I have to be upfront about my bias before reviewing Ginger and Rosa. I have a thing for films about adolescent female friendships. Mind you, I have no interest in the kind of sugar coated, girl power, best friends forever kind of bullshit, but films that tap into how female sexuality transforms female relationships and how patriarchal power often tear girls apart.
Now I don't know what it's like to be a teenaged boy having an intensely close, emotional relationship with another boy, but having been a teenaged girl who has also observed many teenaged girls up close, I can tell you that the eroticism and intimacy that teenaged girls can share can rival that of any grand adult romance, if not more because of its youthful myopism and self centeredness. Because girls mature sexually at a faster rate than boys, all that new erotic energy cannot be directed toward teen boys simply because boys are not equipped to handle any of it. So there are two routes for a teenaged girl to pursue to share her emerging intimate, inner, erotic self: older wo/men or... her best friend.
I feel like this story is so rarely told probably because men are simply not privy to it and because the idea that a woman's sexuality and erotic life might not be solely focused on a man's needs is threatening to a patriarchal society. No, let's have stories like Sex and the City or Mean Girls where female friendship is about adult girls banding together as they wait to be saved by their prince or horrible backstabbing bitch frenemies.
Ginger and Rosa have been BFFs since birth. They're seventeen, thick as thieves and doing what teenagers do. They're testing boundaries, but in very different ways. While a cold war climate of 1962 Britain stirs Ginger's activist proclivities which draw upon her romanticization of her narcissistic father's pacifist and anti-autoritarian views, Rosa's rebellion consists of training herself to be the kind of woman a man would never leave, unlike her mother, whom she views as responsible for not being able to "keep" her father. These patriarchal legacies, imprinted upon the girls, eventually take the friendship to a breaking point. While Ginger desperately tries to fight this, projecting her anxieties onto atomic warfare, Rosa actively enslaves herself to the power of her own sexuality. I think the above still provides a perfect visual summary: Ginger in the background, modestly dressed with her earnest little peace button and Rosa in the foreground, already having perfected her sexpot cateye.
Although the film focuses mainly on Ginger's character and she is really the one with the most depth, the script affords enough complexity to the rest of the characters to keep things interesting. No one is depicted simplistically and the film reminded me very much of the Iranian film, A Separation (recommended!), by which you can simultaneously empathize with each character while being supremely annoyed at all their shortcomings. Personally I didn't care for the film's melodramatic climax, but the acting by Elle Fanning and Alice Englert is really quite superb (the rest of the cast is also stellar). Also, I'm not sure why all the reviews focus so heavily on nuclear war. This film is as much about nuclear war as Requiem for a Dream is about drugs. It's omnipresent, yes, but it's not the point of the film. Recommended.