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239 out of 302 people found the following review useful:

Very strong movie with difficult content

10/10
Author: RackOutOfFocus from United States
26 April 2005

I had high hopes for this film, since I have been a big fan of the novel on which it is based. The film exceeded my expectations in every way. Although quite faithful to the book (with many lines of dialogue and narration moving straight from Scott Heim's poetic prose), the movie has more drive and focus and pulls you so far into the troubled characters. Credit for the movie's strength goes all around -- director Araki put his mark on the story without taking it over. He got uniformily good performances (and somehow managed to direct scenes that any reader of the book would have thought completely unfilmable). Kansas has never looked better, or more sinister. The music is used well throughout.

And the acting is terrific. The two youngest leads, Chase Ellison and George Webster, were entirely convincing in their scenes (and I hope they feel proud of their work, seeing as how there's no way they'll get to see this movie until sometime next decade). Michelle Trachtenberg and Jeff Licon have fairly thankless roles, playing characters who are somewhat less clear and crucial in the film than their characters were in the book. But they don't sweat that, they just play what the screen play has them do, and they excel. Licon, especially, I think, although Trachtenberg is at a disadvantage, as her part is really pretty small.

And for me, at least, I think Mary-Lynn Rajskub, Brady Corbet, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt give about as good performances as one can give. Rajskub is so good that she gives the other actors in the film a space to react that is almost visible. Corbet is quiet and intense; if his performance sometimes lacks motivation, it is probably deliberate, as his character is struggling with identity and memory. And as for Gordon-Levitt, man, that guy can act. I really have a hard time thinking of any acting performance ever that has affected me as much.

It is a difficult story, although I felt it ends hopefully. Hopefully, you will agree. Content is very strong, although perhaps not NC-17 strong. Not for kids. Adults, if you can get past the 2nd scene, you can get through it, but there is a lot of outlawed sexuality and violence. It is painful to watch at times, but to me at least, that's because the actors and the director managed to immerse me in the characters.

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158 out of 189 people found the following review useful:

A brave, wide-eyed look at a controversial subject

10/10
Author: Bryan Hargrave from Las Vegas
30 August 2005

I have a feeling that most of the reviewers here have not read the text of "Mysterious Skin" by Scott Heim. Doing so would be most helpful in viewing this film.

Out of sheer luck, I happened to find a screening in Las Vegas, almost a year after the initial release, having finished the book only one day before. It was an interesting experience from the start.

One got the feeling of stepping into an adult cinema, instead of a semi-mainstream release. I was surrounded by sprinkling of older guys watching an NC-17 matinée. A first for me, for sure. The movie captures the feel of the book spot on. Director Araki should be commended for staying so close to the text. Hardly anything was left out and what was deleted did not detract from the storyline in the least.

Heim's novel deals with subject matter that most people would prefer to deny exists. But back here in the real world, it does. On screen we see the sensualization of an 8 year old boy, along with his sexual fantasy. Not for the squeamish, but Araki communicates this brilliantly without diluting the message. Most people would shy away from a story that has an 8 year old boy having an orgasm as he watched his mother have intercourse, but Araki does not. And somehow he makes it okay.

Hats off to the boys cast as the young Neil and Brian. Chase Ellison captures the emotions of his character very well. He captures the darkness of Neil McCormick incredibly, and translates perfectly from the written page. We sense the confusion turning into acceptance and then, desire. It made me squirm in my seat. George Webster as young Brian is great.

I can't imagine a lot of actors lining up to play the boylover coach, but Bill Sage does very well. In the story, his role doesn't seem like a pure predator, but clearly he has devices at work. He's in the right place at the right time.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a marvel is this film. There was a genuine quality to his character, an aloofness that comes with knowledge at an early age that is hard to put into words. Brady Corbett successfully brought his youthful character along, and I think his interactions with the other characters is spot on for someone who had had an experience like his.

Critics will say that this film glorifies pedophilia. I disagree. I think it shows the effects of pedophilic relationship on different people, and how they react to it. It is a slice of life, albeit a very dark one, that does occur each and every day. Approach with caution and an open mind.

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188 out of 258 people found the following review useful:

Powerful, Disturbing, Brave--Hat's off to Greg Araki, the cast and Scott Heim

9/10
Author: robkillian from United States
1 February 2005

Just got back from the Sundance Film Festival. I am still processing this powerful movie and the stunning reminder of the cost some of life's choices bring to our lives. I was amazed at the brutal honesty of this story. While I cannot say enough about the acting, Brady Corbet's subtle portrayal of Brian should be honored and remembered for a very long time. Bravo to all involved with this movie.

