Time Out says
After ‘Gerry’, ‘Elephant’ and ‘Last Days’, this is the fourth film from Gus Van Sant in which teenage boys or young men are forced to deal with unavoidable death, whether from a merciless sun, murderous fellow pupils or suicide after depression and drug abuse. Here, the end arrives from nowhere as a quiet, likeable skateboarding Portland teen, Alex (Gabe Nevins) accidentally kills a security guard while trespassing on the railway. Manslaughter apart, Alex’s life is normal: separating parents, first sex, hanging with friends, and the attraction of new people and places, such as the menacing downtown skate park from which the film takes its name. Unshakeable, piercing worry is another staple of teenage life, only Alex’s distress is exceptional: the police are sniffing around his school and the newspaper reminds him daily of the sight of a man cut in half by a train…
‘Paranoid Park’ is slighter and slightly less affecting than its predecessors, with which it shares an up-close intimacy with its main players and an invitation to read its characters through photography and sound design as much as through dialogue, which is fitful and sometimes masked by music. The photography – by Chris Doyle and Kathy Li – assumes even greater significance as the world beyond Alex is blurred, and the film’s framing rejects the intrusion of anyone else, not least adults, into his world. A build-up of secrecy and anxiety are well-served by Van Sant’s chopped-up narrative of the slow reveal, and again the director shows a keen eye for the rituals and worries of teenage life. It’s impossible, though, for him to better ‘Last Days’ for entering the head of a troubled soul.
Cast and crew
Winfield Henry Jackson