Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story

Jill Levenburg as Ellen Pakkies. (Photo: Lindsey Appolis)
Jill Levenburg as Ellen Pakkies. (Photo: Lindsey Appolis)


Told across two timelines, the movie shares the story of Ellen’s (Jill Levenberg) stormy relationship with her twenty-year old drug-addict son, Abie Pakkies (Jarrid Geduld). In 2007, his death caused a stir worldwide when it was revealed that his mother was the one who murdered him. When advocate Adrian Samuels (Clint Brink) takes on the case, he is determined to prove that Ellen had no choice. But what compelled her to stop seeking help? How does a mother become desperate enough to take her own son’s life?


We first meet the character Ellen Pakkies (Jill Lavenberg) mere minutes after she had just murdered her young son, Abie, in 2007.

For the next 120 minutes we jump through time, moving between past and present, learning about the traumatic events that took place leading up to the heart-breaking moment a loving and doting mother took the life of her own son.

Through a series of flashbacks, we are introduced to a young Abie - still a student in high school.

For the first time we see Abie (Jarrid Geduld) as not “just another tik-kop” but a young man with ambition, hopes and dreams.

A boy who loved Michael Jackson and who wrote his own rap lyrics, a son who had hopes of buying his mother a big house, and a brother who looked up-to his older siblings.

We truly get to experience the warped relationship between mother and son, brought on by the escalation of Abie’s drug-addiction. And then finally, the murder-trail which not only caught the attention of the Cape Flats community, but the world.

Ellen Pakkies was not an easy movie to watch, with the relationship between Ellen and Abie brought to the fore-front, my emotions were constantly in conflict. I felt intense sympathy for Ellen, who wanted nothing more than to help her drug-addicted son, yet she continued to endure years of abuse at his hands.

Jarrid Geduld delivers a magnificent performance as Abie, with a disturbing and convincing transformation from a passionate young man to tortured drug-addict.

It was unbelievable to witness such a shocking transformation unfold in front of your eyes. From Abie’s overall physical deterioration (weight-loss, poor hygiene) to his increased paranoia and aggression.

Jill Lavenberg’s heart-rending performance as Ellen Pakkies is applaudable. She manages to capture perfectly the emotions and behaviour of a mother torn between unconditional love, and fear for her life.

READ MORE: Jill Levenberg on playing Ellen Pakkies - ‘I had to go into a state of disassociation in order to commit the act of murder’

But foremost the relationship between them felt so real, and I empathised with both mother and son.

Filmed in Lavender Hill, where the true-life events took place, the movie stays true to Ellen Pakkies’ story.

The script was written by Amy Jephta, but Ellen Pakkies herself was very-much involved in the production from its infancy.

And not only were scenes filmed in the Pakkies family home, where the murder took place, the same magistrate court, prison, rehab centre and clinic involved in the real-life events were shown in the re-telling adding to the overall authenticity of the film.

Ellen Pakkies’ story remains an important story to tell today, as it looks at the Cape Town drug-epidemic, and the effect it has on the user, their families and their communities.

It’s a real-life story with a message that affects everyone on some level all over world.

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