Ginger & Rosa – a rather implausible coming of age tale about two teenage friends with the post-war fear of The Bomb – is a film with a veneer of sentimentality but a surprisingly cynical heart.
Ginger is a bright girl from a bohemian family who is terrified the world may about to end. She attends CND meetings but soon discovers that wherever she goes, she is faced with leery men who only want to sleep with her. Her father is the exception: a conscientious objector who claims to shun the patriarchal norms and “bourgeois deathtraps” of society (but still likes his dinner cooked for him); he wants to sleep with her best mate, Rosa, instead.
It soon becomes clear that Ginger’s fear of the bomb is tied up with her squirming mess of unresolved family issues, which leads to a quietly – but relentlessly – bitter movie. Throw in the backdrop of post-war desolation and the whole affair starts to give off a faint whiff of spoiled milk.
A mature performance from Elle Fanning as Ginger gives director Sally Potter’s film a likeable face, although even she can’t mitigate for some of the clumsier lines (“How can anyone be happy when we know about the bomb?”).
Christina Hendricks shows there’s more to her than Mad Men and a gigantic chest, with a touching portrayal of a woman struggling to cope with domesticity and a wayward husband (although her English accent suffers the occasional diversion into a kind of quasi-Australian).
The cinematography is stunning, with post-war Britain captured in all its squalid glory, and the scenes set in Ginger’s father’s boat are particularly easy on the eye. However, this doesn’t quite rescue a film that never feels as heavy-weight as it thinks it is.
First published in City A.M.