Monday, June 6, 2005

Mysterious Skin

I saw Mysterious Skin Saturday at the Seattle International Film Festival.  If you haven't heard about this film yet, you will.  It is the most emotionally true films about childhood sexual abuse that I have ever seen.  It blows Happiness out of the water (though that was told more from the abuser's point of view, rather than the victim's).  The film follows the lives of two boys, Neil and Brian, who are abused by the same man at the same time (their little league coach).  They share essentially the same experience but as they mature, they develop different ways of coping with the trauma.  Neil becomes sexually obsessive and irresponsible.  Brian withdraws into himself and represses his experience with visions of alien abduction.  Joseph Gordon-Leavitt gives a rock solid performance as Neil, which is the flashier of the two roles.  Brady Corbet plays Brian, the "worst player on the team," with tremendous sensitivity and nuance.  It is a masterpiece of cinema, a film which will ignite the world to this issue.  More than any other film I've seen, it tackles the subject head on, and dramatizes the years of emotional turmoil that follow the rape of a child.  Yet, the film is never preachy or polemical.  It doesn't wrap things up in a tidy way at the end.  The aim here is character.  There is no vengeance, as at the end of Long Island Expressway (L.I.E.) and that makes it more truthful, more real.  It will unsettle you for days.  If Aristotle was right, and we attend tragedy for the purpose of purging the strong emotions, this film is as effective as it gets.

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