Parents' Guide to

Paper Spiders

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Teen drama addresses mental health sensitively; drinking.

Movie NR 2021 109 minutes
Paper Spiders Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 13+

Realistic mother-daughter relationship movie

Paper Spiders is a family drama that addresses topics of mental health which teens could benefit from discussing. The film deals with these issues in a sensitive way, and promotes the importance of compassion and empathy. This is a message film, that also has a good deal of comedy for all age groups... a wholesome balance.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
1 person found this helpful.
age 14+

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (1):

With Taylor's painfully real performance as a woman sliding into paranoid delusions, director Inon Shampanier pulls off a tonally tricky drama that reeks of lived experience. So much so that it makes you question what a happy ending should look like. When we first meet Dawn and Melanie, life is happy and full of love. Melanie's best friend, Lacy (Peyton List), is a wild child, and the school's cute, hard-partying rich kid, Daniel (Ian Nelson), is adorably in pursuit of Melanie's heart. With all these marks of a coming-of-age teen film, you're just waiting for Molly Ringwald to come walking around the corner. While never silly, it's laugh-out-loud light.

But as Dawn's concerns about the new neighbor's antagonistic behavior start to grow, the movies tone slowly shifts. As viewed through 17-year-old Melanie's perspective, we, too, aren't sure what's going on -- or, for that matter, how to handle it. How does a child manage when she believes her only surviving family member needs help? What should she do, and how could taking action jeopardize her own current and future existence? Melanie tries to guide and help her mother, but to question Dawn is to suggest that she doesn't believe her, which only pushes her mother's paranoia further. The simultaneous honesty and impossibility of the situation come from the lived experiences of Inon and his co-writer/wife, Natalie Shampanier, who based the script on their own experiences with Natalie's late mother. As a result, Dawn's descent still leaves her with some dignity. And Melanie's journey -- including taking on riskier behaviors -- feels closer to reality than typical movie high school hijinks. There's a moment where it feels like the movie is over, and viewers will likely feel content with that ending. But it's really not -- which is also likely true to real life, because when a family member is struggling so deeply with mental illness, the door never closes.

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