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Elsewhere

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Elsewhere Movie Poster Image
Blah bereavement comedy has lots of pot, drinking, swearing.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

To honor the life of a loved one who has passed, we should live and enjoy our own lives. Also a message about persistence: You don't have to live in a big way, you just have to find a way to keep thriving. That said, there are few consequences for the main character's poor behavior.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Two different women take the high road in a difficult situation and manage it with grace. On the downside, main character Bruno isn't a great person: He constantly pees outside, steals his co-worker's food, ditches work and a date, and deceives a woman who trusts him.

Violence

A character comically shoots a gun into the sky to scare off burglars. A character rams his truck into a tree in hopes of killing himself.

Sex

Several times, a couple is seen making out and nuzzling in bed with a sexual implication. Brief moments of innuendo.

Language

Frequent use of "f--k." Other words used once or twice include "a--hole," "bitch," "s--tty," and "oh my God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.

Consumerism

Antagonists are a wealthy couple who are portrayed in stereotypical ways: fat string of pearls, luxury SUV, dinner parties, cold hearts; their enormous imported gold statue is a plot point. Storyline carries implication that money is power. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking, smoking pot portrayed as regular parts of adult life. Characters almost always have a drink in hand, no matter the time of day: beer, wine, champagne, martinis, and harder stuff. A character who's portrayed as a loser is seen smoking pot several times; also references to other characters using it. A character is seen drinking at a party and then gets in the car and drives recklessly, ending in a car accident, but there's no conversation tying the two behaviors together.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elsewhere is a dramedy about a widower named Bruno (Aden Young) who's forced to move on after the loss of his wife when he's evicted from the house they built and shared. Teens might be drawn in by co-star Ken Jeong, who plays a hoodie-wearing stoner who's shown lighting up a couple of times. But know that the overall attitude projected here is that part of being an adult is getting high, swearing (expect regular use of "f--k" and others), and drinking -- characters almost always have a drink in hand. There's a little bit of violence -- a character comically shoots a gun into the sky, and a character rams his truck into a tree in hopes of killing himself -- and some making out and implied sex/innuendo. Bruno isn't a great person: He constantly pees outside, steals his co-worker's food, ditches work and a date, and deceives a woman who trusts him. The consequences for these actions are minor to nonexistent: He gets away with everything and, in some cases, gets ahead. Really, the only reason to see this film is for the gorgeous scenery of Vancouver Island.

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What's the story?

In ELSEWHERE, widower Bruno (Aden Young) is still grieving over his wife's death two years ago. When he's evicted from the oceanfront home the two of them built, he plots to get it back -- no matter what.

Is it any good?

This movie's title says it all: If you're looking for entertainment, look Elsewhere. It's beautiful but dull. While there's plenty of blame to pass around -- including the writing, directing, and editing -- the biggest problems are the unlikable main character and the star's monotone, cardboard-box acting. To get on board with Bruno's bizarre decision-making, viewers have to care about him like his friends and family do -- and he offers us no reason to do so. He's depressed, which is understandable, but eating his co-worker's labeled food in the work fridge isn't. He's a jerk. Bruno's allies try to be supportive and loving during his difficult time, but it's obvious by the end of the film that he's using his grief to get away with being self-absorbed. Some of the characters call him out, but we never get a compelling reason to accompany him on his journey. Yes, Bruno's wake-up moment costs him something (it costs others more), but since Young shows his emotions by staring into space, that impact isn't felt by viewers.

Parker Posey, Beau Bridges, Jacki Weaver, Jackie Tohn, and Ken Jeong do their best to lift Elsewhere up, but if you want to make a film about depression feel less dreary, you have to give skilled comedic actors like these material that's genuinely funny. In truth, the standout performance comes from director of photography Glauco Bermudez: His landscape cinematography of Sooke, British Columbia, is rich, luxurious, and IMAX-worthy. The gorgeousness goes beyond catching a drop of water fall off a leaf; it's consistent throughout. That said, the lighting and angles aren't always kind to Posey in a way that seems deliberate. Her character, Marie, is supposed to represent the light and life that she brings to Bruno, and Posey's acting supports that, but the way she's filmed makes her drab. Bruno doesn't deserve Marie, and Posey and the supporting cast deserve a better movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the stages of grief. How is Bruno stuck, and how does he eventually move forward?

  • What do you think the filmmaker wants viewers to take away from watching Elsewhere? There's a message about the persistence of moss -- what is the analogy to the story? Why is perseverance an important life skill?

  • What's the film's final message about a deeper way to communicate? Why is it important?

  • How does the film portray drinking and drug use? Is it glamorized or normalized? Are there consequences for substance use? Why does that matter?

Movie details

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