This low-key but shrewdly observed US indie movie from Korean-American writer-director So Yong Kim pointedly opens with a man at a crossroads, unsure of which direction to take. Decision made, he soon afterwards skids into a snowdrift.
The hapless driver is struggling rock singer Joby Taylor, played by Paul Dano, and he’s travelled through a wintry night to upstate New York for a meeting at which he is due to finalise his divorce from his long-estranged wife. Almost at the last moment, he discovers that the terms of the divorce require him to give up custody of the six-year-old daughter he barely knows. What should he do?
Dominated by Dano’s excellent performance, For Ellen delivers a very convincing portrait of a directionless young man. Joby is feckless, immature and generally hopeless. He turns up late and hung over for his meetings with his well-meaning but ineffectual lawyer (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder) and when he finally gets to spend some time with his daughter Ellen (a sweet, naturalistic performance from Shaylena Lynn Mandigo), it’s clear he hasn’t a clue how to be a father.
The scenes depicting Jobe and Ellen’s awkward time together are quietly affecting, but you may find the film’s pace too slow, the mood too understated and Joby too unsympathetic to care about this story’s outcome.
In cinemas from Friday 15th February.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.