Mysterious Skin (2004)

I learned of this film from a Top Movies of the Year list posted by the NY Times. I'm so glad I did.

Mysterious Skin ranks with Requiem for a Dream, Passion of the Christ, The Woodsman and L.I.E. as the most difficult films I have ever watched. The subject is child sexual abuse and it is portrayed with such care and attention that it almost feels like a counseling session. A painful movie from the get go, but the film makers are tend to the viewer very well, but it is impossible to watch the credits roll without having seriously been affected.

We follow two boys grow up as episodes of their young lives are shown opposite one another. Both children have reacted to abuse in different ways and their portrayal is deeply honest.

The film is based on a novel, and where novels about sex with children can go, it is difficult for films to follow. This film does it magnificently. So much more is suggested than shown, but you still feel very present in each character's pain.

The acting is superb. Some amazing newcomers, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) and Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas) give spectacularly passionate performances.

A technical thing I'd like to comment on. This movie avoided some major copyright issues (music and brands mainly) by making up much of their own fake brands and using independent music that would cost much less. Often when indy films do this, it appears cheesy, but they succeed amazingly well in this film, keeping the focus on the very important story and the people telling it.

Contrary to many reviewers of this film, I would say that this film is for everyone, save perhaps those who have been abused sexually as children. North American's need to wake up to this reality and this film is still ringing in my ears.


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