“The Other Tom” is an intimate, small film about the relationship between a hardworking single mother Elena (Julia Chavez) and her rambunctious, out of control son Tom (Israel Rodriguez), a boy who needs constant stimulation and has trouble focusing in school. At first glance, the child’s acting out seems to be a result of poor parenting from an inattentive mom. But it could be undiagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
When school staff suggest that Tom may have ADHD, Elena takes her child to the doctor, where their solution is to throw more and more prescription psychiatric drugs at him. Every perceived behavioral problem noted by a teacher or medical professional means another pill to swallow. At one point, faced with losing her son because she refuses to give him more medicine, Elena lashes out in exasperation that the doctor’s office feels more like a pharmacy.
It’s a timely issue that faces many families today, with doctors routinely prescribing drugs for kids who just can’t sit still and concentrate. Once Tom begins taking the meds, his entire personality changes. He mopes around a lot, always tired and acting like a zombie. His behavior drastically improves, but at what cost? There’s no easy answer of course, but the film raises important questions on both sides about the problem of overmedicating kids.
Directors Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo have created a strong, engaging drama. They’ve enlisted a cast of non-professionals who lend a realism that makes the story so much more heartbreaking. Elena and Tom are sympathetic characters, each becoming more so as the story progresses. “The Other Tom” may feel frustrating with an unresolved ending, but at least the subject matter should get audiences talking.
This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
By: Louisa Moore