Paper Spiders

A coming of age story which seems totally timely as it mixes in single parenthood and mental illness. Things which a large part of the population are familiar with. Modernizing an oft used movie trope.

High school student Melanie (Stefania LaVie Owen – The Lovely Bones, Krampus) is dealing with all the usual teenager stuff while at the same time dealing with her mother’s deteriorating mental health. Dawn (Lili Taylor – The Conjuring, I Shot Andy Warhol) has recently lost her husband and her usual level of anxiety is rising while at the same time paranoia is rearing its ugly head.

This is all happening at the same time Melanie has decided she is going away for college. Leaving Dawn on her own. With no one to look after her. Her paranoia leads to delusions about the new neighbour coupled with some shouting matches and a calling of the police.

Despite her young age the responsibility for all this falls upon Melanie. She is determined to see her mother taken care of before she leaves so she organizes a couple of interventions. All the while the previously very tight mother-daughter relationship is frayed to the point of breaking. Dawn goes so far as sabotaging her own daughter’s life – socially and scholastically. It becomes apparent that Melanie is going to be forced into making a very tough decision.

A film of this sorts really relies on the laying out of the story and the performances by the lead actresses. All is done well here. Good films make you forget you are watching one. You just lose yourself in what is going as it seems like it is happening in front of your eyes. This is a film about family, love, mother-daughter, life, and mental illness. Those out there who have been familiar with the work of Lili Taylor over her decades long career will not be surprised with this role being completely in her wheelhouse. Playing a single mother with mental health issues plays to her strengths. She turns in another solid performance. What or who did surprise me was young actress Stefania LaVie Owens. A revelation, she brings likability and a wiseness to Melanie. Our heart goes out to the young woman as she tries to take care of her mother.

For those who watch the film and have experience dealing with a family member with mental health issues this film will really hit home. Realistically laid out and well acted. For the rest it will just be a well mapped out film featuring strong acting, engaging drama, the occasional laugh, great chemistry between the mother and daughter, and some witty dialogue.