Paranoid Park (2008)

by George Watches Things


This movie is not a blockbuster. It’s a movie made up, not of big monsters or explosions, but of fragmented memories and guilt. It is neither decidedly sad nor happy. It just studies a boy who makes a tragic mistake.

The boy’s name is Alex, and he accidentally kills a man near a scary skating park called Paranoid Park.

The early scene in which Alex talks to the detective is especially interesting. The camera focuses on him. He knows all the right answers. He never hesitates. He never blinks. The camera does the same thing when he’s interrogated by his mother, and also when he talks to his father. The focus of the movie is him. The focus of certain scenes, however, may not be him. When he breaks up with his girlfriend, later, the moment isn’t about him, as it means way more to her.

I’m not into skating. Or stickers of middle fingers. Or wearing hats indoors. And I hate “scream-o.” When I saw what Alex did (spoiler alert: the man gets cut in half, and they show him crawling around with only half his body), my initial reaction was one devoid of forgiveness. But the beauty of this film is how it got me to sympathize with him. He didn’t know what he was doing. He is scared. There is now a loud load of strange bird noises pushing down on his entire body.

The movie had faults and weaknesses, but its emotions were so strong and real that it doesn’t matter.