Ginger & Rosa (Sally Potter, 2012)
Potter has produced a couple of masterpieces — Orlando and The Man Who Cried — on minimal budgets and seems to be able to attract Class A character actors. Here we have Timothy Spall and Annette Bening, not to mention Christina Hendricks and Oliver Platt and Alessandro Nivola.
Perhaps I am underestimating Potter’s talent when I say that this film is Jarmanesque — it is elliptical, political and partly filmed in parts of Kent though. Whilst there are two (male) gay characters — Mark (Spall) and Mark Two (Platt) — the homoeroticism is there between the two young female leads, although it perhaps ends up more Oedipal. It also has a bit of a Heavenly Creatures vibe, but without the grotesquery.
Ginger (eventually Elle Fanning) and Rosa (eventually Alice Englert) are born in adjacent beds in a hospital during World War Two and become inseparable friends by the time they are late teenagers, drinking, bunking off school, going to ban the bomb meetings. Ginger’s mother Natalie (Hendricks) thinks Rosa is a Bad Thing for Ginger; Ginger’s father Roland ( Nivola) likes their wildness, although he seems to have suppressed Natalie’s artistic ambitions when their daughter was born.
But Ginger fears the world is going to end — she distrusts straight men having been betrayed once by her father, she clearly fears she will lose Rosa, she doesn’t think her mother understands her. And her teenage rebellion, as well as that of Rosa, leads to a melodramatic set of events, and a realisation that the film is probably about Natalie after all.
It’s not a neat film. Characters come and go — such as activist May Bella (Bening) and a sexist dinner guest (Richard Strange) — the outside world impinges, the settings are dark and dirty. It would be easy to hate Roland for what he does, but he’s also sacrificed a lot. It would be easy to approve of Roland because of what he has done, but he uses others.
Potter won’t give us closure, won’t give us catharsis. But it may well linger.