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Parents' Guide to

Elisa & Marcela

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Woman poses as man to marry her love; nudity, violence.

Movie NR 2019 113 minutes
Elisa & Marcela Poster Image

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This movie builds a slow and steady narrative that is at times compelling and beautiful to look at, with echoes of the somber black-and-white elegance of Roma. The story takes a while to make sense, as a vague present-day scenario bookends the main story. What Elisa & Marcela does well is present the uncertainty of two young 1890s women who sense they are different but, without any role models, remain unsure anyone else is like them. The joy of their first sexual encounter, deferred for so long because of social taboos, is exhilarating and central to making their love for each other feel real and undeniable, something most audiences can relate to.

But modern-day sensibilities intrude. Their lovemaking has an expertise to it that echoes soft-core porn, not what you'd expect of two convent schoolgirls who presumably have never had sex before. Subsequent explicitly sexual scenes don't advance the story at all and have an almost voyeuristic quality, making a viewer wonder why we are invading their privacy. The movie never explains why the warden is so admiring of the couple and why he considers it a "privilege" to know them. Nor is any explanation offered as to why the population of an urban 1901 Portuguese center seems to want to support two sexually renegade women while Spanish authorities want to put them in prison for 20 years. Perhaps Portuguese society was the more liberal atmosphere at the time, but that's not articulated here.

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