Twelve of Twenty Day One: Mysterious Skin

Posted: 24/01/2012 in The Verdict, Twelve of Twenty
Tags: , , , ,

My One Line Review: Utterly tragic, desolate expose of the legacy of abuse.

The Verdict: This is maybe saddest film I’ve ever seen. Certainly the most heartbreaking live action. It is probably on a par with When The Wind Blows and Grave of the Fireflies. I have read any number of reviews saying Mysterious Skin is too explicit, or exploitative or somehow condones child abuse. It is none of these things, it simply acknowledges that these horrors do happen, on our doorsteps, and asks what happens when those children grow up? The ones who aren’t suicides or breakdowns, the ones who go under the radar and just muddle through.

That is the true tragedy at the heart of this film, it isn’t just what happens to the saucer-eyed little boy, it’s that he knows what was done to him and others and that whether or not they ever acknowledge and confront it, it will never be okay. The controversy arises from Neil’s complicity in his abuse and that of others, but I think Araki is trying to show the depth of corruption that arises from systematic abuse. Neil’s subsequent lack of regard for his own safety, his utter detachment are the inescapable legacy of his childhood.

This is by no means a comfortable watch. I am not one for visceral response  and I’m certainly not given to crying at films, but I flinched and shied away and as the haunting melancholic strains of Sigur Ros scored the closing shot,  two broken young men unable to reconcile themselves to one moment in childhood, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s thousand yard stare, I welled up.

A powerful and terrible elegy that will stay with you for some time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s