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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It's difficult to be different when everyone around you disapproves.
Positive Role Models
Elisa and Marcela are devoted to each other. A warden and governor are sympathetic to their plight and help them. A Portuguese governor sides with the imprisoned women just to "annoy the Spanish," who are seeking their extradition.
Violence & Scariness
Police force a young woman dressed as a man to show her genitals. A suitor bangs on Marcela's door, angry she's unresponsive. A rape is implied. Villagers break the windows of the two women and throw things at them. A father slaps his daughter and later wrestles her to the ground. The man of the house lays down the law, bullying the wife and daughter.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Explicit lovemaking between two women is depicted with full-frontal nudity. A woman dressed as a man so she can marry her female lover claims to be a hermaphrodite to get leniency from the law.
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"Hell" and "dyke."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some adults smoke cigarettes and cigars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Elisa & Marcela is a Spanish-language 2019 drama based on the true love story of two late 19th century women who battle the social stigma of their sexual orientation. The film strives to depict that their love is ordinary -- they even manage to get married -- but for the fact that society scorns and criminalizes them. A message at the end notes that gay marriage is illegal in 72 countries around the world today, and in some places homosexuality is still punishable by death. The two women are shown making love, in some scenes fully nude, making this a choice for mature audiences only, but language is limited to "hell" and "dyke." Note that it's implied that a woman has been raped. She later gives birth in prison. Villagers break the windows of the two women and throw things at them. A father slaps his daughter and later wrestles her to the ground. The man of the house lays down the law, bullying the wife and daughter. Some adults smoke cigarettes and cigars. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate