Parents' Guide to

Paranoid Park

By Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Poetic, disturbing story of lonely teen skater.

Movie R 2008 85 minutes
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Gus Van Sant's film is as lovely and evocative as any he's made. Following Alex from shimmery school hallways to the skate park pulsing with energy, Christopher Doyle's handheld camera never pushes hard, but looks gently into Alex's eyes or tags along with him on the sidewalk, as if wondering how he came to be so sad and baffled. Though Alex can't tell anyone about the accident, he's haunted by it in the form of ghastly crime scene photos and grisly flashbacks. His onetime escape -- watching the Park skaters who appear to him as lyrical athletes -- is lost. Now he seeks not community or solace, but a way to release the weight bearing down on him.

Based on Blake Nelson's young adult novel, the movie realizes Alex's desperate, poetic point of view in layers. His halting voiceover, as if he's reading his journal entries, works well with the film's uneven editing and skips back and forth in time. And his view, so limited and naive, shapes the appearances of both adults and his friends. When he speaks with his father, who's moving his things out, the camera keeps so tight on Alex's face that his dad remains nearly unrecognizable in the background. With nowhere to turn, Alex tries confessing without confessing, sharing a vague story of guilt with a friend. When she suggests that "getting it out" is enough, whether or not anyone else hears it, he silently takes her advice, even as the film leaves the impact of that choice open.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: March 7, 2008
  • On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2008
  • Cast: Daniel Liu , Gabe Nevins , Taylor Momsen
  • Director: Gus Van Sant
  • Inclusion Information: Gay directors
  • Studio: IFC Entertainment
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 85 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: some disturbing images, language and sexual content.
  • Last updated: November 14, 2022

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