Sally Potter’s GINGER AND ROSA, screened at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival, is a lovely film about two teenage girls on the cusp of growing up and of England’s transfer from its post World War II gloom to the swinging sixties.

England in 1962, still haunted by World War II, had a plausible fear that all human life could be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.

Ginger and Rosa have been inseparable friends since their mothers gave birth to them in adjoining beds in a maternity ward in 1945. They played together as children but by 1962 they are more interested in kissing boys, fashion, music and smoking cigarettes. Ginger is also interested in Simone de Beuavoir, T.S.Eliot and nuclear disarmament.

Ginger’s father, Roland, is a charismatic bohemian and a pacifist and an inspiration for Ginger’s developing ideas about activism. Rosa sees Roland as fun and attractive and as someone she believes she has a deep connection with.

These numerous strands of the film make thoughtful observations about the personal and the universal. This is a story about the implosion of individual relationships and potential nuclear explosions brought about by the weapons build-up and the Cuban missile crisis. We are reminded of the dire world political situation via regular radio news broadcasts.

Ginger’s mother Natalie is played by Christina Hendricks of MAD MEN fame. Her emotional performance illuminates the gender inequalities of the time as she struggles to look after her daughter and deal with her freedom loving husband. Roland has a narrow selfish view of freedom, providing a counterpoint to the film’s broader themes.

The exceptional cast responds to Sally Potter’s deft direction with balanced performances that capture the mood and the era seamlessly. Lead actors Elle Fanning and Alice Englert’s fine performance are beautifully supported by Alessandro Nivola (Roland), family friends Timothy Spall (Mark), Oliver Platt (Mark Two), and Annette Bening (Bella); and Jodhi May (Anoushka, Rosa’s mother). The muted greys and browns of Robbie Ryan’s cinematography add to the sense of era and location.

GINGER AND ROSA is an excellent film and hopefully will get a wider release.