Jessica Barden, Joe Dempsie and Jaime Winstone star in Ellen
Ellen is a powerful, prescient story of a tough teenager trying to take control of her chaotic life. The 90-minute film is a poignant and vital portrayal of 14-year-old Ellen (Jessica Barden – The Lobster, Tamara Drew, Penny Dreadful) forced to grow up too quickly. Developed as part of Channel 4’s commitment to new talent, it marks the exciting debut of breakthrough UK female talent: writer Sarah Quintrell and director Mahalia Belo.
Ellen’s life is a mess: her dad is absent with his new family, while her mum (Jaime Winstone – Love, Rosie, Powder Room and Kidulthood) is oblivious to her. She’s more concerned with playing host to a variety of shady characters who hang around the house at all hours than listening to her daughter. Leon (Charlie Creed-Miles – Peaky Blinders, Nil by Mouth), a seemingly omnipresent mate of her mum’s, has his eye on Ellen. But with no one looking out for her, where can she turn?
Ellen finds a form of escape when she befriends Kayla (played by newcomer Yasmin Monet Prince). The pair form a deep friendship with the kind of unshakable intensity forged by teenage girls. But just as she’s discovered a sense of fun and freedom with Kayla, Ellen meets Jason (Joe Dempsie – Skins, Game of Thrones) who’s older and cooler than Kayla. He really seems to like Ellen and no one’s ever ‘liked’ her before. Ellen’s loyalties are torn. Should she stay true to her amazing new mate or step into the unknown with Jason? Funny, poignant and devastating, the film is about the challenges facing a young girl, giving a voice to those that so often go unheard.
As well as giving a platform to a brand new writer and director, Ellen boasts an array of new talent behind the camera, with its director of photography, editor, production designer and casting director all female first-timers. The music was composed by Jonathan Hill, also marking his broadcast drama debut.
Piers Wenger, head of Channel 4 drama said: “Ellen is a powerful, incredibly prescient and visceral film – a proper gut punch. On top of its poignancy as a piece of drama, it is fantastic that on a practical level it’s given so much breakthrough talent the chance to shine and make their mark on Channel 4’s drama slate.”
Philip Trethowan, executive producer said “Mahalia Belo’s beautiful realisation of Sarah Quintrell’s powerful script and some captivating performances have created a film that will stay in the mind for a long time. It’s a testimony to what can be achieved when new talent is given a chance.”
Sarah Quintrell, writer said "I wanted to write about what it's like to be young, poor and female. I wanted to look at the human being behind the statistics - what does a vulnerable girl really look like? The film explores this through a female friendship that is compassionate, funny and full of joy.”
The gripping 90-minute film was developed and produced by Touchpaper TV, a Banijay UK company, for Channel 4’s Coming Up scheme which finds and develops new talent. Ben Bickerton is the producer and Philip Trethowan is the executive producer. It was commissioned for Channel 4 by Piers Wenger.