Ginger & Rosa

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Ginger & Rosa Movie Poster Image
Coming-of-age drama examines teenage anxieties.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 90 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The world can be bleak in this film, especially for Ginger, but her innate resilience -- and talent for poetry -- help her come through it. Themes include infidelity, parental abandonment, depression, alienation, and betraying a friendship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The teen characters don't seem to have too many grown-ups who mentor them. But Bella teaches Ginger to stand up for what she believes in, and her parents do care for her to a degree. Other adults take advantage of the teens; in one case, a man old enough to be one's father has a romantic relationship with her.


A woman slaps a teen. In another scene, protestors are hauled off by cops, a few of them forcefully. Some loud verbal arguments. The film is set in the early 1960s, and there's a pervasive fear of nuclear annihilation. Radio reports and TV newscasts obsess about it, and some clips show the bomb blowing up Hiroshima. 


Some kissing and groping, mostly in the dark. A father figure seduces a teenager, who's fascinated by him. Another teenager hears them moaning. Some allusions to a married man's infidelity. Two girls are shown about to practice kissing.


Infrequent use of words including "bitch" and "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of period-accurate smoking, including among teenagers. Also, underage drinking (an of-age young man buys a teen a half-pint of beer).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ginger & Rosa -- a coming-of-age drama set in the early 1960s -- is at times bleak and intense, with material that may be too overwhelming for younger teens and tweens. There's infidelity, parental abandonment, a relationship between a much older man and a girl young enough to be his daughter, depression, alienation -- all set against the backdrop of the early ban-the-bomb movement and the concurrent fear of nuclear devastation. Expect infrequent language (including "f--k" and "bitch") and some scenes in which a teen girl flirts with an older man and he returns her attentions (at one point moaning is heard from their room). There are also loud fights between a couple, a scene in which teen girls prepare to practice kissing (on each other), plenty of era-accurate smoking, and some underage drinking.

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What's the story?

Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) have been friends since they were babies: Their mothers befriended each other at the hospital during labor. Through the years, the two have seen each other through ups and downs, specifically Rosa's father's abandonment and the slow death of Ginger's parents' marriage. Now, teenage Ginger is increasingly anxious about the bomb falling on London -- it is the early 1960s, after all -- and channels her anxiety into her poetry; Rosa believes in God, making out (with both boys and Ginger), magazines, parties, and having fun. She's also drawn to Ginger's bohemian father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), who doesn't believe in "shoulds" and "musts" -- or anything that ties him down, for that matter. As her parents' relationship falters, Ginger's discontent and anxiety increase until she finds she can no longer bear it anymore with a smile and shrug.

Is it any good?

GINGER & ROSA might as well be called Ginger; she's heartbroken and heartbreaking, and we're with her, not Rosa, on this tempestuous journey. The title makes it sound as if the film is about two girls -- which it is, but only just. Halfway through, the ground shifts, and all at once, Ginger is front and center -- not that this is a tragedy, considering how well Fanning holds the audience's attention. She's pretty much perfect here, English accent included, inhabiting Ginger's restless and searching 17-year-old so fully.

And the movie does do a fine job portraying the alienation that wedges between her and Rosa (Englert holds her own). Why? The dramatic twist -- we won't spoil it -- isn't all that surprising, since the filmmakers leave an (annoyingly) obvious breadcrumb trail. But we don't fully understand -- some allusions to her father's abandonment notwithstanding -- why Rosa does what she does, inevitably wreaking havoc.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Ginger and Rosa's friendship: Is it healthy? Equal? Supportive? How does it compare to other movie friendships you've seen?

  • Are Ginger's parents supportive and nurturing? Is she better off with them in her life or not? Do they seem like realistic characters?

  • Talk to your kids about the '60s and what it may have been like growing up under constant fear of the bomb. How does that shape what the characters do and how they behave?

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