Paper Flowers Image

Paper Flowers

By Sabina Dana Plasse | June 20, 2024

DANCES WITH FILMS FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! Based on a true story that continues to receive viral recognition, Paper Flowers has a very real place in our current society. When University of Southern California graduate Shalin Shah (Kapil Talwalkar) leaves his loving Indian American family and devoted girlfriend, Fiona (Olivia Liang), whom his father refuses to acknowledge, for the Peace Corps, little does he know that the greatest challenge of his life is yet to come, his battle with a rare and aggressive cancer at 21 years old.

Sent home from his Peace Corps station in Peru because of the need for immediate medical attention, Shalin’s life takes a turn, and the path or plans intended for him and those he intended for himself take a detour. Director Mahesh Pailoor establishes early on that Shalin is not a man who is afraid of the unknown and that traditions have their time and place or not all traditions fit each individual, including his best friend Milan (Karan Soni) and the Paper Flowers comic relief.

“…leaves his loving Indian American family and devoted girlfriend…for the Peace Corps…”

Amidst the philosophical markers as statements and constructs throughout Paper Flowers, we follow Shalin as he lives his life while the cancer continues to progress. Confronting Indian traditions while embracing the core existence of his Indian family at the same time, Shalin remarks that wherever an Indian family goes, they set up a village, whether it is the hospital waiting room or his family’s living room. However, it is this push and pull that is the strength of Shalin’s story, which is the same situation with his girlfriend Fiona, who is Taiwanese American, and his parents, who end up reversing their positions on Shalin and Fiona’s relationship, but in the end fully embrace it.

Capturing it all, from chemotherapy to a wedding that Fiona encourages, gives everyone involved an entirely new lease on life. Shalin’s positivity is infectious and heartfelt. It inspires a manifesto that he releases to the world, becoming a universal viral sensation that encourages everyone to stop and enjoy the sunset.

A well-acted and scripted film providing insight into our culture from many different angles, Paper Flowers is a meaningful film that carries you to the end in peace and happiness for its grave subject matter. Talwalkar and Liang are believable and enjoyable, and Talwalkar holds his own. Inspiration and appreciation, which continue today with #sunsetsforshalin, are sprinkled throughout the film, from his favorite sunset spot to the ongoing search for the meaning of life, which Shalin thanks cancer for allowing this journey to occur and to leave for the rest of us to continue. Although lengthy, it’s worth watching to the end to see the real people the film portrays.

Paper Flowers premieres at the 2024 Dances With Films.

Paper Flowers (2024)

Directed: Mahesh Pailoor

Written: Mahesh Pailoor, Mary Krell-Oishi

Starring: Kapil Talwalkar, Olivia Liang, Karan Soni, Faran Tahir, Meera Simhan, West Liang, Jenny Gago, Tom Everett Scott, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

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"…a meaningful film that carries you to the end in peace and happiness for its grave subject matter. "

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