A flighty flight attendant has a panic attack aboard a plane, quits on the spot and somewhat recklessly goes in search of a new life in “At Ellen’s Age.” Second feature of Johannesburg-born helmer Pia Marais again focuses on a German-speaking femme looking for meaning and stability in her life. As in “The Unpolished,” the helmer’s debut, “Ellen” features strong acting but suffers from an unfocused screenplay. However, the pic premiered at Locarno just a few days before a JetBlue employee unwittingly confirmed this story is indeed far from far-fetched, and further fest travel seems assured.Jeanne Balibar (“Sagan”) gives a wonderfully controlled perf as Ellen, an airline worker whose life goes out of whack after her longtime b.f. (Georg Friedrich) announces he’s going to be a father — via another woman. Speaking in measured, precise German, the Gallic Balibar deftly underlines that the protag tries to impose order on her life as she falls in with a group of animal-rights activists. But it’s never clear whether Ellen finds what she wants or has merely swapped a corporate ideology for a green-ish hippie one. Grainy, 16mm lensing and blowup are impressive.
A Real Fiction Filmverleih release of a Pandora Film Prod. production, in association with Westdeutscher Rundfunk, ARTE. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Claudia Steffen, Christoph Friedel, Andrea Hanke, Georg Steinert. Directed by Pia Marais. Screenplay, Marais, Horst Markgraf.
Camera (color, 16mm-to-35mm), Helene Louvart; editor, Mona Braeuer; music, Markgraf, Yoyo Roehm; production designer, Petra Barchi; costume designer, Gabriella Ausonio. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 6, 2010. Running time: 101 MIN.
Jeanne Balibar, Stefan Stern, Georg Friedrich, Julia Hummer, Alexander Scheer, Eva Loebau, Clare Mortimer.