Israeli helmsman Guy Nattiv tables the subject of former neo-Nazi Bryon Widner (from a documentary Erasing Hate) in a painful schism from a cruel past in 2006.
His Skin stars Jamie Bell as Widner, the actual white supremacist skinhead immersed in zealotry, part of a racial sect of loathing, the Vinlanders Social Group headed by Shareen (Vera Farmiga) and Fred (Bill Camp).
One of the producers on the project is writer/director Oren Movement (New York-based Israel native) who has a penchant for dealing with ramifications of violence and advocating a code of justice in features like Rampart and The Messenger. Thematically the aforementioned arguably bears similarity to his creative colleague.
Bryon is motivated to exit a deplorable existence after meeting a single mom with three kids, Julie Larsen (Danielle Macdonald) while earlier witnessing how a new draftee tries to elevate a wretched situation.
The transition is supported by One People’s Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center as ridding of body ink, and an intolerant attitude requires quite the turnabout over a few years. The marrow of Skin is and activity that interpretatively looks for dispensation and support for a humanistic renewal. Returning to Bryon’s formative years has an absorbing aspect even if it may not burrow into his savagery and what really drove his impulses before a reformation which is ripe for approval.
That said, Englishman Bell again displays how telling of a thespian he is from his debut almost two decades ago in Billy Elliot as a coal miner’s distraught, yet driven preteen son to the recent Rocketman as Elton John’s Longtime songwriter Bernie Taupin. It’s hard not to consider how well he navigates through the hurt and vileness when it come to those once with him as an attempt is made to forge a new existence.
As Skin unveils its layers it’s hard not to be reminded of Tony Kaye’s harrowingly potent American History X which starred Edward Norton and Edward Furlong as brothers inextricably linked by extremism. If Native’s first U.S. feature doesn’t feel as full in form there’s a trenchant, fitting quality given the rather lopsidedness of love and hate.