The Other Tom examines mental health in modern society. Writer-directors Laura Santullo and Rodrigo Plá have chosen to portray a mother and son in such a natural way that it doesn’t feel like watching two actors.
Mom is often disheveled, but knows how to clean up when necessary. She seems very comfortable in her skin. Her mom bod and her lack of time to literally give a damn are apparent. Her son, Tom, is often left to his own devices, sports unkempt long hair, and could be seen as the modern-day latchkey kid. He has trouble in school, but his teachers are largely unhelpful. His mom faces similar incompetency from his doctors but agrees to put him on ADHD medication, to varied results.
The questions raised pit child welfare against societal norms and prejudices. What is really wrong with a child who has an attention deficit disorder? The larger problem are the adults who are supposed to support, nurture and raise him. Mom tries her best as a single parent struggling with finances. But she also brings home sundry one-night stands, and frequently blames her child for being a disturbance to her life. She doesn’t win any mom of the year awards. But the teachers, doctors and social workers are even worse! They are portrayed as wooden, immature, and possessing about 3 brain cells. School officials are quick to blame the parent and call the child “abnormal” so his classmates ostracize him.
The film also deals with the Big Pharma problem. When Tom has strange side effects from taking his medication, doctors brush it off. Apparently western culture dictates that without pharmaceuticals, a patient cannot have access to therapy. A concerned parent is then accused of harming her child. Refusing to give Tom drugs with scary symptoms causes societal authorities to vilify his mother.
Quite an engaging watch, however, it feels a bit like they ran out of budget to give it a satisfying ending.
The Other Tom – 12:10 PM JST, November 5th, 2021 (Please note, screening times are in Japan Standard Time)