Mysterious Skin 2004 Movie Scene Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil, a male prostitute in front of his customer Richard Riehle as Charlie

Mysterious Skin [2004]

It’s hard to describe just how good of a movie this is. Mysterious Skin is a raw, refreshing, and most of all brave drama following two teenagers who had a difficult childhood. Understand that the word difficult is an understatement here as I don’t want to reveal too much. Through the lives of these two teenagers we not only examine our current society but humankind in general. And you know me, I’ve never been a fan of this weird experiment gone wrong we call humanity.

I don’t want to go all nihilistic on you because, despite its difficult subjects, Mysterious Skin remains mysteriously refreshing. And, at times, even optimistic. Coming-of-age movies usually come in a form of a light comedies. Just think about movies like Dazed and Confused or The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Next up are relatively fucked up movies like The Chumscrubber or The Rules of Attraction. Finally, we have truly fucked up and more importantly realistic movies like KidsKen Park, and others. 

Mysterious Skin is one of those movies. It deals with some pretty heavy and taboo subjects like pedophilia and prostitution. But, at the same time, it manages to maintain an engaging and coherent main story. Directed by Gregg Araki, who already dabbled with movies starring troubled teenagers in movies The Doom Generation and Nowhere, this is as objective as a movie can get, deconstructing such difficult issues. He’s not afraid to hang on scenes, leaving them to roll for uncomfortable lengths of time.

One wonders how to shoot a scene with a 15-year old male prostitute. The atmosphere was at times almost unbearable as you have this natural urge to stop what’s going on the screen or help or talk to someone, but you can’t. This feeling of helplessness is a glimpse into the mental state of our protagonists. And that fucking final scene just got me man, I couldn’t take it anymore and I just started crying. A visual representation of trauma and how to deal with it in this fucked up tribal world.

Neil McCormick has had one hell of a childhood. Now 18 years old, he’s living in New York where he works as a male prostitute. He’s been doing that since he was fifteen years old and this lifestyle has taken a heavy toll on his life. His mother didn’t care much about this, so this is just a continuation of problems that started much, much earlier. One of his childhood friends, Brian Lackey fared no better. He’s convinced that he was abducted by aliens and has recurring dreams about the incident, with bed-wetting.

By reading all this, you might think: Fuck this shit, my life is already fucked up enough, I just want to watch some movies. I promise you, it’s worth it. People don’t want to know or hear about this shit is the reason why you haven’t heard of this movie before. It’s also a reason why stuff like this happens. I know it sounds kind of corny and pointless to raise awareness about things like this but at least it’s something. Most people think that if they don’t know or see something, it doesn’t exist. Fucking assholes.

Led by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet, and Elisabeth Shue, the cast did a terrific job. Joseph wants to leave the image of a cute teenager from 3rd Rock from the Sun and this is the movie that showed that he’s capable of so much more. So, we have an excellent script based on Scott Heim’s 1995 novel of the same name, phenomenal acting, and directing, so the choice is pretty clear, check out this masterpiece. It might be difficult and depressing, but that’s life for ya. If you decide to bury your head in sand, you will accomplish nothing but your own stupidity.

Director: Gregg Araki

Writers: Gregg Araki, Scott Heim

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elisabeth Shue, Michelle Trachtenberg, Bill Sage

Fun Facts: Gregg Araki cut the movie himself on his Macintosh computer, using Final Cut Pro 4.


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