Pitched somewhere between River's Edge and Brick, Paranoid Park is a strangely beautiful and poetic slice of nihilistic teen angst. It's described by director Van Sant as an 'emotional mosaic' and if that suggests more, ahem, proctological meanderings in the style of I'm Not There, relax. It's unconventional (well, it's Van Sant, so you knew that) and features a cast of (mostly) unknowns, but instead of pretension, this is a lyrical and moving experience.
The story is very simple. Teenager Alex (newcomer Nevins) is a teenage skateboarder who accidentally kills a security guard. As the police investigate, Alex decides to say nothing. That's pretty much it but the result is a surprisingly complex and deeply satisfying study of the gulf between teenage life and adult responsibility. Alex may come from a broken home but Van Sant doesn't assign blame in such obvious terms, nor does he point fingers at society in general.
The facts are the facts and the audience is left to sift through them and come to their own conclusions. Van Sant's typically flat style lends an air of emotional detachment that's entirely appropriate and decidedly uncomfortable to watch and there's in no happy ending. Indeed, there's no ending at all, just a strange fade out that suggests the whole thing has been a small slice of someone's life, and a life that will carry on, in some way shape or form, long after the cinema has been cleared. Performances are all excellent, and the lack of "baggage" that comes with unknowns benefits Van Sant's intentions considerably, adding to that "snapshot" feel.
EXTRAS * A making-of featurette, a Secret Cinema event, and the trailer.