Realism and small moments of humanity are nicely achieved in this doc-style drama about a newly trained nurse assistant, the eponymous Elena, who goes to stay with a family who need her help taking care of their elderly grandmother.

Although slight and limited, the film is nevertheless subtly touching and keenly observant of the ups and downs of everyday life. Nothing major ever really happens but in quietly capturing something that feels very true and real it, for the most part, succeeds in what it sets out to do.

This is largely helped by the naturalistic performances, including from lead Kia Davis as the subdued Elena (who also co-wrote the story), trying her best to integrate herself with the family which includes the mother who won’t stop asking her if she’s feeling okay, the father who has his office at home but who never seems to actually get any work done (much to the annoyance of the mother) and later in the story the son who makes inappropriate advances towards her.

While not an outright comedy it nevertheless has some moments of great humour, the kind that makes you laugh in that funny because it’s true sort of way. The bickering between the parents, awkward dinner conversations and forced “family time” are completely believable, so much so that it sometimes feels like a fly-on-the-wall documentary or maybe even a home movie rather than a straightforward narrative.

Presented in 4:3 (i.e. square) format, Exit Elena is an oddly captivating little film, filled with touching and awkward moments alike, and has a lead character you can really care about. Making the most out of a clearly shoe-string budget, Nathan Silver’s film has a charm all its own that’s enough to mask the fact that it’s less than the sum of its parts.