Mysterious Skin Review

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Shy, troubled, 18 year-old Brian Lackey (Corbet) is plagued by nightmares and believes he may have been the victim of an alien abduction as a boy. His need for closure brings him in contact with promiscuous gay teenage hustler Neil McCormick (Gordon-Levitt).


Gregg Araki rose to prominence during the early '90s New Queer Cinema with the nihilistic road movie The Living End, which followed Todd Haynes' Poison and Tom Kalin's Swoon in reinventing the perception and participation of gay men in film. Haynes matured and Kalin faded, while Araki made a clutch of angry but cliched movies - Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation, Nowhere - whose tired themes had threatened to make him the oldest and saddest angry young man on the block.

At 45, Araki has returned with a lyrical and moving adaptation of Scott Heim's hard-edged novel. Though it deals with gay issues and characters, this isn't strictly a gay film, and will only be termed so by dint of its graphic scenes of male nudity and eye-poppingly uncomfortable twist. Broad-minded audiences will find plenty to admire in the cast. Corbet emerges as an actor of sensitivity and depth, but it's Gordon-Levitt who steals every scene as the damaged, destructive but ultimately sympathetic rent boy.

A change for the better for Araki, but still too early to plan any retrospectives.

A tough but rewardingly original child abuse drama, centred on Levitt's brave and compelling performance.