British filmmaker Sally Potter has never been one to succumb to the conventionalism’s of cinema, and aim to appeal to a broad, mainstream audience (a recent film of hers was spoken strictly in iambic pentameter) – however, her latest feature Ginger & Rosa is certainly her most accessible to date, yet sadly the result is a somewhat irksome, uninteresting coming of age drama.
Set in London in the swinging '60's, we follow the budding friendship between teenage girls Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert), tied together by a seemingly inseparable bond. They're both ambitious and involved in political demonstrations, desperately concerned about the threat of a nuclear holocaust; much to the displeasure of Ginger's demanding mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks).
The anxiety surrounding the Cold War is mirrored in their slowly deteriorating relationship, as Rosa falls in love with Ginger's magnetic, reckless father Roland (Alessandro Nivola), putting the unbreakable bond between the two to the limit, as suddenly their principles and ideals head down separate paths as they enter adulthood.
Although having been directed by a British filmmaker and set in London, barely any of the performing cast are actually English (Timothy Spall aside), as the lead roles are predominantly American – or from New Zealand in Englert's case. However, Potter does seem to have encapsulated that swinging London atmosphere, yet managing to remain subtle in the meantime. The setting isn't overplayed, avoiding becoming a mere gimmick of the decade in the process.
The relationship between Natalie and Ginger is well displayed, seeming genuine and therefore rather poignant. The way Ginger resents her caring mother who is always there for her, yet idolises her unsporting, contemptuous father is intriguingly portrayed. However, the key relationship – that of Ginger and Rosa's – is somewhat disinteresting, and not one you fully believe in. The chemistry simply isn't there between the two, which proves a burden on the film, dampening the latter stages to say the least.
As for the performances, there is little to criticise. Fanning stars as Ginger, in a brave, mature performance from the young actress, also displaying an impressive British accent in the process. Meanwhile, her elder contemporary Hendricks – who has swapped 1960's New York for 1960's London, may have been better off staying in the US, as the less said about her accent the better.
On the whole, Ginger & Rosa is forgettable and tedious. It's also the second film this year based around a young, red-haired girl who has a turbulent relationship with her hard-to-please mother, following on from Pixar's Brave. Not that I have anything to elaborate on regarding that fact, or any point to make - but I felt it was worth pointing out nonetheless.