As the ampersand between their names indicates, “Ginger & Rosa” are inseparable, pals since birth, best friends for as long as anyone can remember. At least until now.
It’s 1962 in London, and 17-year-old old Rosa worries about finding true love, “the kind that lasts forever.” Ginger, however, has other, weightier concerns. “If there is a forever,” is her immediate response, with a big emphasis on the “if.”
An empathetic and aware film, “Ginger & Rosa” is several striking things all at once. It’s an adult look at the teenage years, an examination of how personal emotions inform political action, a noteworthy change of pace for writer-director Sally Potter and, most of all, the showcase for a performance by Elle Fanning as Ginger that is little short of phenomenal.
The younger sister of Dakota Fanning and an actress since she was 2, Elle Fanning is a known quantity to many moviegoers through performances in films such as “Somewhere,” “Super 8” and “We Bought a Zoo.” But even all that doesn’t quite prepare you for what she’s done here.
As a young person increasingly fearful about the threat of nuclear annihilation, especially as the Cuban missile crisis unfolds, Fanning displays a dazzling naturalness on camera, an ability to move persuasively between any number of emotions, from hesitant to sassy to distraught to anything else you can name.
Fanning’s work is so impressive, it makes what weaknesses “Ginger & Rosa” has seem unimportant. She’s reason enough to see the film all by herself.
For Potter, the innovative director of 1992’s “Orlando,” a film this straight ahead and naturalistic is a real departure. “I tried to eliminate some of my aesthetic habits and obsessions,” she says in a press notes interview, “and make it a film about the complexity of experience.”