Sally Potter’s “Ginger and Rosa” comes to DVD etc. on July 23, and it’s a compelling, smart film with great performances and a wonderful sense of place. I wrote about the film for buffalospree.com upon its Buffalo release a few months ago, and as I noted, it is yet another intriguing entry from the “Orlando” director. Note that I drew some comparisons with “Something in the Air,” a film I very much look forward to seeing again. I think my opinion of it is still evolving.
Festivals never quite finish. Yes, the schedules end, the producers and stars head home, and thoughts turn to next year (or the next festival). But the films keep popping up. Sometimes they appear after only a few days or weeks, sometimes months or years.
I’ve seen this happen firsthand after every installment of the Toronto International Film Festival that I’ve attended; just the other day, I noticed that the forgotten Josh Hartnett action film “Bunraku” (from TIFF 2010) was now streaming on Netflix. Go figure.
Oddly, several of the more intriguing films from TIFF 2012 are finally opening in North America. One of these, Derek Cianfrance’s sprawling crime epic “The Place Beyond the Pines,” is the best film I’ve seen this year; it opens in Buffalo shortly. Another, Sally Potter’s somber, moving drama “Ginger and Rosa,” arrives this Friday, and like “Pines,” it is a unique, well-acted film that’s certainly worth your time.
Elle Fanning and newcomer Alice Englert star as the titular teenagers. It is the London of the 1960s, and the world is gripped by Cold War anxiety. Ginger (Fanning) in particular becomes obsessed with the Cuban Missile Crisis, and begins to devote much of her time to anti-nuclear protests. This, perhaps, was the time she used to spend with Rosa. Once best friends, Ginger and Rosa have drift apart as Rosa becomes involved with Ginger’s dashing father, played by Alessandro Nivola.
Indeed, both friends have found paths to rebellion, but very different ones. The film ends not with the expected dramatic rupture, but instead with talk, and some tears. It’s an appropriate ending, for it was clearly a time period in which societal upheaval was just as likely to result in disappointment as it was triumph.
Potter’s career has been a fascinating one, and while Orlando remains her finest work, but “Ginger and Rosa” seems to be her most personal film yet. The English filmmaker clearly knows the locales and the time period well, and her focus on small stylistic detail is astounding.
The performances are uniformly great, as one might expect from a film featuring Nivola, Annette Bening, Timothy Spall, and Oliver Platt. But it is Elle Fanning who registers strongest. This is another great performance from the young star of “Super 8” and “Somewhere” — her best yet — and an indicator that she is one of the sharpest young talents in cinema.
In some ways, Ginger and Rosa reminded me of another TIFF 2012 selection, Olivier Assayas’s “Something in the Air.” But the “Carlos” and “Summer Hours” director’s study of young people in post May ’68 France was a curiously unemotional affair, one full of visual beauty and dreamy elegance, but a distinct lack of drama. “Ginger and Rosa” is the flip side. Potter’s film is all emotion, and while it is not quite as “pretty” as “Something,” makes for more satisfying viewing.
“Ginger and Rosa,” a smart, moving story of the complexities of friendship and young adulthood, opens on Friday; stay tuned for more TIFF 2012 updates from me in the weeks and months ahead.
Photo courtesy of A24