In Paranoid Park, Gus Van Sant’s characters wander aimless and blank-faced—haunting Portland’s Northwest locales in a state of dazed apathy. Just like the moment when you burst from underwater and out into the air, Paranoid Park operates on the concept of ear popping newness, and how characters are forced into reaction when things happen beyond their control. More simply though, it’s about how sometimes when you’re figuring shit out as a teenager you do something really bad and get away with it.
There isn’t much plot to it, but there’s an understanding of the always-unspoken weight that comes with figuring out who you are. The film also holds all the usual Gus Van Sant tropes: teenage nihilism, beautiful scenery and long shots of amateur prettyboys walking dreamily, all interrupted by a chance confrontation with a train station security guard. Although it’s the crux of the entire film, it also seems incidental, because what this movie is really about is growing up and what you do or don’t do when your only mechanism for dealing with life is not dealing with it.