For Ellen: Paul Dano’s Tour de Force

For Ellen is a quiet film. It’s patient, even unraveling at times. A genuine and traditional character study. Writer/Director So Yong Kim’s tale holds up a magnifying glass with a delicate hand to the ever flawed and struggling existence of Joby Taylor (Paul Dano). He is a nowhere man, a fraught musician, facing the inescapable dissolution of his marriage and his continued estrangement from his 5-year old daughter, Ellen. We watch as Dano’s character grapples with the weighty possibility of for-once loving something beyond himself and his quest for musical triumph. The film is a nuanced and dogged feat for Paul Dano and keeps your rapt attention whenever his lankiness is in frame. Both the understated performance of his ex, played by Margarita Levieve and the incredible pensive watchfulness of Shaylena Mandigo as Ellen, unite this feature as an exploration of the hows, not the whys, of long absent fathers.

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