If Shane Ryan's Paper Kids doesn't stay with you, and I mean really stay with you, I kind of have to wonder about you.
It's difficult to describe this 21-minute short film without giving it all away, something I'm not about to do. Suffice it to say that Paper Kids is a dark, disturbing, raw, authentic, and not even remotely hopeful short film centered around a group of kids whose lives are portrayed with the kind of stark honesty that screams out "I want to do something about this" but ultimately knows there's really not a damn thing to be done.
The second film of Ryan's that I've watched that favors imagery and music over dialogue, Paper Kids starts off deceptively quietly with this group of young kids seen in the kinds of posturing poses we always see disenfranchised youth. Yet, there's something else that happens early on and it becomes abundantly clear that these kids, seemingly troubled or wounded souls at far too young an age, are wearing a heaviness that transcends any sense of posturing.
There's something more going on here.
Paper Kids does a slow reveal, partly going where you expect it to go and completely blowing your mind in a way that is simple yet painful, emotionally devastating yet fiercely thought provoking.
You won't stop feeling Paper Kids, but you also won't stop thinking about it.
Paper Kids tags its kids, though focusing less on their identities and more on their daily lives. They hang out in urban neighborhoods that feel like their dripping decayed souls along with oceanside beaches that look like they ought to be serene places where dreams come true but we just know this isn't the case.
We see them in carnivals and in cars, in vacant streets and at the hands of people who should care about 'em and ought to care about 'em but we just know they don't care about 'em.
We see scars, some self-inflicted and some resulting from life experiences no kid ought to have.
We want to believe they have hope, but hope is sometimes this weird ass thing we make up that allows us to detach from our pain and the pain of others.
I have a feeling Shane Ryan knows this.
Ryan writes, directs, lenses, and edits Paper Kids and his vision is abundantly clear. You may not like it. You may think it's exploitative. Hell, it may even be exploitative.
It's also unforgettable.
If Shane Ryan's Paper Kids doesn't stay with you, and I mean really stay with you, I can't help but think you suck as a human being.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic