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Originally published Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 3:00 PM

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‘Ginger & Rosa’: A poet is born

A review of the impressionistic coming-of-age movie, “Ginger & Rosa,” which stars wide-eyed Elle Fanning.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

“Ginger & Rosa,” with Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening, Jodhi May. Written and directed by Sally Potter. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature disturbing thematic material involving teen choices — sexuality, drinking, smoking, and for language. Guild 45th, SIFF Cinema at the Uptown, Lincoln Square.

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An impressionist portrait of an artist as a young girl, Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa” takes place in 1962, as the threat of nuclear war looms large for an East London teen. Ginger (Elle Fanning) wants to be a poet, but her life isn’t exactly lyrical: her parents (Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola) have separated, her best friend, Rosa (Alice Englert), becomes romantically attached to Ginger’s father, and nothing in the world — particularly the bomb — makes sense anymore. She reads T.S. Eliot — “This is the way the world ends” — while clutching a teddy bear, in that teenage way of simultaneously clinging to childhood and seeking maturity.

Shot at close range with handheld cameras, “Ginger & Rosa” is told from Ginger’s point of view, and as such emerges as a celebration of 14-year-old Fanning (“Somewhere,” “Super 8”), whose wide-eyed face lights up the film and who’s long demonstrated a very grown-up gift for acting. Here, peering from behind a thick, unruly curtain of autumn-red hair, we watch Ginger as she quietly registers the failings of her parents, tries to act grown-up while sipping a beer (she grimaces at the taste, but sweetly tries to hide it), giggles in a bathtub with Rosa as they try to shrink their new jeans, lies alone on half-frozen ground staring and wondering at the vastness of the sky.

“Ginger & Rosa” ends abruptly, not providing answers to many of its questions, but you sense that this pale, growing-up-too-fast girl at its center will one day be a poet; finding words to convey what she can’t yet say.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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