Pariah

Pariah ★★★★½

Alike (Adepero Oduye) is a teenage lesbian, trapped between her strict churchgoing home life and the freedom to be who she is. Sound simple? It is, refreshingly so, but it also finds complexities in small moments that feel incredibly real. The film is about navigating social and familial bonds in such a way that you can reveal enough of yourself so as not to be dishonest but also keep enough secret so that you can protect yourself. This is a feeling familiar to anyone who's been a teenager, but with an added sense of danger due to Alike's sexuality. There are numerous scenes where you're stuck between wishing that a character would just come out and say something, and hoping that they never will. That's a tricky tone to pull off, but Pariah nails it. Writer-director Dee Rees' feature debut is honest and intimate, carried not only by Oduye's terrific performance but also those of Pernell Walker as her outgoing butch friend and Charles Parnell as her conflicted yet loving father. Vibrant photography from Bradford Young brings this alternately colorful and quiet portrait of Brooklyn to life.

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