Julie’s review published on Letterboxd:
It’s interesting, the journey that a film can take in your mind, and it’s sad to know that some won’t ever take the time to let some films make that journey. Pariah was such a film for me. I didn’t immediately love it, but after a few days I found it to be a pretty damn near perfect indie film.
I think perhaps the reason why I didn’t immediately love it is because it seems very “standard indie” at first - in many respects, it is exactly what I think of when I hear the term “indie film” and so I entered the film with my own expectations of what that would look like and feel like, and they mostly played out as expected. I felt like I wasn’t really surprised by any elements of the film, so that colored my initial thoughts.
Note that this is also why I try as much as possible to know as little as possible going into a movie, but in this case it was my own expectations about genre (or at least the overarching category of “indie”) instead of the movie itself that caused the problem.
The issue I thought I had was that the things that used to mean something, or that used to be out of necessity because of budget and technical constraints, have sometimes become shorthand without meaning.
I think I struggled with Pariah because the film at first looks like it relies on that shorthand. But it doesn’t, it all exists for a reason. Yes, this film has many elements that seem to be classic “indie” hallmarks, but there are intense subtleties and complexities that elevate each of those elements to perfection that makes it an outstanding film that I loved.
The acting was really outstanding, especially knockout performances by Adepero Oduye as Alike, and Pernell Walker as her friend Laura.