Mysterious Skin (2004)

mysterious_skin_2004_1024x7The most frightening tales of the world, regardless of genre, be it horror, or drama, is always childhood trauma and abuse. Childhood trauma stories are always the most universally disturbing such as “A Tale of Two Sisters,” “Radio Flyer,” or “Mystic River,” because they always reach down and connect with us, no matter what occurs to the characters. Stories told through the child’s point of view always manage to bring the audience closer and makes us feel much more capable of relating even if the situation before us isn’t one that’s ever happened to us.

“Mysterious Skin” is the prime example of a story that can relate to its audience and is a constantly disturbing portrayal of three individuals whom experience childhood traumas throughout their lives, and basically find ways to cope with them. Acceptance, denial, repressed memories, and basically naivety, and that’s basically why it’s a hard film to sit through. They’re set in their own ways of prostitution, except for Brian who thinks he’s been abducted by aliens. The character Brian thinks he’s trying to unfold a mystery about an alien abduction, but the closer he gets, he doesn’t realize that he’s actually unfolding the repressed memory of something much more damaging.

But is he better off with his own delusions that are ruining his life, or should he really be told what happened to him all those times as a child? The clues for the potential climax of the story are subtly laid out for the viewer throughout the film. There’s a clue here and there that’s peppered without our real knowledge, but when the climax comes, it all just basically crashes together. The best way I could describe “Mysterious Skin” is as a mystery. A mystery of something horrible that occurred that has to be solved eventually, and our main characters inevitably have to come to grips with the cruel incident and Ryan, most of all, has to solve the mystery that relates to a grueling childhood trauma.

I can’t really write this review without giving away too much of the story or the climax, but it’s a heartbreaking coming of age story that really has to be seen. But in the end I was depressed, saddened, and just stunned at how hopeless the situation presented here is. Araki’s adaptation is an interesting examination of childhood trauma and molestation that starts off utterly menacing and then continues becoming ever more disturbing while we witness the damaging, potentially lethal sexual escapades of our main character Neil, and the idyllic Ryan’s pursuit to uncover the truth of his abduction.

Both Joseph Gordon Levitt and Brady Corbett give excellent performances as different entities linked together forever. Levitt’s Neil is the key to Ryan’s search for his childhood abduction, and Ryan is left in his own ignorance and is not sure if he really wants to discover the whole story. Araki’s film is a wrenching examination of childhood trauma and abuse. In spite of Trachtenberg’s underwhelming performance, “Mysterious Skin” is a very sad exploration of trauma that eventually effect our lives in ways that we’re never aware of. The delusions trauma and incidents can give us are much more damaging than the truth, and with excellent performances by Corbett and Levitt, the message comes across loud and clear.