Movie review: 'Ginger & Rosa' an explosive tale of friendship

Review • Teens experience first love and nuclear fear.
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The title characters in Sally Potter's heartfelt drama "Ginger & Rosa" are convinced the world is coming to an end.

They know this because: 1) It's 1962, and talk of nuclear missiles and impending doomsday is all over the place; and 2) they're teenage girls, and every little heartbreak feels like the end of the world.

Ginger ("Super 8's" Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert, from "Beautiful Creatures") have been friends literally since birth; their mothers, Natalie (Christina Hendricks) and Anoushka (Jodhi May), met in a London maternity ward in 1945, just after the bombing of Hiroshima. They grew up as playmates, sharing every secret and weathering every storm — such as when Rosa's father moved out.

The movie picks up when the girls are 17 and the Cuban Missile Crisis is looming. Ginger becomes a determined anti-nuclear protester, inspired by her father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), a liberal college lecturer who did prison time as a conscientious objector during World War II. Rosa, also fearful of apocalypse, aims to satisfy her sexual desires while there's still time — and her choice of a partner drives a permanent wedge between the friends.

Potter gorgeously captures the surface details of Ginger and Rosa's friendship, and the '60s setting, with spare strokes and well-observed intimate details. She also treats matter-of-factly the idiosyncratic nature of Ginger's family, including Roland's contrarian views on marriage, the presence of Ginger's two gay godfathers (Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt), and the support of a radical "aunt," Bella (Annette Bening).

Fanning and Englert are a dynamic pairing. Englert brings a brittle intensity to Rosa, deluded by love and her first taste of adult passions. But the star is Fanning, who brings a fragility and a fire to the idealistic Ginger.

Potter's script takes a few predictable turns toward the finale, but along the way "Ginger & Rosa" paints an indelible portrait of teen friendship that is tested to the breaking point. —


'Ginger and Rosa'

The trials of first love and nuclear fears are played out by two teens in 1962 London in this beautiful drama.

Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.

When • Opens Friday.

Rating • PG-13 for mature disturbing thematic material involving teen choices — sexuality, drinking, smoking ‚ and for language.

Running time • 90 minutes