(In honor of the first annual Annapolis Film Festival.)
With your quick introduction and pure brevity in establishing the setting as 1962 London, it is immediately apparent that you aren’t going to traffic in very many conventional ‘coming of age’, tropes and that is a welcome beginning. What seems to transpire through the first half of the movie is the often uncomfortable outcome of diverging life paths between two inseparable childhood BFF’s during an intensely introspective and turbulent era.
One path, that of Rosa, seems to go the way that the social pressures of the times would dictate – being that of the early 60’s – and the time of Cuban missile crisis and height of Cold War fear. Rosa’s path is selfish and hedonistic as was the era, and that in itself is understandable up until it involves Gingers’ dad, Roland. It is also about this time that the whimsical and girlish Ginger from not so long ago, makes fewer and fewer appearances. Its this transition in Gingers demeanor and Elle Fanning’s treatment of it that is riveting and so mature beyond her tender years, that it becomes the core epiphany of the film. As Ginger’s conscience and path lead to activism and a desire to make a difference, it is at this time when her biggest fears are confirmed and her crossroad is as fraught with as much angst and awkwardness as is humanly possible. It is a testament to Sally Potter’s filmmaking and unflinching cinematography that we see Ginger’s transformation so clearly.
What this chain of events does, is establish a betrayal that will consume Ginger and render Rosa a victim to her all encompassing needs. But there is more than that. Simultaneously there is the growth and atrophy of idealism. It is a powerful statement on human nature and what it says about us as people based on what we embrace in the face of crisis.
This is where Ginger shines, and though she endeavors to hold it together, it seems the betrayers aim to unsettle her at every turn. As the blush of youth falls from Ginger, once again it is the power and subdued brilliance of Elle Fanning’s portrayal the lends the emotional strength, grit and realism that will have her, as Ginger, do all she can to try to hold it together in the face of growing tension. When she can no longer keep upright within herself, the night of protesting, arrests and confinement bring her to a haunting mute calm on the edge of a knife that has me hold my breath. When her family finally confronts her and allows her to teeter off the edge it is an emotional firestorm that sweeps viewers aside like the torrent of a bursting dam and spills too many secrets for one young girl to carry, right out in the middle of the floor. It is messy and it is so like real life that Elle IS Ginger with complete clarity. When all the insanity dies down and we are left with that intimate moment with Ginger penning her eloquent poem is when I realize Elle has shown me something I have only seen in the Elizabeth Taylors, Natalie Portmans and the Glenn Closes and Meryl Streeps and Angelina Jolies, is that she is one of the greatest actresses of her generation, already, at the tender age of 14.
My heart and my hugs and all my admiration belong to you Ginger, always you!