Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 32
  2. Negative: 1 out of 32
Watch On
  1. This thoughtful, troubling drama is leagues above the sensationalistic stuff Araki peddled in earlier films.
  2. A gorgeous, heartbreaking and utterly convincing work of art.
  3. The film's content is adult – and for the first time in Araki's career, so is the director.
  4. 88
    Not for the squeamish, but it is a beautifully crafted and thoughtful film that genuinely provokes.
  5. 88
    At once the most harrowing and, strangely, the most touching film I have seen about child abuse.
  6. Mysterious Skin dawdles more than it flows, but it comes alive whenever Araki, hovering between tragedy and voyeurism, reveals how sex can tear lives to pieces.
  7. 83
    Invigorating, blistering and chilling.
  8. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Mar 17, 2014
    With Mysterious Skin, Araki burrowed into the hearts and minds of his audience, looking to provide his viewers with Neil and Brian’s deeper understanding of how to piece together a fractured life, then go looking for the fragments that are still buried deep.
  9. 80
    With remarkable directness and composure, it shatters the myth of childhood innocence and the deathless taboo of prepubescent sexuality.
  10. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Explores both prepubescent and teen sexuality with an honesty that may make some people uncomfortable, which is a sign of its potency, and a badge of honor.
  11. 80
    A warped, but beautiful and strangely hopeful, coming-of-age tale.
  12. It's hard to imagine a more serious or persuasive indictment of the horrors inflicted on children by sexual abuse than Mysterious Skin.
  13. A helter-skelter ride of the soul, an unblinking, white-knuckle crash landing into the mushy mysteries of the subconscious.
  14. 80
    A startling portrayal of how the cycle of abuse plays itself out in the lives of its victims.
  15. The film is mentally graphic, not sexually graphic.
  16. An absorbing story. Even though it takes you to places you may not want to go, the film never loses its human touch--that feel of skin on skin or of the past inescapably invading the present.
  17. Unlike Todd Solondz's "Happiness," Mysterious Skin is not an abuse movie that seeks to offend or upset.
  18. 75
    The film is actually a major artistic breakthrough for Araki, a onetime bad boy of independent filmmaking. Its psychological intelligence, attention to emotional currents, and humanity are surprises.
  19. A deft, affecting drama about childhood sexual abuse and its lifelong scars.
  20. 75
    Mysterious Skin bears all of Araki's hallmarks, from its stylish compositions and lush colors to its willingness to confront difficult subject matter head-on.
  21. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    By turns spiky and lyrical, this unsettling drama will be anathema to many audiences, but is bound to be a provocative, talked-about release.
  22. 70
    Only half a great movie, because the other half follows a separate but related thread that isn't nearly as compelling.
  23. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    It's an ideal collaboration: A stylish director desperately seeking substance transforms the first, somewhat flat novel of a promising young writer into powerful and brutally honest film about a highly controversial subject.
  24. 70
    The result is flawed but frequently haunting.
  25. 70
    Mysterious Skin isn't a picture about existential vacancy; it isn't even about anything so simplistic as the horrors of child abuse. It's more of a meditation on the necessity of making your way past, or through, any obstacle that prevents you from being a thinking, feeling person.
  26. A well-conceived story that is very hard to shake.
  27. Reviewed by: Don R. Lewis
    By the end of Mysterious Skin, I felt physically exhausted but I also felt satisfied at the way it all falls into place.
  28. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Araki is trying to work from the inside out; and he captures feelings about sexual exploitation that I've never seen onscreen--not all of them negative.
  29. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    Corbet emerges as an actor of sensitivity and depth, but it’s Gordon-Levitt who steals every scene as the damaged, destructive but ultimately sympathetic rent boy.
  30. Mostly, Mysterious Skin creeps you out, and not in any kind of fun way. There's an artfulness to it, but it's hard to imagine many viewers actually using the term "enjoyed" or "entertained" in conjunction with it.
  31. Dull film about pedophilia that fails to shed any light on the topic.
  32. Had Araki chosen to illuminate, rather than exploit, the traumatic aftermath of child molestation, his wallow in the horrors of Mysterious Skin might have had a purpose. As it stands, his film is just another trashy look at America as the land of imbecilic perverts.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 96 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 39
  2. Negative: 4 out of 39
  1. Oct 31, 2012
    People can't face the truth. Araki didn't create the alien idea. It is 0% fictional. Maybe the most incredible story of the last 10 years. ThePeople can't face the truth. Araki didn't create the alien idea. It is 0% fictional. Maybe the most incredible story of the last 10 years. The movie is perfect on itself. Full Review »
  2. PaulaS.
    Aug 1, 2008
    One of the most harrowing and strangely touching movies I've seen in many years. The writing and acting are equally terrific.
  3. Feb 23, 2013
    Mysterious Skin is the story of two boys and an event one summer, that changed their lives forever. Both had different reactions to it andMysterious Skin is the story of two boys and an event one summer, that changed their lives forever. Both had different reactions to it and both had their whole lives consumed by it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Neil, and does an outstanding job. Neil is a male prostitute, cold and heartless on the outside, but lonely and miserable on the inside. JGL does a great job of portraying both to the audience. Be warned thou, this is one graphic film, not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of raw scenes featuring Neil, in fact, I don't think I've ever seen someone get undressed as many times in one movie as JGL does in this one. As for the film, it starts out strong, then in the middle, it seems like your typical, weird, indie flick. Don't turn it off just yet, because it gets better and better, building up to one of the strongest endings I've seen in a long time. This isn't something that hasn't been done before, but a combination of a great cast, top notch acting, and a brutally graphic depiction of events, makes it unique and something that you're going to want to see. Full Review »