Mysterious Skin

Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Brady Corbet, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elisabeth Shue

Director: Gregg Araki

Watching MYSTERIOUS SKIN is like watching someone shatter your favourite vase into a million fractions in slow motion. When an object sentimentally endearing and invaluable to you breaks that way, you can be sure to experience a range of emotions – anger, pain, pity, shock, even helplessness since it’s beyond your control.

You can bet that you will be feeling these, with the further extra of possible disgust, when you witness Gregg Araki’s latest endeavour. At the heart of MYSTERIOUS SKIN lies a worthwhile story (based on the novel of the same name by Scott Heim) about two young men intricately linked from their childhood days. What happens to them when they are 8 years old changes their lives forever.

Brian Lackey (Brady Corbet) believes that aliens abducted him. Plagued by weird nightmares, he devotes his life to furthering his UFO theory. Neil McCormick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), on the other hand, is inducted into a sexual relationship by, and with, his little league coach, jumpstarting his career in homosexual prostitution. Add your average dysfunctional families in both cases and you get vulnerable kids turning into highly dysfunctional adults. Most scars fade but some will always hurt; the key to healing lies in the boys crossing paths once again.

Heart wrenching and at times tormenting, this film forces you to observe one of the most tabooed topics of the human experience; one that you don’t even wish upon your worst enemies. And just like its real-life counterpart, it has consequences, even if you close your eyes – the film keeps on rolling, the vase keeps on smashing. This certainly isn’t a picture to see on a frivolous Friday night out.

The graphic portrayal of Neil’s brutal life is brilliantly balanced out by Brian’s rather naïve inner turmoil. A great supporting cast backs a genuine performance by both actors. Their story is told thoroughly with conviction and purpose. The filmmaking is dark and fierce, accurate in projecting the characters’ feelings onscreen. Most importantly, it does not shy away from that which is a hard reality in this world.

MYSTERIOUS SKIN should leave you shaken and stirred. One of the most powerful movies you’ll see this year (if your vital organs, and emotions, can handle it).

5 out of 6 stars

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