The adventures of “Sam the Depressed Girl”

Imagine that you are a filmmaker who wants to tell the story of a 26-year-old woman newly released from a mental institution after a suicide attempt.

Imagine that you are a filmmaker who wants to tell the story of a 26-year-old woman newly released from a mental institution after a suicide attempt. You want to let the world in on what it’s like to be her while she deals with a controlling sister, a new job and an ex-husband who’s trying to get custody of her daughter.

You decide that the story is about you and not the girl so you film everything with handheld cameras, thereby taking out any reasonable attempt at objectivity and making the film like a lengthy episode of Intervention. You force the audience to watch a boring, depressing and incomplete story all for the sake of your art.

The worst thing you can do in filmmaking is to create something boring. The object of film is to entertain or enlighten your audience. Paper Covers Rock does neither. The entire film focuses on upper body shots of Sam The Depressed Girl. The point may have been to get into her emotional state, but since she has none outside of depression, there’s nothing to see. She has the emotional range of horse manure.

The film’s emotional apex occurs 40 minutes in when Sam decides to buy a bike. However, since her new job is as a janitor at her sister’s office building, she doesn’t make enough to buy a good one so instead buys pieces for a bike one at a time. The bike shop owner is a jerk trying to rip her off but for some reason decides to play a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sam for the custody of a set of tires. That scene, along with two set in a bodega where Sam buys milk, are charming, but it’s certainly not enough to sustain the movie.

Throw in the controlling sister, Ed, and you’ve got not just depressing but annoying as well. When a man in the office building asks Sam out, Ed, his boss, wastes no time in telling him all about her sister. He arrives for the date an hour late then treats her like crap until she leaves. Perhaps he feels that’s OK because she’s defective anyway.

The press release for the film stated that it was about her attempts to keep custody of her daughter. Nothing could be further from the truth. She doesn’t attempt to see her daughter until the very end and it is an hour in before we even know that her ex is trying to get full custody. Sam won’t read his letters and doesn’t even know that he’s contacted an attorney.

Cut almost entirely without music, Paper Covers Rock has the feeling of a home movie made in a sad attempt to cheer someone up after attempting suicide. And the ambiguous ending is just the icing on this otherwise depressing cake. Depending on your reading of the scene, it could mean nothing and therefore be just a boring ending to a boring film or it could mean disaster.

However, the director didn’t have the guts to show a tragic end, so he leaves it to the viewers’ imaginations.

This is the M.O. for most of the film and at the very least the viewer can be pleased that he or she is given a chance to imagine a more interesting story than the one on the screen.