Before seeing this movie I could only remember that the novel, Mysterious Skin, had been disturbing. Greg Araki has made this novel into something that cuts emotionally but could also have a great impact in how people learn to deal with a painful past and the defenses they have built up to protect potentially devastating secrets.

Anyone who wants a movie to move them, to make them feel and to think should do everything they can to make sure they do not miss Mysterious Skin

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137 out of 160 people found the following review useful:

A disturbing, raw film with a powerhouse story and great acting

9/10
Author: MovieManMenzel from United States
24 July 2005

"Mysterious Skin" is a movie that I heard very little about. Never saw the trailer, never saw a poster nothing. Until one day I was just looking up movies online and I came across this film. I looked up the website, watched the trailer, and said I want to see this. So I didn't get around to it when I lived in California since it came and went very quickly however the film did show up in a little theater about 5 miles from my house so I figured I have to check this film out and so I did.

"Mysterious Skin" is the story of two boys Brian (Brady Corbet) and Neil (Joseph Gordon Levitt). Brian can't remember what happened to him when he was younger but he knows something bad happened. Neil on the other hand remembers every second of what happened and has let that take control of his life. The story continues to show Brian as a nerdy kid trying to find out what happened to him and Neil turns into a hustler. But in the end the horrifying truth comes out and their lives are changed forever.

When this film ended, I just stood there and said wow that was really messed up and I felt depressed. The story is so raw and graphic. I don't think I saw anything this graphic since I first saw "Irreversible" a few years back. The movie feels so real and the events that occur to these two kids seem so common in today's society. I think it really hits home and that's why this film works so well.

The lead performances by Brady Corbet and Joseph Gordon Levitt are terrific. Both are extremely believable and well acted. It's nice how they each played a character so different from one another. After watching Levitt in this film, "Manic" and "Latter Days," I am pretty convinced that the guy is one hell of an actor although he needs to stick to the independent films. And the same thing goes for Brady Corbet who starred in my favorite film two years back called "Thirteen." Also I feel it's necessary to comment on Michelle Trachtenberg here who played Neil's partner in crime Wendy. I really don't like Mrs. Trachtenberg probably because I saw her in the god-awful "Euro Trip" and in "Buffy" however in this movie she was pretty good. I think she played the supporting role well.

Gregg Araki was both the writer and director on the film. I must say the man knows how to make a graphic and disturbing film. The movie at times is hard to watch because of how disturbing some of the scenes are. I haven't seen any of Mr. Araki's other films but I have been reading online and have heard that this is his masterpiece. I can't really say that I liked the film because this isn't a movie you come out of and say oh yea that was wonderful! You kind of come out of the theater saying man that was really f*cked up, kind of like the movie "Thirteen" although this movie is much more graphic. It's a great work of art as far as film goes and tells a deep and disturbing story well. The thing like I mentioned above that makes the film work is that this type of stuff happens in the world today which again is why "Thirteen" worked. It's shocking and disturbing but it's only that way because it feels and seems real.

In the end, I think it's a really good movie with powerful performances and a great story. The movie is not for the weak hearted. I myself felt a bit disturbed by the film. The subject matter isn't very happy and neither is the story. The film is extremely graphic and raw. Some of the more disturbing scenes seem to run on for a long time which means that the film is working on its audience. I can't really pick a target audience for this film but if you like movies that are real and raw then you should check this out. This is a great movie that I think many would not be able to handle but for the few who can I think it really delivers.

MovieManMenzel's final rating for "Mysterious Skin" is a 9/10.

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129 out of 163 people found the following review useful:

A Masterpiece

10/10
Author: PaulLondon from United Kingdom
22 May 2005

Araki has abandoned the nihilistic day-glo world of L.A teens to create his first truly great film. Indeed, by any standards, this film is magnificent. It follows two boys; one of whom was abused as a child and the other who believes that he was abducted by aliens' from childhood to their troubled later lives. The film has a visual beauty that pulls the viewer in even though the subject matter is both difficult and painful. The director pulls no punches in confronting the viewer with the horror of the situation but neither does he exploit it for tabloid style sensationalism. From the superb performances, the excellent and intelligent script, through to the inspired direction and stunning 'shoegazer' soundtrack this is a splendid film. I left the cinema deeply moved by what I had seen and can now only hope that Araki continues to work at this level of quality. Something quite special and a work of art

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143 out of 191 people found the following review useful:

Sounds like a heavy drama, but has a strange lightness; refreshing and intelligent

9/10
Author: Adam Whyte (charteredstreets@hotmail.com) from Scotland
28 April 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Mysterious Skin" is a mysterious movie. Not mysterious in a boring, unoriginal way, where the screenwriter screws you around with information; mysterious in the way that the characters are opening up in front of you, and yet they're still enigmas; their depths hidden in plain view. It is the story of two teenage boys who were both sexually abused by the same man when they were younger. You already probably think the movie is dark and heavy, but it's not; it imposes no message on the viewer, and does not come to any easy conclusions. It has a strange tone throughout – a little like remembering something terrible and being unable to deal with it properly.

The movie has a lot of sex in it, but it does not comment on the sex. Sex is just an important part of the characters' lives - to Neil because he is gay and enjoys sex with older men (he works as a rent boy); to Brian because he is not sexually driven, and is surrounded by something he wants no part of.

When the two boys were younger, they were sexually abused by their gym teacher, played by Bill Sage. Neil remembers this almost with fondness; the beginning of his sexual exploration. Brian can't remember it at all; he blanked the episode out of his memory. The movie follow Brian through his journey to find out what happened during those holes in his memory, and Neil on his sad, slow decline from happiness.

While Brian is seeking him out, Neil earns enough money to travel to New York, where he continues his lifestyle until, in a scene I found difficult to watch, he is drugged, beaten and raped by one of his clients, after which he goes back home to his mother (played by Elisabeth Shue). Eventually, Brian tracks him down to find out what happened to him when he was younger.

This could easily have been the material for a heavy drama that forces a message down the audience's throat, but what makes "Mysterious Skin" so good is its refusal to resort to black and white morals. It is true that the gym teacher is under-developed as a character, but at least he isn't shown as a two-dimensional bad guy; children who are victims of abuse often like the abuser, and it is brave of the movie to suggest that Neil actually enjoyed it at the time, not knowing how it would affect him later in life, or what was being done to him. People may find this aspect of the movie makes them uncomfortable, but it is supposed to. It's rare to find movies so honest about victims of abuse.

The movie has a certain tone that's a little difficult to place; a certain lightness in details such as Brian's theory that he was abducted by aliens during his black-outs. It's not levity; more the feeling of trying to tolerate a damaged life. It has a certain erotic charge; it doesn't deny that Neil enjoys sex, nor does it suggest that he would have been straight and 'normal' were he not abused – the audience is left to decide the extent of the damage done to these boys. Some people don't like movies like that; they want the movie to do all the work for them, and give them a neat little message that they probably already know. I prefer challenging movies that dare to go to new places. Such movies are not always good, but they are always interesting.

It's difficult to get "Mysterious Skin" out of your head after you see it, and part of its strength comes from the two leads: Brady Corbet as Brian, and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil. I knew the latter actor from his goofy role in "3rd Rock From the Sun," and was amazed by his work here.

"Mysterious Skin" ends with the image of Neil and Brian in the old house of their coach, Brian lying with his head on Neil's lap, and it's the performances that make the image haunting. It's not sexual attraction that brings them together, but need and confusion. Poor guys. Brian blanked out the episodes because he couldn't face the truth, and Neil can't face it either, though he thinks he can. He even convinces himself he's happy. The smiling, friendly coach damaged them more than they know, but the movie's strength is in the fact that it doesn't make us pity them.

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106 out of 129 people found the following review useful:

great film

10/10
Author: russell-sherman from Sydney, Australia
18 September 2005

As a movie lover and social worker, I was really moved throughout this film - for most of this film - by the subject matter and by the powerful portrayal and production of these characters. Overall, this is a highly rated movie and one can only wonder at the mentality of persons in Australia who pushed for the banning of this film. This is a realistic account of the affects on the victims of child abuse and tells a compelling story of their plight. But don't expect a happy ending; there is some resolution but you know the battle continues and their struggle to overcome will go on. (I'm getting emotional again just thinking about the last scene.) I work with young people (15-25) who have been abused, often by their own parents, and placed into the care system. However, I have had clients who have then been abused in care as well. It is hard to reconcile such young people but gaining justice is quite central, as is a belief they are accepted and worthwhile human beings. Because they may have been sexually aroused during the abuse they can often feel guilty and to blame. They often internalise these feelings and depending on their personalities they will implode against themselves (drugs etc) and/or become de-sensitised to certain feelings and take risks. The boys in this film portray these two dichotomies and they do it very well. 10 stars.

