Mysterious Skin is a terrifyingly brilliant drama by Gregg Araki. Dealing with the difficult topic of child abuse, it follows two boys: nervous, quiet Brian (Bradey Corbet) who believes he has been abducted by UFOs, and outgoing, cocky Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who works as a rent boy in their small home town before moving to New York.
The central performances from the two boys are incredible, particularly Gordon-Levitt who shows tremendous range through his difficult scenes as Neil. While the character of Brian is weaker, and his side of the plot less interesting, he is a crucial aspect of the film and it certainly wouldn’t work with out him. Neil may be the film’s most memorable character, but it’s a tale of two halves for sure.
While not as consistently and overtly about child abuse as, for example, 2012’s Michael, many scenes are extremely difficult to watch, pushing the limits of what can be put on film.
Mysterious Skin is an impressive achievement. It’s sensitive, mature, daring, bold, dark and brutally shocking, and will linger in your brain long after you’ve turned the lights on.