Jessica Barden, Joe Dempsie to star in C4 drama, Ellen

Funny, poignant and devastating

Jessica Barden (The Outcast, Penny Dreadful), Joe Dempsie (Skins, Game of Thrones) and Jaime Winstone (Powder Room) are to star in Ellen, a new  90-minute film for Channel 4.

The film is a poignant and vital portrayal of 14-year-old Ellen (Barden) forced to grow up too quickly as she tries to take control of her chaotic life.

Ellen’s life is a mess: her dad is absent with his new family, while her mum (Winstone)  is oblivious to her – more concerned with playing host to a variety of shady characters who hang around the house at all hours. Leon (Charlie Creed-MilesPeaky 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 (Dempsie) 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.

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.”

Ellen is part of Channel 4’s Coming Up scheme which finds and develops new talent season, including new female writer Sarah Quintrell and director Mahalia Belo. There is also an array of all female talent first-timers behind the camera. The music was composed by Jonathan Hill, also marking his broadcast drama debut.

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.”

Ellen is produced by Touchpaper TV.