There’s low budget, and then there’s low budget. Paper Covers Rock, I read after the fact, cost all of $6,000 to make.
And it looks it. Which is not to say it’s bad, but long before I looked up what it cost, I intended to comment that something about the feel of this film—mostly factors that affect my perception but that I’m not aware enough of on a conscious level to identify—gives the impression that it was really done on the cheap.
The acting varies. Some of it’s fairly good. None of it is awful, but some is mediocre enough that, again, you don’t get the sense they’re using expensive talent.
But anyway, that being said, the movie is actually reasonably compelling. As really obscure, low budget indies go, I’d say it held my interest about equal to The Favor, and a little better than The Slaughter Rule, just to pick out a couple movies I’ve written about recently.
The movie opens with a six year old girl discovering her young single mother attempting suicide, a traumatic event that understandably gets the mother temporarily institutionalized and the daughter placed with her father, who apparently up until then had shown little interest in her, but now is her guardian of last resort.
The mother suffers from depression; this was not a one time, impulsive thing. After she is released, she moves in with her older sister. The bulk of the movie is about her and her sister trying to adjust to living together, and then, when she feels up to it, her efforts to regain custody of her daughter.
Really there’s not a whole lot of the latter though. It’s looming as a potential issue much of the way, but not much happens with it until quite late. This isn’t a movie of dramatic Kramer Vs. Kramer courtroom custody battles. It’s much more about the sisters, though it does end with a nice, touching scene between mother and daughter, with just the right emotionally impactful hesitation.
The older sister is an obsessive compulsive type who must have everything in its place and everything done according to routine. She prides herself on being the responsible one, seeking to keep her irresponsible sister out of trouble through kind of passive aggressive control freak means. Her traits are probably a little overdone to make it obvious what kind of person she is, but not to a ludicrous degree that lost me.
With the main character, there aren’t a lot of dramatic breakdowns or anything, but you never know quite how off she is, quite what’s going on inside her. She’s obviously still got some issues, but a lot of it she keeps inside.
It’s actually more effective that way. The one scene late in the movie where she’s more openly confrontational with her sister I thought was one of the weaker scenes in the film.
It’s not clear if she would be willing to truly open up to her sister—or anyone I suppose—but we’ll never know because any time her sister senses any mention of suicide or depression or mental illness coming, she launches into denial mode and immediately steers things in a different direction, evidently believing that acknowledging any of that would be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, and what’s necessary is precisely to make the opposite the self-fulfilling prophecy by insisting over and over to her sister that she’s fine.
It’s important subject matter, handled reasonably well. There’s an amateurishness to it at times, but Paper Covers Rock is worthy of at least a mild recommendation.
Basically it’s like watching an excellent student film.