Mysterious Skin

Directed by Gregg Araki, Written by Gregg Araki and Scott Heim
Shown at FACT in June 2005

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The film, based on a novel by Scott Helm, centres around the parallel story of two boys in Kansas who are sexually abused by the same man - their baseball coach (Bill Sage) - and the radically different ways they grow up into young men following this harrowing experience.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt produces a remarkable performance as Neil, who becomes a gay hustler, constantly plying trade with men. In what is a difficult role to play - there are a number of sexually explicit scenes although you never see any genitalia- Gordon-Levitt is entirely convincing in his part. He is surely destined to become a major name in the film world.

He reminded me of a young Sean Penn or Robert De Niro, possessing a lot of charisma on screen, together with a swagger and self confidence belying his young age.

In complete contrast to Neil, Brian, played as a teenager by Brady Corbet, is asexual, shy and awkward. He is obsessed with the idea that he was abducted when he was a young boy. He has recurring nightmares, blackouts and constant nosebleeds. Is this the result of him beng traumatied after being sexually abused or as a result of his so-called abduction?

The film is thought provoking and challenging to watch. It has a lot of accurately observed detail, great photography and an outstanding soundtrack by ambient music maestro Harold Band, who collaborated on the score with Robin Guthrie.

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