Based on a book of the same name, Mysterious Skin tells the harrowing story of two young men, struggling to cope with and understand their past. Neil McCormick (the amazingly talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has broken out into hustling, or basically male prostitution, while Brian Lackey (excellently portrayed by Brady Corbet) has become introverted, and convinced that he was abducted by aliens as a child. When in reality, they were both sexually abused by their seemingly loving baseball coach. Brian’s introversion shows how differently we all cope with trauma in our lives and how we revert to the unknown to explain a tragedy that as a child he could not possibly comprehend. Neil, on the other hand, is gay, and uses his good looks and sexual prowess to make money. This is also an example of rationalizing, whereas Brian became sullen, Neil broke out and rebelled and doesn’t seem to give a shit anymore.
Neil’s memory versus Brian’s memory.
This movie is incredibly powerful and not to be missed. It does have some very uncomfortable and controversial moments, which adds to its magnetism. The actors are incredible, and the story will rip your heart out. I feel this is an important film, because it takes the true nature of sexual abuse and childhood trauma, and shows what can happen later in life, and how everyone’s perceptions and reactions to said trauma are different. Neil comes across many unsavory and violent men in his “line of work” and it seems he really hates himself on some level, while Brian gets involved with a girl who also believes she was abducted by aliens. Eventually, Brian is informed of the truth by Neil, where he breaks down in one absolutely astounding scene. Neil and Brian have obviously never told anyone about what happened, except maybe for Neil, who has a best friend in Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg). She is concerned about what he does for money, and hates to see him fall into a black hole of himself.
Through a series of flashbacks, we as viewers are exposed to the awful truth and reality of child sexual abuse, and the grooming process that pedophiles engage in to gain the child’s trust. This is a rather disturbing movie, but reality itself is disturbing, and this kind of thing happens all the time. We may never know how often it really happens, because as the film shows, the human psyche will detach from the trauma in order to preserve itself. Neil becomes a sexualized, rebellious teenager, who virtually has no intention of dredging up the past, whereas Brian engulfs himself in an unrealistic fantasy in order to process what he endured. By the end, they both come to the realization that they must, in fact, deal with the past, and ascertain how it has changed them so drastically. This movie is definitely heartbreaking, but it is so well-acted, that you can feel every emotion, every uncomfortable moment, and every sadness that these main characters feel, as well as the growing distance between the loved ones around them.
As raw as this film is, it is realistic and likely reminiscent of what some people have gone through in their lives. If you ever wanted to get a glimpse into the mind of a person who has been physically and psychologically damaged, this one is the one to watch. The main characters are still child-like in some of their actions and emotions, which gives credence to the childhood that was so violently and horribly stolen from them. I highly recommend this film, but it is very graphic, just to let you know. I feel that it truly adds to the tension and subject matter of the movie, and is completely necessary to get the point across. People have to be slapped in the face these days to get the point, and this film does just that. It’s one of the best I have ever seen.