Mysterious Skin

Critics Consensus

Bold performances and sensitive, spot-on direction make watching this difficult tale of trauma and abuse a thought-provoking, resonant experience.



Total Count: 108


Audience Score

User Ratings: 37,936
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Movie Info

"The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life. Five hours, lost, gone without a trace..." These are the words of Brian Lackey, a troubled 18-year-old, growing up in the stiflingly small town of Hutchinson, KS. Plagued by nightmares, Brian believes that he may have been the victim of an alien abduction. Local Neil McCormick however, is the ultimate beautiful outsider. With a loving but promiscuous mother, Neil is wise beyond his years and curious about his developing sexuality, having found what he perceives to be love from his Little League baseball coach at a very early age. Now, 10 years later, Neil is a teenage hustler, nonchalant about the dangerous path his life is taking. Neil's pursuit of love leads him to New York City, while Brian's voyage of self discovery leads him to Neil -- who helps him to unlock the dark secrets of their past.


Elisabeth Shue
as Mrs. McCormick
Lisa Long
as Mrs. Lackey
Chris Mulkey
as Mr. Lackey
Chase Ellison
as Neil (age 8)
George Webster
as Brian (age 8)
Bill Sage
as Coach
Rachael Kraft
as Deborah (age 12)
Riley McGuire
as Wendy (age 11)
Ryan Stenzel
as Stephen Zepherelli
Larry Marko
as Old Man with Scar
Mary Lynn Rajskub
as Avalyn Friesen
Bruno Alexander
as Redneck Hick
Zane Huett
as Jackson's Son
Reedy Gibbs
as Receptionist
David Alan Graf
as Gay Lumberjack
John Ganun
as NYC John
Kelly Kruger
as Deborah
Pete Kasper
as Sedan Driver
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News & Interviews for Mysterious Skin

Critic Reviews for Mysterious Skin

All Critics (108) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (92) | Rotten (16)

  • The movie sugarcoats nothing, but it doesn't revel in its own darkness either. It sheds a clear, compassionate, illuminating light.

    Feb 28, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • Gone is the gloomy nihilism of The Doom Generation and The Living End, replaced by a melancholy, but hopeful, affection toward people with the capacity to overcome tremendous psychological trauma.

    Jul 29, 2005 | Rating: 3/4
  • Araki's best film in a long time.

    Jul 22, 2005 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The audience has gotten the point roughly 90 minutes before the characters do.

    Jul 21, 2005 | Rating: 2/5
  • Manages to deal with its raw, awful subject matter in ways that are both challenging and illuminating.

    Jul 21, 2005 | Rating: 3/4
  • This is a challenging and ultimately moving film that deserves to find a like-minded audience.

    Jul 1, 2005 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Mysterious Skin

  • Apr 06, 2015
    Sensitive and unflinching, a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on early peak-form as a victim of the advances of a paedophile and later on becomes a prostitute. Brady Corbet plays a UFO enthusiast and paranoid youngster, also a former victim to the same sex offender. This indie adaptation of Scott Heim's hard-hitting novel is quite brilliant in its approach to tender issues, however the film does fall short at times as the tone is often inconsistent and the film appears plotless at times.
    Harry W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 28, 2014
    A college freshman who believes he was abducted by aliens searches for his old Little League teammate, now a male prostitute, thinking he holds the clue to the mysterious events of his childhood. Something like MIDNIGHT COWBOY with a bit of "The X Files" thrown in, this painful and graphic drama explores how similar traumas can produce opposite effects.
    Greg S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 11, 2013
    The equivalent of an exposed nerve ending, "Mysterious Skin" is a sensitive and emotionally charged beyond comprehension. Told from the perspective of two very different young men, the story centers around Neil, played masterfully by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as he partakes in multiple sexual encounters with strange men for money. Having been molested by his Little League coach growing up, we are privy to how this effects his mentality and how it's shaped him into promiscuity. Dealing with a separate sort of encounter, the other half of the film is from the perspective of a young nerdy boy named Brian (Brady Corbet), who believes he was abducted by aliens when he was a child, having several hours of his life unaccounted for. Completely differing in nature, these stories are both wholly engrossing and eventually intertwine with raw emotion. Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls off the brooding young man, delivering a much darker embodiment than any of his previous endeavors. Helped by a talented supporting cast in Elisabeth Shue, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Jeff Licon. Apart from some extremely homoerotic material causing for the NC-17 rating, this film is undeniably well written and directed, leaving a lasting impression and carrying some heavy subject matter in a decently paced drama that never quite lets go.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 06, 2013
    Mysterious Skin is one of the very few dramas capable of making us feel emotionally invested in fictional characters and boldly showing us a trouble subject matter how it is. It's a difficult film to sit through for child sexual abuse and the long-terms effect are difficult to shallow for these events will and have occurred in our society. It's not a pleasant or entertaining film of any sorts, but it is one that is very powerful both emotionally and how we view our society. Mysterious Skin tells the story of two pre-adolescent boys who are sexually abused by their baseball coach, and how it affects their lives in different ways into their young adulthood. One boy becomes a reckless, sexually adventurous male prostitute, while the other retreats into a fantasy of alien abduction. Mysterious Skin biggest strength in it story is it realism. Sure it tells a fictional story, but the events that unfold throughout the film can happen. It contains several unpleasant scenes; some are as difficult as seeing 8 year old getting sexually abuse and a young adult prostituting himself for money. Events like these are cold and honest making us feel uncomfortable with each passing second as it should. Never does it step out of boundaries where you feel the content is simply sick nor does it paint pedophilia in black or white moral. Masterfully written sending it message on pedophilia without shoveling it down the viewer throat with developed characters we grow an attachment towards. All these elements come together for the entire picture without an dragging a single scene. The ending of this film is one the greatest one could possibly witness; not because it closes the story in a heartbreaking manner, but because it gives us a reflection on what we witness and applying it into our society in a viewpoint that's not presented on solely one side. Mysterious Skin would not be the same film without Gregg Araki flawless direction and the cast magnificent performances. Araki handles the very difficult film content in a way where he doesn't hammer down any morals. He does not dilute the effect of child sexual abuse nor does he ever go to far with the filming of a disturbing scene. He restrains himself enough where the a disturbing is still effective, but not sickening that a director filmed such scene for his own amusement. The lead performances by Brady Corbet and Joseph Gordon Levitt are terrific. It's hard to imagine these roles with other actors. Brady Cobret and Joseph Gordon Levitt play on each other character so different from one another well. Cobret interacts with his costars with grace and immense belivability. It's this film that I contain the most respect of Joseph Gordon Levitt as an actor. He gives his character a genuine quality where you don't see him as an actor. Levitt looses himself in his character making us feel what he feels. It's heartfelt, powerful, and one of the best performances Levitt has ever given. Both Cobret and Levitt have you caring about them making the ending and the entire emotionally thought-provoking. Mysterious Skin is a masterpiece in dramatic film making. It never shy's away from it source material nor glosses pedophilia into a simple black & white moral. It's a film that is honest, with a masterful direction, moving performances, and gives it sensitive subject depth allowing us to reflect on it with heart.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer

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