Mysterious Skin - Gregg Araki (2005)

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

One youth becomes obsessed with UFOs, while another becomes a gay hustler in the years following childhood trauma.


Mysterious-Skin is not what it’s bold red cover markets itself as, well, maybe it’s exactly what it markets itself as. The film does not hide for the audience’s pleasure and certainly does not bring them any comfort as the end credits roll. From reading the movies’ blurb “A teenage hustler and a young man obsessed with alien abductions cross paths, together discovering a horrible, liberating truth.”, my expectations from this film were quite construed. My initial idea on what the plot found itself to be a love story intertwined with crime however if I knew Gregg Araki’s, the director, general reputation for making films about characters living in the twilight zone of society, I would have exactly known what to expect. Maybe it’s because I hope to see a certain type of levity or positivity intertwined with LGBTQ+ films as I thought it to be important to know that LGBTQ+ characters can live a romance with no dead ends or a story with no damaging repercussions. This film on the very far contrary does the complete opposite and exploits the ugly and the unspoken. Which is exactly what makes the film so compelling but also makes it its biggest downfall. Joseph-Gordon Levitt gives one of his best performances, my favourite of his being the classic 500 days of summer, in a film that cannot help but to place him in the most disgusting situations. He plays a teen hustler which is mentioned in the synopsis but what I certainly was not expecting were the numerous sex scenes with middle aged men; his customers. Not only did I find these uncomfortable, I found them unwatchable. However, I understand that to represent a community in a film medium we must tackle all sides of that community, even the darkest. This is what this film achieves and extremely successfully in that matter, but I cannot help to say that my sympathy towards these characters were eradicated due to the sheer disturbance of the film. The second and supporting lead character Brian, played by Brady Corbert has an obsession with aliens which all links down to the ‘truth’ that both characters discover. A very good performance like most in the movie but yet again, the sheer trauma that these characters have to endure removed all emotion with disgust. This film is about trauma at its very core and recalls the same message as The Machinist (2004) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – that it cannot be erased. The director, to truly magnify this message has to weave a story about teenage prostitution, sexual abuse and child abuse all tied up in a bow with some truly questionable views on how a straight audience would perceive the LGBTQ+ community after. I can commend its attempts to shed a light on a subject that most people try to avoid but I wish it really took a different approach with how it shed a light to it.

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