Mysterious Skin – Gregg Araki (2004)

Mysterious Skin is a 2004 drama film directed by American filmmaker Gregg Araki, who also wrote the screenplay based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Scott Heim. The film is Araki’s eighth, premiering at the Venice Film Festival in 2004, although it was not more widely distributed until 2005.

Mysterious Skin tells the story of two pre-adolescent boys who are sexually abused by their baseball coach, and how it affects their lives in different ways into their young adulthood. One boy becomes a reckless, sexually adventurous male prostitute, while the other retreats into a fantasy of alien abduction.

The film received generally positive critical acclaim, with an 83% “fresh” rating on Rotten TomatoesRoger Ebert described the film as “at once the most harrowing and, strangely, the most touching film I have seen about child abuse”.

The film was the subject of some controversy in Australia, where the Australian Family Association requested a review of its classification, seeking to have the film outlawed due to its depiction of pedophilia. They suggested that the film could be used by pedophiles for sexual gratification or to help them groom children for sexual abuse. The six-member Classification Review Board voted four-to-two in favour of maintaining an R18+ rating. The controversy is referenced in a review excerpt from The Sydney Morning Herald on the Region 4 DVD that reads: “How anyone could have wanted it banned is beyond me”.

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