TIFF 2021: “The Other Tom”

© Buenaventura

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The life of an immigrant is difficult and harsh. To fully understand this, an individual needs to become one. Imagine what happens when on top of the day-to-day struggles, that person must face a system that is intolerable when it comes to a child’s safety?

“The Other Tom” tells the story of an immigrant mother, Elena, who lives in the US with her nine-year-old son, Tom. After being diagnosed with ADHD, the boy was prescribed medicines that have side effects his mother was not aware of. But after an incident in a car, Elena realizes the danger of pills her son took and refuses to continue giving them to him, which makes the social workers angry and threaten to take her son away due to her negligence.

Elena is a blue-collar worker who heavily relies on Tom’s father to send money on a monthly basis but fails to fulfill his promise. It gets increasingly difficult for Elena to manage her growing son whose mental condition does not improve, even after taking medicines. The woman is in despair and determined to do her best to help her son, even though the attempts seem less effective.

Based on the novel by co-director Laura Santullo and Mexican filmmaker Rodrigo Pla, the film explores the importance of mental health and its early diagnosis. It also touches upon prescribed medicines doctors are not aware of much before giving them to a little boy without getting deep into the side effects he may get. All these form a dangerous combination Elena must face in order to determine her next step to improve the wellbeing of her son.

That said, “The Other Tom” is a poignant story delivered in a naturalistic way as if you were a bystander watching someone’s life unfolding right before your eyes. It is a touching story of a mother-and-son bond that is as fragile as it could get. But because of Elena’s strong will, she knows what is best for her son, therefore, is willing to pick a fight against the system that will never be with her on the same page.

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