For Ellen (2012) – By Austin Bender

"For Ellen" is a weird movie, I should probably just say that right away. It stars Paul Dano as Joby Taylor, a middle-tier rockstar who can’t seem to catch a break. Now in the middle of a divorce, he is faced with having to give up his daughter, a young girl he has never really even met.

In most movies, this father character would give the child away without a blink of the eye, but So Yong Kim, the director, wanted to explore this character and show what really can go on in a parents head, even if they’ve been absent the child’s entire life.

Despite cameos from other recognizable actors, Paul Dano was really left to carry this film on his own. His performance might just be his best to date. It takes real bravery to play this sort of character and he did so perfectly.

The supporting cast is rarely seen, with Jon Heder being the most prominent, but he is still only there for a short time. The only other character that we really feel for is Ellen, Joby’s daughter. We care for her not because of the actress, who did a fine job, but for Dano’s reaction when faced with having to give her up.

Like many indie movies, this film has no “bad guy”, no evil, mustache-twirling sinner that stands in the way of our hero. No, this films only real antagonist is the mother, who you still feel for because she only is doing what she thinks is best for her little girl. She might be right, which makes it even harder to hate her. I think this is what makes the movie interesting, as it truly feels like a snippet of someone’s actual life.

The story itself is a bit boring. The movie basically is just a week in Toby’s life. A huge life decision is to be made, but in the scope of things, this decision would probably be considered boring by most movie goers.

The movie has heart, but it lacks the soul that would make it a gem. If you’d like, you can find out more here.