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'Paper Spiders': Robin's movie review

A movie poster for the film “Paper Spiders.” A woman is holding an umbrella. Her daughter is standing under the umbrella with her, and they are looking toward each other as it rains. The top exteriors of multi-level homes are visible in the background.

For this week's Movie Minutes, KUNR entertainment reviewer Robin Holabird looks at a movie that explores mental health and trauma.

The many of us unable to see Lili Taylor on stage in New York during 2021 can catch her in top form with the new movie Paper Spiders using streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and Apple TV+. Taylor, a multiple Emmy nominee for projects like American Crime, stars as a mother traumatized by her husband’s death and sliding into paranoid schizophrenia. Stefania Owen plays her teenage daughter, whose coming-of-age experience transforms into something more difficult than most high school students face.

Working from personal experience, screenwriter Natalie Shampanier and director Inon Shampanier share their own real, heartbreaking experiences dealing with a parent whose mind goes someplace else. Taylor steps in displaying the right blend of qualities, beginning as a concerned and loving mother whose good-humored rapport with her daughter seems ideal. Easing into personality changes, Taylor takes on birdlike mannerisms similar to prey who feels constantly watched — in her case, pure paranoia rather than reality. Discarding makeup and efforts to make herself likable, Taylor stays true to the character, while Owen generates appropriate sympathy as a girl forced to navigate issues beyond her years.

Director Shampanier puts in flourishes of well-structured shots, from an opening image of umbrellas to clever use of reflections. The arty look follows through in a screenplay that avoids contrived action or schmaltzy emotions, which in turn means slow pacing.

Any story dealing with harsh truths about mental illness suffers from inherent unhappiness in tone and manner, and Paper Spiders never tries to cushion reality. Its purpose comes without a solution, simply a realization that many share this difficult situation.

Robin Holabird is KUNR's entertainment reviewer, author and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can see her entire archive here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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