Paper Tiger

After a successful and award-winning run on the festival circuit, writer/director Paul Kowalski’s (first feature film) is now available on streaming services. A film which delves into the layers of the human condition including family, violence and mental health. As mental health and the awareness about it has grown so has its inclusion, as a subject, grown within the film world. Here it is front and center tied in with the experience of immigrants in a new country. How the pressures of “fitting in” can sometimes add more stress than a person is able to handle.

It is great to find a film in which the important topic of mental health is dealt with in a serious and respectful way. Kowalski’s film goes deep into it and as a result the impact is that much greater. Some will draw links between this film and the equally meaningful Gus Van Sant film from 2003 called Elephant. It is heavy stuff here; a lot to handle. That being said, it is a worthy watch. Brings a lot to the table and definitely is well thought out, features strong acting and will leave the viewer with plenty to think about. At times quite dark.

Being an immigrant trying to find her place in American society, single mother Lily (Lydia Look – from television’s General Hospital) is facing pressure from many a front. With her hands completely full even more is added when she gets a terminal cancer diagnosis. To make matters worse, she has worries about her teenage son Edward (Alan Trong – The Tomorrow War, Alita: Battle Angel), a schizophrenic who she believes is turning more and more to violence. So much so that she believes he is planning a school shooting.

The film is a dramatized version of the real life story of Lai Hang. Back in 2015 she shot her schizophrenic son, George, a couple of times in the chest, killing him, while he lay asleep in a motel room. From that case sprung up plenty of moral debates about what is the right way to stop violence before it happens. While adding some dramatic license to the story, Kowalski’s film is pretty much ripped from the headlines meaning it features little from his perspective and mostly from Lai Hang’s.

Beautiful cinematography and great acting, especially from the two leads, really carry the film. Plus really clearly illustrates what can happen if communication breaks down. Especially within a family.

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