Sadly, I've never read the novel this film is based on, but I can't see how it can be anything short of a masterpiece because this film is a masterpiece. Opening with the slow-motion shot of Fruit Loops falling on the face of a smiling boy, we're next introduced to Brian, a teenager who recounts to us how as a small boy he lost several hours of his life due to being kidnapped by aliens at a baseball game and was then found later bleeding in a closet of his house. Now as a teenager he's fascinated by aliens. Next is Neil, he's the same age as Brian but a world apart as far as personalities go. He tells us how, at age 8, he used to jack off watching his mother with her various boyfriends and gaze and lust over the men in her Playboy magazines. Then he met Coach. Coach was the handsome coach of the boy's baseball team and he had a mustache that was so manly and awesome that it could tame an army of a thousand purring kittens. At first sight, Neil was in love with him. Soon after he allowed himself to be seduced by Coach. Then came Brian.
From the very beginning of the film you know what happened, but the script and the acting by everybody (especially by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Chase Ellison) is so strong that even after multiple viewings I still find myself almost hypnotized by the screen. Neil is now a male prostitute and secure in his homosexuality and molestation as a child. He even has pictures and recordings of the events. Brian though is living in a complete dream world and he's broken. He cannot function in reality. Obsessing endlessly over aliens he thinks more and more about the events leading up to the abduction when he suddenly remembers there was another boy there, but he can't remember who he was. He decides to find out this boy was.
MYSTERIOUS SKIN isn't for everybody's tastes. It's vile at moments and perverse, but how can it not be with such a sickening subject matter? In fact, I wish it had gone even further. That aside, everything about this film is fantastic. The script, the acting, the tone, pace, cinematography, direction. Even days after my latest viewing I still find myself thinking about it and how brilliantly the story was told. MYSTERIOUS SKIN could almost be compared to RASHOMON in it's differing accounts of a shared event. Honestly, I cannot recommend it enough.
Double feature it with SHAME.