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File:Mysterious skin 9075.jpg

Mysterious Skin is a 2004 drama film directed by Gregg Araki, who specializes in avant-garde films about homosexual relationships. It is based on the novel of the same name by Scott Heim.

At eight years of age, Neil McCormick (portrayed by Chase Ellison as a boy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a teen) discovers he is homosexual, developing an obsession with his mother's boyfriends and the men in her Playgirl magazines. He develops a crush on his baseball coach (Bill Sarge), who takes advantage and starts seducing him. One stormy night, an incident happens...

Several years later, Neil has grown up into a teen and has became a gay hustler. Meanwhile, another teen named Brian Lackey (George Webster as a boy and Brady Corbet as a teen) who is obsessed with alien abduction conspiracy theories is trying to piece together his past. He cannot remember the events of several hours in his youth, and he assumes that during this time, aliens had abducted him.

The two eventually meet, and the horrible liberating truth about what happened in their childhood is revealed...

While the film was critically-acclaimed, it was extremely controversial for its child-molestation-related subject matter. Moral Guardians in Australia attempted to have it banned, on the grounds that it could be used by real pedophiles to groom children. In order to protect the welfare of the child actors during the abuse scenes, Ellison and Webster had separate scripts from those of the rest of the cast, and were only asked to perform actions such as moving their hand up and down to mimic a handjob, which were then spliced with the other scenes to give the final appearance.

Tropes used in Mysterious Skin include:


  • Alien Abduction: Brian is obsessed with it.
  • Asexual: Brian is described as one but it's unclear whether he would still be repulsed by sex had he not been raped/molested as a child.
  • Awful Truth: And how.
  • Banned In Australia: Almost. The Family First Party, a particularly meddling group of Moral Guardians with funding, attempted to have the film banned on the basis that it could be seen as an instructional guide to sexual predators. The OFLC (the censors) promptly told the Family First party to piss off as the film had more than enough artistic merit to it, and soon after placed restrictions on the number of films they were allowed to submit for review. (The same party had tried to have Irreversible banned two years previous.)
  • Bittersweet Ending: Brian finally finds out the truth about his missing memories and inexplicable nosebleeds, and he and Neil may have started some sort of relationship by the end. But that truth is as depressingly horrible as you can get, and any healing they go through is a long way off.
  • Break the Cutie: Brian, so much.
  • Coming Out Story: Neil tells his at the beginning.
  • Depraved Homosexual: The man who rapes adult Neil, and the coach too.
  • Film of the Book: One of the rare good ones, both as a standalone film and compared to the book.
  • Harmful to Minors: While Neil and Brian react differently to it, it's pretty clear that the incident has ruined both their lives.
  • Karma Houdini: There is no mention what-so-ever any justice served against the Coach for his actions.
  • Manly Tears: Averted, which makes it much more powerful.
  • Porn Stache: The Coach has one
  • The Twink: Neil.
  • What Now? Ending: Following a reveal of what really happened to Brian when he was "abducted", the film promptly closes with carolers singing outside while Neil cradles Brian, leaving absolutely no closure on their broken lives.
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