EIFF 2012 – Fred Review Starring Elliott Gould



Richard Ledes’ heartfelt drama, Fred, receives its world premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, and this poignant feature is likely to strike an emotional chord with many of us.   

Elliott Gould stars as Fred, an elderly man living in his house of over fifty years, with his Alzheimer’s suffering wife, Susan (Judith Roberts).  Fred’s grown-up children (Fred Melamed and Stephanie Roth Haberle) try to convince him to move to a care home with Susan, but he is not ready to leave yet.  

Fred is a delicately handled film, with Ledes directing in an almost fly on the wall style. As a viewer, we feel part of the family’s most intimate moments, which results in a completely absorbing watch. It is impossible not to get drawn in as the family sing Susan’s favourite songs to her or reminisce with Fred.

Alongside some striking cinematography from Valentina Caniglia, Ledes has the ability to make almost any shot seem poignant and heartfelt. This is at its most prevalent through shots of the slow withering of the exterior of Fred’s home or the near spiritual representation of the nature that surrounds it.

Ledes’ screenplay is a wonderful fusion of deadpan comedy (mostly courtesy of the perfectly timed comic skills of Gould and Melamed) and touching drama. Fred also has its share of challenging moments – it is difficult to watch Fred’s struggle with his wife’s condition as he also attempts to battle his own ailing health. This is shown in one such sequence where Fred attempts to make Susan grip the telephone, but loses his temper at her inability to do so.

Fred reflects issues that are likely to strike a chord with many of us, excelling in its delicate portrayal of the aging process. These well crafted characters ensure the viewer feels the dilemma of Fred’s children, as well as empathising with Fred’s desire to grasp to his independence at home. These issues are perfectly represented from a wonderful cast.

Judith Roberts truly excels in her turn as Susan, a strong willed woman that the audience completely warm to. Seeing Susan coping with the struggles of everyday life and finding joy with her loved ones, amidst the effects of Alzheimers is heart warming.  Elliott Gould is perfectly cast in the title role, shining through welcome moments of humour, as well as more emotionally heavy scenes. Fred Melamed, impresses greatly with his deadpan wit, whilst Stephanie Roth Haberle gives a touching performance as Fred’s exasperated daughter.

Fred is a delicately crafted and heartfelt portrayal of the aging process. The combination of touching drama and deadpan humour alongside stellar performances from the main players, proves a winning combination.

Andrew McArthur

Stars: Elliott Gould, Judith Roberts, Fred Melamed , Stephanie Roth Haberle
Director: Richard Ledes
Release: 22nd June 2012 (EIFF)