Dir.: So Yong Kim | USA 2012 | 93 min
Joby Taylor (Paul Dano) is a rock musician on the verge of a breakthrough. But the flipside of success can be seen and felt, and it has resulted in his consistent absence from the lives of his girlfriend and their common daughter. Now, he's coming back to Upstate New York to officially divorce the mother - but she is determined not to share custody with him. The decision is a rude awakening for the otherwise so self-satisfied and successful musician, and we follow him as he fights with the loss of the daughter he has never really known. The expectation of yet another "quirky mumblecore" is justified, but 'For Ellen' rises above the genre with its penetrating, dark view of life and understated elements of surprise in the plot. The director is restrained in her use of cinematic effect, and her directing is concise. The portrait of Joby's self-love and bad mood, and how it rubs off on those around him - from the clumsy lawyer (John Heder) to the scenes between him and his daughter - is priceless. It is not the first time that So Yong Kim flexes her directorial muscles with close personal portrayals. Even in her debut 'In Between Days' and in her partner Bradley Rust Gray's 'Exploding Girl' (PIX '09), the environment gets to define the characters, and the result is American indie at its best.