From Scott Heim's novel comes Mysterious Skin, a deeply wrought drama handled in an almost cinema verite style.
Director-scenarist Gregg Araki films a delicate, disturbing story with raw, illuminating authenticity.
The summer of 1981 in Kansas sees two eight-year-old baseballers, Neil (Chase Ellison) and Brian (George Webster) sexually abused by their coach (Bill Sage).
Much of Araki's lush and disturbing feature, his finest to date, centers on Neil and Brian ten years later.
Neil, now played with cynicism and maturity by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is off to New York City with a close friend (Michelle Trachtenberg of Ice Princess). He is living as a gay hustler.
Brian, now filled with naiveity by Brady Corbett, has used the encounter to create the idea of being part of an alien kidnapping. Araki's screenplay will have the two childhood friends finding out what they still share by way of a mutual pal (Jeffrey Licon).
This bold examination on the effects of inhumane behavior is done with a high degree of artistry and integrity. Child actors Ellison and Webster are remarkable in communicating what isn't explicitly on view. And Gordon-Levitt, remembered for TV's "3rd Rock From The Sun", and Corbett are able to etch rich characterizations from scenes that can be very difficult to watch.
As Neil's mother, Elisabeth Shue (Hide & Seek) is frank and a bit eerie and Lisa Long is spirited as Brian's mother in some humorously fun moments with Brian's UFO fanatic friend played by Mary Lynn Rajskub.
The parallel stories fit into a nostalgic aura with a mood opening up Neil's rosy visions and Brian's nightmares preceded by nosebleeds. Thus, when a climactic release comes about it's hard not to be drawn into the emotional ramifications that has much intelligence and hardly any prurience about it. Like Mystic River, the provocative, subtle manner of the evolution of childhood trama has a way of getting under one's skin.