It’s interesting that “Ginger & Rosa” is opening the same weekend as “On the Road.” Both films take place at roughly the same time, and both deal with a personal transformation that coincides with something bigger breaking apart and being redefined. Of the two films, “Ginger & Rosa” is by far the most revelatory, an intimate but utterly universal portrayal of a girl’s coming-of-age in the midst of social turmoil and upheaval. In the 1960s, the phrase “the personal is political” became a familiar shibboleth; here, it just as easily pertains to a teenager as she grows into her own power and grapples with the end of worlds writ large and small.
Elle Fanning plays Ginger, who as a 17-year-old in 1962 London is still inseparable from Rosa (Alice Englert), her best friend since birth. They do everything together, from shrinking their blue jeans in the bathtub and ironing their hair to experimenting with cigarettes and the occasional kiss from a boy; they even dress alike for their first meeting of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, an obsession of Ginger, who has grown up in the shadow of atomic annihilation.