The only auteur in cinema is the writer-director. (The director who depends on a writer dominates by mere convention.) And an auteur of Sally Potter’s skill understands how to play her own written line against the “sentence” between two cuts, and knows instinctively (because the material is her own) just when to deploy silence against the rhythm of her cutting. This is what makes “Ginger & Rosa” such a pleasure. That it’s writerly, that it’s sensually visual, that it blends naturalism with high artifice, and that it permits her two young actors such emotional space — all this is seamless because it proceeds from one place, one source. And this allows the thematic material to grow, just as it should, from the bottom up: youthful political passion (and also fear) is inseparable from personal growth; adulthood is no deliverance when monstrous acts can be spun out of personal “philosophies” — Roland, the self-pitying moral grotesque, is a superb and believable creation. Only an artist with her hands on all the levers could generate such intimacy and warmth — it’s all there when at last Ginger breaks down, as fine and sad a cinematic moment as one could hope for.
Ian McEwan is author of several novels, including “Atonement” and “Sweet Tooth.”