Elsa & Fred’s Rancid Romance


Seventy-seven-year-old Elsa (Uruguayan actress China Zorrilla) has what might charitably be called “an outsized personality.” Exuberant, garrulous, completely self-absorbed, she has the conscience of a teenager who claims a death in the family in order to get out of a math test. When Alfredo (veteran Spanish actor Manuel Alexandre), a quiet, reserved, almost rigidly honest widower, moves into her apartment building, Elsa sets her sights on him. Clearly, Spanish director and co-writer Marcos Carnevale wants his romantic comedy to be viewed as a funny, sad, heartwarming affirmation of life and love—but that requires excusing Elsa’s narcissism and constant lying as charming eccentricities when, in fact, they are off-putting enough to sour the whole film. The problem isn’t the acting; both actors are superb. It’s Elsa’s character that is so difficult to take. Only the hopelessly romantic will be able to tolerate her.