Movie Review: “Pariah”
Reviewed by Maria Whelan, 19
Pariah is not a fairytale. The story line is not wrapped neatly in a bow; the plot does not resemble an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. It is real. It is disturbing, depressing, heart wrenching—but most of all, it is hopeful. Dee Rees, the writer and director of the film, depicts the reality of a young lesbian sifting her way through the challenges of adolescence, of growing up and of coming out. Alike, played by Adepero Oduye, is a 17-year-old girl who changes clothes when she arrives at school, who visits women's clubs on Friday nights, and whose identity is lost beneath a sea of confusion and helplessness. Surrounded by family and friends who are neither accepting nor hateful, Alike is trapped in a life that masks her true self.
The story follows Alike's mother, father, and friend Laura as they each battle their own challenges. Pariah shows that sadness may result in anger, frustration, and fear. While Alike's mother seemingly destroys her daughter's life, we see lots of anguish beneath the surface, and Alike is not the main cause. As you watch each character wade through their life, you begin to realize that those who are the surest of their opinions make the greatest mistakes. Fear among the characters is palpable in this film. Once Alike learns to free herself from the bonds of fear, she is able to move unbroken and unhurt.
There was nothing I disliked about Pariah, but it was not a movie I would sit down and watch for hours on end, or a movie that I can't wait to see again. It gave me insight into a dangerous and sad world—the world of growing up as someone other than yourself. Alike is a true heroine. She learns that the greatest life she can live is one where she is honest and accepting of herself. With her infectious smile, I enjoyed watching Adepero Oduye learn this lesson; I found the relationship between Alike and her father touching, while the toxic relationship between her parents was ultimately harrowing. This film is a wonderful movie for mothers and daughters to see together—not because it shows a perfect ending, but because it doesn't. Pariah brings to light the honesty of life itself—that no one is perfect, and until we each understand that, our unhappiness is inevitable.
For more information on Pariah, see: www.focusfeatures.com/pariah.
For more information on coming out as a LGBTQ youth, see pp. 34-37 in our print magazine, Teen Voices, Spring/Summer 2011 issue, vol. 20.2.
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