Elsa & Fred

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Elsa & Fred Movie Poster Image
Romance about aging and love is tender but falls flat.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Love can come at any age, even to people who thought they weren't on the lookout for it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elsa has a propensity for lying, and her behavior sometimes edges over the line to fraud and other activities that aren't just socially unacceptable but actually criminal. Fred mostly finds this endearing, though he also has trouble trusting her.


Some kisses. It's suggested that the two main characters end up sleeping together (they wake up together).


Infrequent swearing includes "hell" and "pissed." One character says "f--k" in a moment of duress.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elsa & Fred traces the burgeoning relationship between two senior citizens who become neighbors. Fred is bitter for having been recently widowed, while Elsa is happy-go-lucky come to life. The film explores love at an age often ignored by other movies; while the content is very mild, tweens and even teens aren't likely to be too interested. There are some chaste kisses, and the main characters are shown waking up together. A few scenes show adults drinking, mostly with meals, and profanity is infrequent -- though there is one vehement "f--k" in a moment of stress. Elsa is no stranger to lying, and some of her activities actually veer into illegal territor -- though Fred seems to find it endearing.

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What's the story?

Fred (Christopher Plummer), a recent widower, moves into a new apartment somewhat reluctantly, where he's taken under the wing of his nosy, flirtatious neighbor, Elsa (Shirley MacLaine). Both are retirees -- and at an age when many people might not be thinking about new love. But Elsa's zest for life renews Fred and eventually overpowers his biting demeanor.

Is it any good?

First, applause for veterans MacLaine and Plummer. As the titular couple, they're funny and interesting and effortlessly appealing. Sadly, the script isn't as impressive. ELSA & FRED is supposed to show a couple falling in love, but we don't actually see it happening. One moment they're bickering neighbors, and then they're suddenly head over heels. And while Elsa is depicted as a carefree, charming spirit, the audience discovers that she's far more complicated, perhaps disturbingly so -- but the movie doesn't seem to put it into the context of Elsa and Fred's relationship, a glaring omission. Elsa and Fred are interesting, but interesting enough? That's still a question.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Elsa and Fred's relationship. Why are they drawn together? Do you think they make a good pair? Are they relatable characters? Is their relationship believable?

  • What do you think about Elsa's loose relationship with the truth? Why does she lie? How does Fred react to it? How would you react?

  • Can you think of other movies that depict new love between seniors? How are love and sex between older people typically depicted in the media? Which do you think is more honest?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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