Mysterious Skin Reviews
Neil knows exactly what happened and tries to numb his pain and confusion with a reckless lifestyle. Brian's quest for answers leads him to a UFO obsession and then, finally, to Neil, who used to be in his Little League baseball team.
If I could only use one word to describe this film it would be powerful. Mysterious Skin's flawless screenplay takes on a subject as delicate as child abuse with empathy, respect, distance, honesty and fearlessness. It's emotionally draining and visceral, graphic too, but in a way that never ever feels morbid. In everything it shows it is simply being true to the facts and giving enough information for the audience to understand the graveness of what goes on. There are many awkward sexual situations but they are filmed from the character's (Neil's) POV and they are essential to the story because, after all, sex is the root of all his scars. Never does the film fall into sensationalism; in fact the content feels remarkably pure and innocent.
Neil and Brian are two of my favorite characters in film. Not only are they excellently written, both performances are truly outstanding: Joseph Gordon Levitt in particular takes on a difficult role, a character who doesn't know who he is. I was exhausted from just watching him. He portrayed a combination (or clash) of vulnerability and self-defense, adulthood and childhood, lust and longing, in an incredibly convincing way. He's done bigger films since this one but this is still one of my favorite performances. These characters are not just victims, they're completely three-dimensional humans that raise more than just compassion.
I admire Gregg Araki for telling a dark story in such a beautiful way. The cinematography and the soundtrack (mostly shoegaze -lovely) create an otherworldly mood, as if Brian and Neil had really been "abducted by aliens" and had returned with their feet still in another dimension. I found these allegories related to trauma and disconnection extremely effective. Over all, Mysterious Skin exudes wisdom. It was made with heart, consideration, and intelligence. I would say it's difficult to watch and will probably make you sick or make you cry... but I also think it's an unmissable contribution to anyone's emotional education.
I have to say, the book is way more detailed, so anyone who likes this movie really needs to check it out. That said, however, is still a damn fine movie!
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really one of the better male actors out there and he pulls off the role as troubled Neil perfectly. The whole cast are outstanding, actually - Elisabeth Shue as his mum, Mary Lynn Rajskub as Avalyn (who is quite different to the book Avalyn) and even Michelle Trachtenberg is fantastic as Wendy.
It is not a pleasant topic, (child abuse), and it does not gloss over anything, while still being a beautiful movie to watch and very real.
The only thing I did not like about Mysterious Skin was that I really did not feel emotionally attatched to the happenings. Everybody says it is hard to watch, but I really didn't care. I just didn't really believe in the story. Everything stayed within the proximity of my computor screen. That doesn't change the fact that this is a wonderful film. I would have to say that it is a "Must See Film" despite the fact that it is not entertainling, or visual, or clever, or anything else that you can reach out and grab and love.
Absolutely worth watching - but be warned again, this is extremely difficult viewing. Mysterious Skin deals heavily with pedophilia (never graphically, but the film is definitely not shy about telling you what happens) and rape, and if you take umbrage to seeing these subjects dealt with, this may be a bumpy ride. I also think, however, that there is no better film to see about the subject than this one. Free of sanctimony, beautifully composed, sensibly acted. A real gem.
The rest of the film was fantastic and a well played lead role from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
A powerful film of child abuse, friendship and male prostitution, with some very strong images.