‘Fred Won’t Move Out’ memorable but a little too real
“Fred Won’t Move Out,” directed by Richard Ledes and starring Elliott Gould and Stephanie Roth Haberle, tells a story that’s so up-close and personal it can be discomfiting, though Gould turns in a sterling performance, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald in thi
Seattle Times movie critic
“Fred Won’t Move Out,” with Elliott Gould, Fred Melamed, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Judith Roberts, Mfoniso Udofia. Written and directed by Richard Ledes. 74 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
The indie drama “Fred Won’t Move Out” feels, for good or ill, like spending time with a real family — one which, like many, doesn’t communicate very well. Fred (Elliott Gould) and Susan (Judith Roberts) are an elderly couple living in the house in which they’ve spent most of their long marriage; she suffers from dementia, he’s clinging to denial. Their middle-age children, Bob (Fred Melamed) and Carole (Stephanie Roth Haberle), come to visit, to discuss Susan’s upcoming move to a nursing home and to attempt to convince Fred that he needs to move, as well. He is, not surprisingly, opposed to the idea.
Writer/director Richard Ledes, who shot the film in his own parents’ home just before they moved out, finds a dynamic that’s so real you feel uncomfortable watching; this all seems very personal, as surely it was to Ledes. Bob is frustrated by his father’s stubbornness; Carole overcompensates by constantly trying to calm everyone and speaking a little too slowly; Victoria (Mfoniso Udofia), the hired nurse, competently goes about her business of taking care of Susan and Fred, never mentioning the fact that this move means she’ll be out of a job. With a jittery, close-in camera, Ledes captures quiet vignettes around the house; you look at the things Fred and Susan have acquired — objects that tell the story of who they are — and wonder where they’ll end up.
Gould, in a series of long, sad close-ups, creates a memorable portrait of a tired man who just wants, at this point, to be left alone. Moving seems like too much of an effort; besides, he wonders aloud, “Who will be here when Susan gets back?” (That question seems to come not so much from confusion as wistful, wishful thinking.) “Fred” concludes abruptly, not really resolving things; it’s a frustrating ending, but an honest one.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org