As a hair trimmer glides over the head over a young American boy, a dye is being cast. Later, fully decorated in adult, racist tattoos, Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell) exits police custody having mutilated a young black man. With no evidence to hold him, he is welcomed back to the violent bosom of his gang parents Fred and Shareen (Bill Camp and Vera Farmiga).
Everything would seem to be set to return to normal. However, under the surface, something has changed in Bryon. A shift in priorities that not everyone can see at first, is about to come into violent bloom…
... justifiably steps forward to take its place in the on-going identity parade that is modern American values.
Off the back of his Oscar-winning short of the same title, ’Skin’ is director Guy Nattiv’s further exploration into American racism. Departing from the short story that brought him here, Nattiv instead starts afresh with a new narrative set in a familiar backdrop.
Centring around the disparate, hidden underclass that is American white trash, ‘Skin” focusses on disaffected youths who make for rich pickings to those that would take them in. Chillingly manifested in amongst all the male testosterone, the movie’s real star becomes Vera Farmiga’s Shareen. A bear-den of a mother who can foresee every move, hers is the coldest performance, flashing hidden steel in every entrancing sentence.
Joining her in the high acting stakes is Jamie Bell who also excels ‘Skin’s’ conflicted protagonist Bryon. Recognising a potential future with Danielle Macdonald’s mum and three daughters, theirs becomes a believable triangle into which the gang’s blunt future doesn’t fit.
Covering similar ground to other Neo-nazi dramas like ’American History X’ and ‘The Believer’, ‘Skin’s’ redemptive arc is a refreshingly uneven one. With a credits sequence that graphically reveals the real story behind its dramatisation, ’Skin’ justifiably steps forward to take its place in the on-going identity parade that is modern American values.