This absorbingly surreal tale of a mysteriously dislocated flight attendant who goes AWOL and joins a militant band of young animal rights activists is secured by a captivating performance by the ethereal Jeanne Balibar.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
“‘Promise me not to go all mad, OK?’ Ellen’s boyfriend Florian asks her before revealing that he’s going to have a child with another woman. But go a bit mad she does, ditching both home and her longtime flight attendant job and setting forth on an uncertain trajectory. Pia Marais's modern fable of dislocation takes us down the rabbit hole, dropping into a variety of unnerving, oddly humorous and slightly surreal situations as Ellen searches for grounding in a rootless world. Adrift, broke and unused to being alone, Ellen attaches herself to a daisy chain of acquaintances and complete strangers. Her need to be with others results in some undignified hotel-room mornings before she falls in with a group of militant animal rights activists. Ellen is attracted to their passion, and perhaps to their endless discussion of rules, but it’s unclear whether they can provide the sense of purpose she’s seeking. Moving from anonymous hotel rooms, airports and lobbies to the chaotic warmth of a Frankfurt commune, where sleeping bodies lie in a jumble among semi-domesticated animals, At Ellen’s Age is filled with striking images: the red caps of a gaggle of airline attendants, a cheetah strolling regally across an airport tarmac, the otherworldly glow of a swarm of white lab rats running on black asphalt at night. Jeanne Balibar’s ethereal beauty and controlled performance accentuate Ellen’s standing as a perpetual stranger in a strange world, adding a distinctive center to a character and a film as mysterious and unpredictable as modern life.” — Rachel Rosen, San Francisco International Film Festival