Mysterious Skin is one of those films that finishes and although you may have guessed it, it still slaps you in the face.
I haven’t seen a film as real and as raw as this in a long time, which is strange to say considering it features aliens, but if you watch it, you will understand what I mean. I do not want to give it away, so you are just going to have to watch it. It can be quite unsettling at times, leaving a very sour taste in your mouth and there definitely is no uplifting ending. Gregg Araki, the director, has not conformed to the usual Hollywood narrative, but with a story such as this, why would you?
The film spans over ten years and begins with two stories simultaneously, which begin to entwine years later. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 days of Summer, Brick) plays a young hustler in a small American town. I have always thought he picks great roles and can play some deep and mysterious characters as well as some oh so loveable ones, but in this, playing a teenage boy with no soul, a truly tainted character, he does it with such conviction that I know he is either one hell of an actor, or he has a very dark past and knows all about method acting. Later on we visit my lover New York City in the 90s and Araki has portrayed NYC to be a gritty and as filthy as the story.
There are some very odd scenes, and I’m not even thinking of the ones involving aliens, but it’s content still feels natural in the films progression. The ‘oddness’ is a true visualization of the characters emotions. The utter bewilderment felt by being a teenager with problems. I’m guessing as soon as I mention the phrase teenager with problems you assume this film is just another film about teen angst, hating your parents and society, but I assure you this is no Breakfast Club, (although, I do love that movie!) This takes the feelings of isolation to another level. One most of us have not been able to feel – and trust me, that’s a good thing.
Since it’s release in 2004, it’s actors and the cities it is set in have grown up, changed, but this story will always be fucked and relevant, whatever the year.