The many of us unable to see Lili Taylor on stage in New York during 2021 can watch her in top form with the movie Paper Spiders using streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and Apple Plus. Taylor, a multiple Emmy nominee for projects like American Crime,stars as a mother traumatized by her husband’s death and sliding into paranoid schizophrenia. Stefania Owen plays her teenage daughter whose coming-of-age experience transforms into something more difficult than most high school students face. Working from personal experience, screenwriter Natalie Shampanier and Director Inon Shampanier share their own real, heartbreaking experiences dealing with a parent whose mind goes someplace else.Taylor steps in displaying the right blend of qualities, beginning as a concerned and loving mother whose good-humored rapport with her daughter seems ideal. Easing into personality changes, Taylor takes on birdlike mannerisms similar to prey who feels constantly watched—in her case, pure paranoia rather than reality. Discarding make up and efforts to make herself likeable, Taylor stays true to the character, while Owens generates appropriate sympathy as a girl forced to navigate issues beyond her years. Director Shampanier puts in flourishes of well-structured shots, from an opening image of umbrellas to clever use of reflections. The arty look follows through in a screenplay that avoids contrived action or schmaltzy emotions—which in turn means slow pacing. Any story dealing with harsh truths about mental illness suffers from an inherent unhappiness in tone and manner, and Paper Spiders never tries to cushion reality. Its purpose comes without a solution, simply a realization that many share this difficult situation.
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