I just realised that I still hadn't posted about seeing Greg Araki's film Mysterious Skin last Sunday, so here goes.
For some back-story, this review from the LA Times, reprinted in the Baltimore Sun, gives a pretty good run down of the film and a fairly succinct plot synopsis. Sunshine over at Like Sands Through The Hourglass... has also posted some comments about seeing the film, so get thee over there if you feel like a second opinion.
I really enjoyed this film. It may seem wrong to use the word 'enjoyed' about a film that deals with a subject as tough as pedophilia, but I got so much out of this film and found it so moving, that it was great cinema experience for me. Ok, maybe 'rewarding' is a better word for it.
I like films that step outside the everyday, and Araki uses flashbacks and 'dream sequences' to really develop the narrative. I haven't read the novel by Scott Heim, but I think I'll seek it out now as I admired the handling of the story. I respect that Araki stops short of manipulating his audience by demonising his characters, even the perpetrator of the abuse. We never really discover his motivation, or if he feels remorse for his actions, and I certainly grew to loathe him as the film progressed.
He handles the scenes with his young actors very sensitively, managing to get the emotional punch of the story across without having to expose the young actors to dangerous behaviour. The actors all turn in very good performances, and I especially liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the older Neil.
It is a tough film and some aspects, like the manipulation of the young Neil by the perpetrator, were particularly distressing to me. For me it was saved from being a dour experience by the light and shade in the film, by the themes of friendship and survival. The two main characters are both damaged by their joint history, and yet they both found a way to survive, and hopefully transcend it.