Title: Mysterious Skin Credit: Chris Banks Movies Sunday 17th July 2005 - 12:00pm1121558400 Article: 823 Rights
MYSTERIOUS SKIN Dir: Gregg Araki USA, 2004 35mm, 99 mins A deeply disturbing glimpse into the lives of two small-town teenage boys who have been affected in different ways by sexual abuse, Mysterious Skin doesn't pull many punches in recounting the haunted memories of gay rent-boy Neil and UFO geek Brian. Neil and Brian were both eight years old when the abuse started, at the hands of their Little League baseball coach. In retrospect, Neil remembers being attracted to his coach before the abuse started, but the trajectory his life has taken since clearly shows he has been deeply damaged. He is an emotionally empty shell as he whores himself out to oily middle-aged men who pick him up at the local park, and then later in seedy bars when he moves to New York City. Brian, by contrast, seems to have no sexual feelings at all. He has papered over the nightmares of abuse by convincing himself that he was abducted by aliens. The fragments of memory he posesses contrast with Neil's vivid recollections, and Brian embarks on a quest to find out the truth. When he does find out the full horror of what happens to him in those missing hours from his mind, you're left wondering whether he would have been better off not knowing. Director Gregg Araki's use of subjective point-of-view finds the viewer put into the shoes of the characters at more distressing moments, like the abuse scenes, and a succession of Neil's creepy tricks, including a lesion-covered old man and a violent jar-headed bully. It's not an experience for the faint of heart. At a guess, the selective memories of childhood abuse coupled with the verbal recountings of these events is probably the closest most of us would get to experiencing it ourselves. For a country that is still repelled by the Graham Capill case and claims of "consensual" sex with kids, Mysterious Skin gives you an indelible sense of the complete betrayal of trust that child victims of abuse experience. The innocent incomprehension as monstrous acts are initiated is unbelievably upsetting. The screening I attended was punctuated by a handful of walkouts and an arrest – one man was led out of the theatre by a police officer. God knows why, but the possible reasons are probably more disturbing than the film itself. It's a sensitive tale of brutality that comes highly acclaimed from just about every film festival under the sun, but just be aware that Mysterious Skin is going to make yours crawl. Chris Banks - 17th July 2005    
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