Paranoid Park Movie Poster Image

Paranoid Park



Poetic, disturbing story of lonely teen skater.
  • Review Date: March 11, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 85 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Following an accidental death, the teen boy responsible struggles with guilt and not being caught; skater kids are mildly disrespectful to a teacher and a detective; high school kids have (protected) sex; parents are distracted.


The story centers on an accidental murder that's shown near the end in graphic images (a boy slams a security guard running after a train with his skateboard, the man falls under an oncoming train on parallel tracks and is cut in half, and his top half crawls toward the boy). At another point, the boy sees a photo of the man's legs and leaves the room to throw up. The boy hides his bloody shirt.


Teen boys discuss sex: A girlfriend is a virgin and pressures a boy to "do it," a boy offers a "hottie" as collateral when he borrows someone's skateboard, and the teens talk about buying "more condoms" after their first sexual activity. The single actual sex scene is very blurry and close up; a girl's naked torso is visible (but blurry). You also see her back as she puts on her bra, and her thong is visible from the back as she stands.


A couple of uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and derogatory uses of "fag" and "fat lard."


Mentions of Rite Aid and Frappuccinos. Band T-shirts.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Boys discuss beer and carry bottles as they walk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, despite its focus on skateboarding, this film isn't for kids. It includes a grisly death in which a man falls on train tracks and is cut in half (the imagery is vivid and upsetting). Themes are mature as well, including divorcing parents, teen sex, guilt, remorse, and a troubled sort of "getting away with murder." The one actual sex scene is very blurry and hurried (it's the teen characters' awkward first time). To fit in, a boy drinks beer. Some strong language, including "f--k."

What's the story?

On the day that Alex (Gabe Nevins) first goes to Paranoid Park, a Portland skaters' hangout, he worries that he's not ready. According to his best friend, Jared (Jake Miller), nobody ever is -- a caution that Alex writes down in his notebook but can't heed. A bright, restless, and vaguely disillusioned high school junior, Alex seeks community with the skaters, who are skilled, self-assured, and shot in a fluid style that illustrates his infatuation. (He's not nearly as interested in his girlfriend, played by Gossip Girl's Taylor Momsen, who's pressuring him to help her lose her virginity.) When an older kid invites him for a beer, Alex goes along -- mostly, he says, to ride the freight train. But everything changes when he's accidentally responsible for a guard's death. Left alone and unnoticed when the other boy runs off, Alex has to decide what to do when a police detective (Daniel Liu) starts asking questions.

Is it any good?


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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays teen life (and, specifically, skaters). Do you think it's accurate? Teens: Do you ever feel like Alex? How does the movie convey what he's feeling and thinking? Families can also discuss how to handle a scary and/or overwhelming situation, in which you feel responsible but fear consequences. Who can you go to for help?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 7, 2008
DVD release date:October 6, 2008
Cast:Daniel Liu, Gabe Nevins, Taylor Momsen
Director:Gus Van Sant
Studio:IFC Entertainment
Run time:85 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some disturbing images, language and sexual content.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old September 21, 2010

Fine for most kids over 12 if they ain't bored by it.

Great film! Highly recommended. The film does openly depict sexual discusions and a brief intercourse, as well as a bit of a grissly scene. The film has good messages and for kids over 12 the film should be fine and even give them some good moral lessons. Film that has the same level of content: My Own Private Idaho Films that has same level of content:
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Great messages
Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares January 28, 2009
If you like this, you'll LOVE Elephant, a film by the same director.


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