The next bit shows two little girls holding hands over a title card that indicates it’s London 1962. The news reports fear of a nuclear holocaust. But the scene shows the two girls reading Girl magazine and discussing the magazines assertion that to be popular a girl needs a bubbly personality. The two young teens discuss this news, and the assumption is that they will be best friends forever, through thick or thin or bomb blast.
By this point, Rosa’s father has been long gone, and Ginger’s father is ineffectual. Roland does not like the idea of being a dad, and he argues with his wife and eventually moves out, too. He’s the one who named Ginger “Africa” at birth, but she is called Ginger for the color of her hair. He is also the one who keeps a boat, an expense the family cannot afford, and he’s the one who invites Ginger and Rosa onto that boat. He’s the one without boundaries who steps over the one established by two girls who have grown up together that they will never split up, not over a man.
Ginger’s life also includes a godfather and the godfather’s male friend and his female companion. So Ginger has many adults in her life, some of whom actually behave like adults. That does not mean that they keep her and her best friend from smoking and drinking and hitch-hiking. There are limits to their jurisdiction. And these two girls try all these ways of being independent, of being grown up, where the adult world is both inviting and repulsive.
The cast of “Ginger & Rosa” is excellent. Christina Hendricks from “Mad Men” plays Rosa’s mother; Jodhi May plays Rosa’s. Timothy Spall is her godfather, Oliver Platt his friend, and Annette Benning the very sensible womanfriend. Alice Englert, daughter of director Jane Campion, plays Rosa, the budding seductress well, but it’s Elle Fanning, who steals the show as Ginger. Fanning plays Ginger as betrayed, longing, fearful, and angry, and every emotion shows truly in her.
Writer/director Sally Potter’s is known for writing and directing “Orlando” and “The Tango Lesson,” among other startling films. For “Ginger & Rosa,” she interweaves the bomb threat, complete with the Cuban missile crisis, with the threat to the girls’ world, no longer as closed or daintily dangerous as it once was. “Ginger & Rosa” is a strong and true look at the complications of young womanhood.