All Melanie wants is a normal senior year, but her life turns upside down as her mother’s paranoid delusions spiral out of control.

How many times have you had the feeling that someone is watching or following you? While the feeling can be unsettling, it’s usually a fleeting one for most of us and you continue on with your day shortly after. However, what if that feeling never left? What if that feeling crippled your daily routine, jeopardized your job, and drove a wedge between you and your loved ones? Well, this is a reality for some, especially those who suffer from dementia. Paper Spiders is a coming of age story that slowly unravels into a teenage girl’s personal Titanic level catastrophe. The grim realization that persecutory delusional disorder is now plaguing her mother, Melanie is in a situation comparative to being constricted by a large python. Every breath you take, the snake squeezes tighter, and every interaction with her mother results in the delusions getting worse. The story is truly heartbreaking and really puts you in a, “what would I do in this situation?” mind state. Unfortunately, my answer is, a frightening, I don’t know. I feel that it’s a question that can only be answered if and when it crashes into your life at some point.

Subsequently, that’s what makes this film stand out, the writers of the film have experienced this firsthand. The authenticity shines through and a monumental reason for that is the performance of Lili Taylor coupled with great writing. I love the transition of the tone switch and how the dissension into full-blown paranoia is crafted. It’s a story that proves it’s importance. With the world has begun to focus on mental health over the past few years, it’s important for us to understand these disorders, especially the ones that are not widely discussed. The film is poignant, eye-opening, thought-provoking, and worth watching. People aren’t always “crazy”, sometimes they need help and don’t know that they do. The story is also about friendship and never giving up on those you love and care about. I thoroughly enjoyed Paper Spiders. Its rewatchability is high.

Plot & Pace

The story follows Melanie as she is preparing to round out her high school career and venture into college. She’s a diligent student as she is number two in her class but that didn’t leave room for many friends. She has an incredible bond with her mother, Dawn, who is now raising Melanie alone. After a new neighbor moves in and has a verbal altercation with Dawn, Melanie notices that her mom has become unusually obsessed with the notion that they are out to get her. However, Melanie’s focus is on a rebellious young man that is infatuated with her. The closer she gets to a relationship with Daniel, the more her mother’s mind spirals out of control. She is now tasked with making decisions that will change everything she knows. The pacing was perfect. There was a good balance of Melanie’s problems as well as what is going on with Dawn.

Characters & Chemistry

Lili Taylor as Dawn put on an incredible performance. I felt so bad for her throughout the entire film. She was able to present this mental disorder in an authentic way and in such a way that I immediately had to go do some research. The mother-daughter chemistry with Melanie (Stefania LaVie Owen) is amazing. You can feel that familiar motherly love which is why it becomes so devastating once things get out of control. Owen put on a fantastic performance as well. Her pain and confusion really jump off the screen.

Paper Spiders premiered on August 27th at the DWF: LA Film Festival. Stay safe out there.

Director: Inon Shampanier

Writers: Inon Shampanier, Natalie Shampanier

Runtime: 1h 49m

Rating: 4 out of 5

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