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Elsa and Fred (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Elsa & Fred

Elsa & Fred


Starring Manuel Alexandre, China Zorrilla, Blanca Portillo, Roberto Carnaghi, Jose Angel Egido, Carlos Alvarez-Novoa and Federico Luppi.

Screenplay by Marcos Carnevale.

Directed by Marcos Carnevale.

Distributed by Alta Films.  106 minutes.  Rated PG.

If you take Hollywood’s word for it, love is a game for the young.

A few years ago was one of the rare occasions that they made a love story about people of a certain age who find love, with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in Something’s Got To Give.  Even though that film was a success, they have shied away from repeating the trend.

In other countries – where youth is perhaps not so idolized and age is not so feared – it is a different story.  Elsa & Fred – a joint Argentine/Spanish film – is an undeniably romantic story about the elderly, in its own quiet way.

Thankfully, unlike its ruder American cousin, Elsa & Fred doesn’t try to sensationalize and sexualize the relationship.  The two title characters may have had sex, we never really know for sure, and it really doesn’t matter that much.  This film is more about finding companionship and happiness in your waning years.

Fred is 78 years old and Elsa is 77.  (Well, at least that’s what she says, she has a tendency to tell little white lies.)  He is a recent widower.  She is a long-time divorcée.  He is quiet and reserved.  She is loud and boisterous.  He is a hypochondriac.  She is hiding a potentially serious medical problem.  He is straight and narrow.  She has a wild streak.

About all they have in common is their address, advanced age and difficult, needy children.  Also, on a much more basic level, both are extremely lonely.

Fred is first rather surprised when Elsa comes on to him strong, but he quickly grows to enjoy the attention.  Each one sees the other as a last chance at love.

Elsa has had a life-long dream of visiting Rome to see the Trevi Fountain, where actress Anita Ekberg waded into the water to entice Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita.  Ekberg reminds Elsa of herself as a young woman, and Fred is attracted to her fanciful needs until the harder realities of life intrude.

Elsa & Fred can sometimes get a little sappy, but then again, love usually is.  It is also sweet and charming.  Sometimes we forget to park our cynicism outside the theater.  Elsa & Fred is trying nothing more than to get us involved with two characters who would almost never get noticed otherwise.  Thanks to the charming lead performances, it mostly succeeds.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008  All rights reserved.  Posted: June 27, 2008.

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