Ginger and Rosa is an interesting but flawed film that doesn’t quite deliver

Steve Dinneen
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Cert 12A

Ginger and Rosa weaves a rather implausible coming of age tale about two teenage friends with the post-war fear of The Bomb, resulting in 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 all adds up 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 is more to her than Mad Men’s Joan 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 scenes set in Ginger’s father’s boat are particularly sumptuous.

While certainly never dull, Ginger and Rosa’s opening frames, in which documentary footage of the Hiroshima bomb is shown, are a rather ambitious statement of intent that Potter’s film never quite lives up to.