For Ellen (2012)

For Ellen
Director: So Yong Kim
Writer: So Yong Kim
Cast: Paul Dano, Jon Heder, Shaylena Mandigo, Jena Malone, Margarita Levieva
Part of: Viennale

Joby Taylor (Paul Dano) is a rather successful rock musician about to get divorced from his already very estranged wife Claire (Margarita Levieva). In fact, Claire has been bringing up their daughter Ellen (Shaylena Mandigo) while Joby’s been gone and now they’re only talking through their lawyers. In a last attempt to salvage something, Joby refuses to sign the divorce papers unless he gets to spend time with Ellen.

For Ellen was an extremely nice and sweet and touching and cute and absolutely wonderful film. It was one of those films that I wanted to see again the minute it was over.

I don’t think that the movie would have worked without Paul Dano. He is frankly amazing and I could watch him for hours anyway, but he was especially great in this one. There is this one scene where he dances to Whitesnake’s Still of the Night and it is entrancing and actually heart-breaking. Maybe he should have become an expressive dancer. [The music was generally pretty cool and gave me slightly more appreciation for classic rock – not really my cup of tea usually.]

But Paul Dano, though a huge part of the magic of the movie, isn’t all that works. Shaylena Mandigo was really fantastic, too and she and Dano are completely natural together. And she’s absolutely cute to boot.

Jon Heder was great, too and his role was also really important to keep everything from becoming too dramatic. He manages to be fun but still vulnerable which is exactly what the movie needed.

The only thing that didn’t work that well for me was the ending that was a bit weird. And despite Joby not being a very good guy, I just wanted more for and of him. But So Yong Kim handles everything so well that an ending that fizzles out a bit is only the slightest of worry. Instead you just lean back and enjoy the beauty of the story.

Summarising: So very much recommended.

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