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#TIFF21 Review: The Other Tom (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 15, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Based on a novel by Laura Santullo, who co-directs the film version alongside Mexican filmmaker Rodrigo Plá, The Other Tom focuses on Elena (Julia Chavez), a single mother living in El Paso, Texas with her nine year old son Tom (Israel Rodriguez).

Elena is barely making ends meet, and Tom is a hyperactive kid with a number of behavioural challenges that lead him to be diagnosed with ADHD and be prescribed psychiatric medication. In short, the school orders him to take the medication, but Elena notices more pronounced changes in her son’s mood and decides to take him off the pills, catching the attention of child services.

The film feels a bit long at nearly two hours, and it’s held back by some amateurish acting. While the young Rodriguez often impresses in the title role of Tom, Chavez delivers a somewhat flat and stilted performance as Elena that makes the dramatic scenes feel very uneven. Santullo and Plá go for realism, but the film has a somewhat melodramatic, soap opera feel to it at times.

With that said, The Other Tom does still address some interesting themes about parental rights, the failures of the child welfare system, the over-diagnosis of ADHD in children, and the overprescribing of pharmaceuticals. I do respect what the film is trying to say in this regard. While it’s not as strong as it could have been, this is still a pretty decent drama that has enough intriguing thematic material to keep it fairly engaging.

Public Screenings:

Wednesday, September 15th – 9:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

Thursday, September 16th – 6:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox

Friday, September 17th – 3:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9th to 18th.

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