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111 out of 166 people found the following review useful:

An engrossing and challenging experience

8/10
Author: pygar61 from United Kingdom
30 December 2004

Not since HAPPINESS has such a difficult subject been tackled head on! Without spoiling any of the film, I will just say that I was engrossed in the film, shocked at how far the director was able to go, and heartened by how many issues he was able to raise, and show so many possible effects of what the characters go through. There were so many situations in this film that I had never seen portrayed before, that this proves how much film-makers avoid so many issues.

A familiar, likable cast are taken deep into dark territory. I enjoyed all the performances and believed the characters, even though I had seen all the actors before on TV. The music is just wonderful - from the guy behind The Cocteau Twins - it adds to the dreamlike/nightmarish quality of the film. It's unusual enough to add to the uniqueness of this film - it really is ground-breaking - and Robin Guthrie's music/The Cocteau Twins haven't been used before in movies (though you may have recognised Liz Fraser's vocals in the last Lord of the Rings soundtrack).

This film impressed me the most in 2004 - I hope everyone gets a chance to see it!

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70 out of 87 people found the following review useful:

Elegant Rawness

9/10
Author: Russ (TennisW61-1) from Chicago, US
6 July 2005

MYSTERIOUS SKIN – REVIEW 7/6/05

In his new film Greg Araki uses a prudent ploy to snag and reel you in: having the visuals effusively speak and the screenplay divulge the least amount of information necessary to keep the story evolving. Words can only reveal so much, while Araki's images display an almost unbearable amount of visceral material, exploiting vibrant color, alluring texture, dark and light, the brooding and harrowing eyes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the handsome modesty of Brady Corbet.

The film resonates on a level of rawness unseen and unfelt since Cuesta's "L.I.E." or Solondz's "Storytelling." The film is jarringly penetrative and pervasive: the visuals in your mind play over repeatedly and the disconcerting but intellectually uplifting feeling "Mysterious Skin" infuses lies active long after you leave the theater. The film is not easy to digest. Seeing that there is pervasive sexual exposure between adults, as well as between adults and kids (though discreetly handled), this film will repulse many viewers. This film also had to be made.

Neil (Gordon-Levitt) and Brian's (Corbet) story starts in the early 1980s when they are only eight-years-old. Neil's little league baseball coach initiates a sexual relationship, of which (most likely to the consternation of several audience members) Neil actually recounts a rosy-colored remembrance: he enjoyed it. Brian that same year describes how his perpetual and mysterious string of blackouts and bloody noses began one rainy night after a baseball game.

The story moves forward to when Neil and Brian are at adolescence's conclusion. We discover that Neil has grown up to be both gay and a hustler, while asexual Brian's free time is taken up seeking the source of and resolution to his insoluble physical ailments. Brian soon deduces that aliens abducted him and meets a fellow abductee, Avalyn (Mary Lynn Rajskub), with whom he finds ephemeral solace.

Neil and Brian's story act in parallel, moving forward and backward over time, but never disjointedly. Neil eventually moves to New York, while his pining friend Eric (Jeff Licon) actually befriends Brian and an endearing friendship ensues. Neil's (unappeasable) pursuit of everlasting male love ends in the most unlikely of places: back home. Brian's pursuit of the truth leads him to, predictably, Neil. Araki exquisitely handles the ending (not divulged here) with the appropriate effusion of tendered emotion by the two main actors (warning: though the film's trailer subtlety gives away the finish).

I cannot give enough plaudits to the two male leads. A long way from "3rd Rock", Joe's sensuous flirtations and dynamic eyes mate well with Brady's tranquil, naive, yet profound, disposition. Brady's last scene with his character's father, as well as the climax, demonstrates his aptitude and assured longevity as an actor (beyond "Thunderbirds").

"Mysterious Skin" evidences many matches made-in-heaven: from film and director to material and actor to music and film. The film is entirely amoral, but not immoral. It is also a difficult film to watch. Many will cast it aside as tripe and trash (along with other morally relative films), but those fortunate enough to engage themselves in the movie's discussion will revel in it long after the credits' close.

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76 out of 117 people found the following review useful:

Gave me goosebumps

10/10
Author: Culture Geek
16 September 2004

Amazing. I was expecting another sexually charged adrenaline infused dark comedy a la Doom Generation or an ironic look at relationships in the post-modern world like Splendor. Instead I found a more mature, calmer tale. Still funny, but muted, dark but based on the darker parts of human nature in reality... The performances were unbelievable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt came across with a combination of grit and beauty, anger and happiness that reminded me of Colin Farrell. The cockiness of youth, the sadness of child abuse, and a realistic recognition of prepubescent sexuality. The opening sequence reminded me of something in my youth - nothing specific it just left me with this certain feeling. I hope this is a sign of things to come....

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