If you remember watching those after-school specials as a kid that were a more educational and somewhat dramatic break from all the super hero cartoons that were on, then you have at least some idea of what to expect from 'Pariah'. What you will not expect is an intimate and dramatic story that will have your attention from beginning to end.
What originally started as a short film for director Dee Rees has been turned in to a full length motion picture featuring standout performances by newcomer Adepero Oduye as well as veteran stars Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell. Oduye plays the lead role of Alike (pronounced Uh-Lee-Kay), a teenager growing up in Brooklyn who is trying to figure out just who she is as a person through her sexuality and her poetry.
Kim Wayans plays Alike's mother Audrey who forbids and denies the fact that her daughter appears to be leading an alternate lifestyle and tries to force what she perceives as normal and natural behavior on her eldest child. Of course this leads to a break in their relationship and the family is thrown in to further turmoil as Audrey and her husband Arthur (Parnell) have problems of their own to deal with.
The main struggle that we see Alike go through is with the relationships she has with family and friends as well as a potential new love interest. Using these experiences and learning from them are what will ultimately define her as a person and as you watch this story unfold, you feel like you are right there with her experiencing the laughter and joy of being a teenager as well as the tears and heartache of growing in to adulthood.
For the most part I felt that Rees' use of close, documentary style filming was a great way to give the audience that feeling of being right there with the characters although the use of shaky camera moves were at times more of a distraction than anything else.
This is a solid first effort by a director that clearly has the potential for great things, but also shows where improvements can be made. 'Pariah' aims to educate, entertain, and draw you in emotionally just like those after school specials from back in the day and can be looked at as a break from all the super hero blockbusters that fill the mega theaters.