L.A.-based Outsider Pictures has snapped up world sales rights to Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo’s family drama “The Other Tom,” ahead of its Venice Film Festival world premiere and its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.
“I had read the script of ‘The Other Tom’ three years ago and always liked the story,” said Outsider Pictures’ Paul Hudson, who relates how he continued to track the film’s progress from then on. “The heart of the film is the complicated relationship between mother and son that I think any parent can relate to, anywhere in the world,” he added. Its trailer bows exclusively here:
Set in the border town of El Paso, Texas, “The Other Tom” follows a young single mother, Elena, and her long-haired son, Tom, whose disruptive behavior in class makes him a “problem child” in the eyes of the school. The absence of a father, who lives elsewhere with a new partner, exacerbates the situation. Tom is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and is prescribed psychiatric medication, but a mysterious accident alerts his mother to its side effects. When she refuses to continue giving Tom his medication, Child Protective Services are called and Elena faces the prospect of losing custody of her son.
For Plá and Santullo, the story of Tom came to them after a long period of research on ADHD and other child behavioral issues. As long-time partners who have two sons between them, the story resonated with them even more. “My mother is a child psychoanalyst so she provided us with a lot of material,” Plá told Variety. “The absence of the state is a recurring theme in our films,” he added, although in this film’s case, it’s the presence of the state and its sometimes overbearing control of people’s lives.
“The Other Tom” is Plá’s fifth feature with Santullo as co-writer but marks the first time they have co-directed a film.
Citing a Washington Post article which said, in essence, that “If Tom Sawyer were alive today, he’d probably be medicated up to his eyebrows,” inspired them to name their lead character Tom and explains the title. “A child who’s too restless or too active is considered problematic these days,” Santullo concurred. “The root cause of a child’s misbehavior is not always just a chemical imbalance, you have to take into consideration the child’s environment and other factors,” she pointed out, adding: “No one is the same, you can’t apply the same treatment to everyone.”
“You can’t put people in a box and mold them to be the same,” Plá agreed, who says the issue of over-prescribing meds is a universal problem.
Their lead actors Julia Chavez and Israel Rodriguez Bertorelli are both non-pro as is the rest of the cast. “We developed workshops in various places and cast people whose lives were quite similar to the roles they would play,” they said.
After selecting Rodriguez, they had to change the dialogue to be predominantly in English because he didn’t speak Spanish.
“The Other Tom” will mark Plá’s third appearance in Venice and his second in Toronto.
His debut feature film, “The Zone” (2007), was selected at Venice Days, where it was awarded the de Leone del Futuro for Best First Film and received the Fipresci Award at Toronto. Plá’s last film, “A Monster with a Thousand Heads,” also penned by Santullo, was the opening film in Horizons competition at Venice in 2015.
“The Other Tom” is a Buenaventura Cine and BHD Films production and is produced by Plá, Santullo, Alejandro de Icaza, and Gabriela Maldonado.