I remember driving to the cinema on my skateboard. I was then in the middle of a stage called ‘growing up’ and I was incredibly joyful that I will be able to watch a movie that is, to some extent, connected with my passion. And even though skateboarding isn’t obviously the main topic of the film I recall that I really enjoyed the aura that surrounded the picture, despite the fact that I maybe wasn’t fully able to feel what Alex, the protagonist, felt throughout his uneasy adventure.
Some years have passed. The passion is now gone, but the fascination with this film is still somewhere in my head. Mostly because it’s the same Gus van Sant, who brought us the amazing My Own Private Idaho.
Paranoid Park is a true coming of age story, which intersects with an investigation of a horrible crime that occurred somewhere on the way. We embark on a journey along with Alex, as he tries to cope with problems at home (divorce of his parents) and also with his sexuality (strong sexual tension coming from his girlfriend, Jennifer). At the same time he is being eaten alive by the guilt of what had happened on that one terrible night near the railroad tracks. The reminiscence of the accident and brutal, yet highly accidental, murder won’t let him sleep. He wanders around town at night. In order to let go of the past, he starts to write about this terrible experience.
Gabe Nevins gave a very decent performance in his first career role. The viewer is able to feel the pain and great fear coming out right of his eyes. This troubled teenager has already a very large bargain on his shoulders, considering his young age. The way, in which he attempts to deal with all the problems, may not be the smartest (like lying about the whole situation to the police investigator), but at least he is trying to fight with the world crashing over his head.
The use of various camera effects gives the movie a fantastic vintage feel. Various slow motions sequences and recurring nostalgic and dream-like scenes create a very emotional atmosphere overall.
The movie has some slightly uneventful parts, but because of the soundtrack, which beautifully interacts with the main storyline – at one moment building the tranquil harmony, just to destroy it a few minutes later – all of them seem actually vital and proudly self-serving.
In the end, I should mention the scenes, which caused the most joy at the time I watched it for the first time – the one with teens skating around town, doing their thing like nothing else matters in the whole wide world. That’s what I wanted to do then. And even though I know that the movie bears a very serious message for all of us, I also feel that it has this special thing that once caught this boy’s attention and made him foolishly assume that being a passionate skater meant being free from all problems in the universe.