Film Review: The Other Tom

by Directors Laura Santullo and Rodrigo PláOUTSIDER PICTURES
reviewed by Eric Hillis
The Other Tom

Filmmakers Laura Santullo and Rodrigo Plá, who are Uruguayans based in Mexico, cross the border for an examination of the conflicting interests and confusing messages around America’s commercialized medication industry.

In El Paso, Texas, 20-something immigrant single mother Elena (Julia Chavez) is struggling to look after her boisterous nine-year-old son Tom (Israel Rodriguez) while holding down a job as a forklift driver. After several disruptive incidents, Elena is called to Tom’s school, where it’s suggested she should have her son seen by a psychiatrist. This leads to a diagnosis of ADHD for the boy, who is prescribed a variety of pills. The medication appears to take effect, but Elena’s peers in the local immigrant community attempt to dissuade her from medicating her son, claiming the pills have harmful side effects.

Elena dismisses such claims until Tom throws himself from her moving car on the freeway, ending up in hospital. A doctor suggests that his action may be a result of the medication, which has been known to cause suicidal tendencies in some children. Elena immediately changes her stance and takes Tom off his meds, resulting in threats from Social Services that the boy may be taken from her care.

Chavez is excellent as a woman who becomes increasingly frayed, a length of human rope caught in a cultural tug of war. Santullo and Plá avoid taking the easy route of making Elena a likable character, and she’s far from a model mother.

The film throws Elena to the wolves as she finds herself torn between antivaxxers and those indebted to pharmaceutical companies. Elena is unqualified to decide what’s best for her son, unless you consider maternal instincts a qualification. It comes down to her making a heartfelt decision regarding how to deal with Tom, and the viewer’s approval will rest on your own stance on this divisive issue.

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