It is 1962 in London and there is widespread media coverage of the catastrophic consequences of a possible nuclear war between the United States and Russia. There are some demonstrations against putting the whole of humanity at risk in a confrontation between two super-powers. But most families go about their daily affairs without giving the end of the world a thought.
Ginger (Elle Fanning) is a seventeen year old who gets caught up in fears about a nuclear holocaust. Her mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) is having trouble with Roland (Alessandro Nivola), her philandering husband who went to prison during World War II as a conscientious objector. When Ginger attends anti-nuke meetings and marches in one of them, her father salutes her for following in his commitment to peace. She even spends some time in jail after participating in another protest march.
Ginger's best friend is Rosa (Alice Englert). They share secrets and have created their own little society of two. But their solidarity begins to evaporate as Rosa seeks sexual pleasure with teenage boys. She also is a Christian who believes there is no need to get bent of shape over nuclear war since everything is in "God's hands." The drift apart grows into a deep wound when Roland invites Ginger and Rosa for a weekend on his sailboat. Rosa feels connected to him and spells out her feelings in a letter. Soon they are having sex.
Feeling betrayed by her father and her best friend, Ginger turns to her godparents (Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt) and their radical friend (Annette Bening) for counsel on what to do and how to cope with the emotions arising out of this crisis.
Writer and director Sally Potter (Orlando, The Tango Lesson, Yes) has proven over the years that she can be depended upon to deliver movies that shake us up, open our eyes to the manifold mysteries of human nature, and compel us to re-think the often rigid and inflexible notions we have about sexuality. This brilliantly acted coming-of-age drama features a bravura performance by Elle Fanning as a poet and ardent idealist who undergoes a spiritual emergency of gigantic proportions. It is easy to side with her and hope she can find the energy and hope to regain her balance in life.
Potter challenges us to take a hard look at our own friendships and ask ourselves whether our expectations are too high. She also wants us to spend some time with the ideals which animate our choices and actions. Are they authentic or constructed from sources outside our own instinct and intuition? And once we plunge into the dark waters of a spiritual emergency, to whom do we turn for help and wise counsel? Sally Potter won't let go of us until we do some inner work on these questions.
Screened at The 50th New York Film Festival: September/October 2012.
Special features on the DVD include Audio Commentary with writer/director Sally Potter; "The Making of Ginger & Rosa" featurette; deleted scenes with introduction by Sally Potter; cast interviews with Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Alice Englert, Annette Bening, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt; "Anatomy of a Film" featurette - various crew members, including director Sally Potter, discuss the production history of Ginger & Rosa.