead. With the focus firmly set on this overriding metaphor for teenage confusion, Ginger & Rosa lacks the emotive potency required to devastate the audience in the way intended, with even Fanning’s revelatory performance unable to install enough naturalistic sentiment into such a grandiose allegory for adolescence.
Imbuing teenage passion and adolescent awkwardness with a rousing atmosphere of political activism, Ginger & Rosa, culminates in a moderately gripping deconstruction of global and sexual politics. However, despite successfully articulating its hormonally charged message through a well fashioned period backdrop, Potter’s film lacks enough heart, passion and sincerity to effectively resonate with a passive audience.