This coming-of-age story from Sally Potter is set in early-1960s Britain, against the backdrop of nuclear-weapons proliferation. At home, 16-year-old Ginger (Elle Fanning) endures her squabbling parents: Dad (Alessandro Nivola) is a "free-thinker" (code, really, for selfish and neglectful) and mum (Christina Hendricks) is unhappily suspended between domesticity and desiring something more. Ginger finds distraction in roaming around the countryside with her best pal, Rosa (Alice Englert), and joining the burgeoning Ban the Bomb campaign. But Ginger's anxiety about the bombs she fears will destroy her are misplaced — it's the personal, not the political, that will rock her world.
Despite its geopolitical trappings, Potter's film is a small-scale affair, reflecting the often-painful transition into adulthood. The film nicely captures the easy, slightly frantic looseness of being a teen-age girl intoxicated by a youth shared with a best friend. But it's not so surefooted when the betrayals come, where the more experiential nature of the first half gives way to something more melodramatic. The film's final third finds Potter both overreaching (conflating abstract events into the domestic) and skimping (reaching a conclusion that doesn't feel wholly earned). Not in doubt is Fanning's fine performance: She's been working since she was a toddler, but this is really her breakout role.