Watch For Ellen
For Ellen is a compelling 2012 independent dramatic movie that stars Paul Dano as Joby, a struggling rock musician who has been on the road for years. Joby's self-destructive behavior has forced his wife, Claire (Margarita Levieva), to file for divorce and seek sole custody of their young daughter, Ellen. The film depicts Jobyâs attempt to reconnect with Ellen during a brief visitation time.
The movie opens with Joby driving his beaten up van through rural America to Dumont. Joby is a mess; he smokes cigarettes, his clothes are wrinkled, and he hasn't washed his hair in weeks. He arrives at a small-town courthouse, where he meets his lawyer, Fred (Jon Heder). Joby has come to finalize his divorce, but the news from Fred is not good. Claire's attorney has drawn up an extremely unfavorable settlement, including sole custody of Ellen, which Joby can't afford to fight. In desperation, he asks Fred to review the papers and make mandatory changes, which gives Joby an extra day in town. Fred leaves, and the film's main action begins.
Joby sets out to find Claire and Ellen, but his failed attempts are evident. Claire has moved on and is in a new relationship with a responsible man, who could provide Ellen with a stable life. Ellen has never met her father, and the gap between Joby and Ellen grows upon their introduction. Throughout the film, Joby's mistakes and missteps in life ripple through and have repercussions, which prove detrimental to his relationship with Ellen.
Director So Yong Kim creates a melancholic, almost hard-to-watch film, which is almost like a character study of Joby. He is a talented musician and a man who genuinely wants to change his behavior, but he never manages to take responsibility or control of his life, let alone his daughter. There is a particular scene where he sings a lullaby to Ellen which, on the one hand, is touching but is also heartbreaking, seeing as Ellen is visibly uncomfortable, uneasy, and apprehensive.
The music in the film deserves special mention, as it is an essential factor in the storyline. Joby's music is his livelihood, but it's difficult to feel any emotion for his art. The performances are genuine, but the tone and realism of the music reflect Joby's character's hopelessness. Director So Yong Kim was a musician herself, and the film is an homage to the music industry.
The movie is an examination of parenthood and how Joby, despite wanting to connect and bond with Ellen, isn't the father she needs in her life. Paul Dano plays the character of Joby to perfection, bringing a genuine vulnerability to the role. Margarita Levieva holds her own as Claire while Jon Heder provides a welcome light-heartedness to the film.
For Ellen is a slow burner. The movie's pacing is quiet, stopping every so often to focus on a particular character's facial expression, capturing the essence of what each individual is feeling at the time. The camera often follows Joby from behind or far away, emphasizing the distance that he has put between himself and everyone around him.
In conclusion, For Ellen is a film that touches on the importance of connection and strength of familial bonds. The film is beautifully directed, with fantastic acting and an excellent soundtrack that runs throughout the story. This movie is an exploration of one man's journey to reconnect with his daughter, but it is also an acknowledgment of how sometimes the damage done can't be undone. For those who appreciate a drama that takes its time and is willing to look at the more difficult aspects of life, For Ellen is definitely worth the watch.
For Ellen is a 2012 drama. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.0 and a MetaScore of 61.