Critic Consensus: Pulsing with authenticity and led by a stirring lead performance from Adepero Oduye, Pariah is a powerful coming out/coming-of-age film that signals the arrival of a fresh new talent in writer/director Dee Rees.
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Critic Reviews for Pariah
The gay coming-of-age story's been done, but "Pariah" has something fresh to say, largely about the knotty complexities of love, and how they might keep someone in the closet: How badly do you need to be free, to hurt the people you love?
Rees brings a heartfelt connection to the material, based on her own coming-out story, but the film's ingredients aren't the freshest.
You don't have to be black or lesbian or even know someone who's gay to appreciate "Pariah"; you just have to have gone through or be going through the process of growing up.
"Pariah" is a small film about a big subject: the struggle to be who you are, not who others would like you to be.
If the destination is trite, the journey isn't - it comes with an ample supply of raw honesty.
Audience Reviews for Pariah
This was really good, it will hurt your heart. But "Breaking is freeing." If I could change one thing about this movie, it would be to omit the dad's phone calls -- it's the difference between subtlety and "soap opera". And holy crap Aasha Davis was 37 years old when they filmed this?!
A complex portrait of a struggling lesbian teenager from a conservative household, "Pariah" tries to be enlightening, even tragic in its depiction, and though it's obvious it's trying this approach, it's piteous enough to yield emotional depth. The lead character is as personable as any high school kid trying to understand their own body, while also feeling constrained by their parental units. The lead character is not just a lesbian, with all the trappings of stereotypical behavior usually shown, even in indie faire. Lead character Alike (Oduye) is very intelligent, accomplished, and understands the perplexing complications of her sexuality versus expectations from her family and peers. As a character study it's pretty riveting, though the plot isn't all that new. While there's a central conflict between Alike and her family, it's more a struggle between her fighting parents and less to do with turmoil over her sexual preference. Much of what affects Alike's life, and the consequences of her actions, are only partially alluded to, but never explained in-depth. While this explores many facets about the world unseen in modern depictions of gay culture, it could have gone many steps further.
The struggle and pain are palpable. An extraordinary performance by Oduye giving voice to a segment of the LGBT community I have never gotten to know. My life was enriched for having seen this film.