Araki, known for his nihilistic teenage psychodramas, takes a successful turn into more serious territory with the often touching Mysterious Skin. Based on a novel by Scott Heim, the film follows two young men who were sexually abused by their Little League coach when they were 8 years old. Brash Neil (Gordon-Levitt) becomes a male prostitute, servicing nearly the entire population of his small Kansas town before moving to New York City. Quiet, introspective Brian (Corbet) blocks out the incident and becomes convinced he was abducted by aliens.
The film follows the boys' separate paths, as Brian searches out a woman (Rajskub) who also claims to have been abducted, and Neil grapples with his own psychosexual demons. For a film with such heavy subject matter, Mysterious Skin tackles its story with grace, something that Araki certainly has not been known for in the past. Gordon-Levitt is so mesmerizing and Neil's story so layered that the moments spent with Brian often fall a little flat, but the payoff in the end when the two characters finally come together is more than worth it. Like the film, it's sweet and disturbing at the same time.