On My Skin

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
On My Skin Movie Poster Image
Haunting drama about police brutality victim; mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The best that can be hoped for is that debate surrounding this case will lead to some reforms in Rome's criminal justice system.

Positive Role Models & Representations

He isn't an evil bad person, but Stefano isn't a role model, either. While recovering from drug addiction, he appeared stable and well, but was caught by police with drugs and arrested for possession, dealing. He's stubborn, stoic; he loved his family, saw his parents every day, went to church, but just couldn't stay out of trouble. His parents had good intentions but were ineffective. His sister loved him but was frustrated by his inability to leave drugs alone. Local police are corrupt, sadistic. People working in the prison hospital and judicial systems try to help, but no one tries hard enough.

Violence

No actual violence is shown, but it's horrifying and difficult to watch Stefano's health worsen with each passing day. Being brutally beaten by police is main plot point; beating itself isn't shown, just bruising, pain, suffering afterward. A dead body is seen in a morgue from the neck up. News footage shows a real picture of Stefano's face, clearly having been brutalized. An unresponsive patient is shown from the neck up receiving CPR.

Sex

Nonsexual male nudity from behind during a prison intake search.

Language

Translated from Italian: "s--t," "ass," "damn," and one "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Overall story is about a recovering drug addict arrested for possession, dealing hash and cocaine. One scene briefly shows cutting a large brown square into smaller squares. Many adults, including Stefano, are shown smoking occasionally. Wine bottles and glass seen once or twice on tables with meals.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that On My Skin (2018), also known as Sulla Mia Pelle, is in Italian with English subtitles. It's a harrowing story based on real events following the arrest on drug charges of Stefano Cucchi. Violence is never directly shown, but its brutal aftermath is shown through pain, suffering, and injuries that get harder and harder to watch as the victim gets worse at every turn. Main character Stefano is no role model: He's arrested for possessing hash and cocaine and for suspicion of dealing drugs. But his story raises lots of important, worthwhile questions that mature teens might be ready to ask about policing, the war on drugs, criminal justice, how we treat prisoners, and more. Profanity is rare, translated from Italian, and includes "f--k," "s--t," and "ass." A man is seen naked from behind during a prison intake search. Stefano is a recovering drug addict, so using, having, and selling drugs are often talked about. Best for older teens who are ready to grapple with some of society's tough issues and who can handle the tragic end of Stefano's story, which has no resolution or sense of justice.

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What's the story?

ON MY SKIN traces the real events surrounding the arrest of Stefano Cucchi (Alessandro Borghi), which became one of Italy's most notorious cases in recent memory. A recovering drug addict, Stefano seems to be staying straight and doing well. He shows up on time for work every day, trains as a boxer, and stops by his parents' apartment for a visit or a meal every day, too. But one night, local police arrest him for drug possession and dealing. What happens to Stefano over the course of his week in prison awaiting trial may never be fully understood. But Stefano's family wants answers to important questions we as a society should be asking ourselves.

Is it any good?

This cry for justice is haunting, harrowing, tragic, and hard to watch, but well worth watching because it raises questions about injustice that society has to answer. Borghi's fine performance as Stefano and director Alessio Cremonini's quiet, relentless tone show a series of events that are hard to believe and don't try to disguise the point of view that what happened to Stefano and his family is as far removed from justice as can be imagined.

It's certainly a riveting and engaging way to start mature teens thinking and talking about lots of aspects of criminal justice. How effective is it to treat drug problems as crimes? How much power do local cops have over the people on their beats? How do we treat people fairly who've been arrested but not convicted? How can we make sure prisoners get adequate medical treatment? How do the criminal justice and prison systems treat family members? Stefano's case, and so many of these questions, remain unsolved, which make On My Skin a movie best for mature teens who are able to handle the lack of resolution. And maybe it'll encourage them to learn more and find a way to ensure justice and fair treatment for everyone. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how On My Skin portrays violence. Is the movie any easier to watch because we don't see any actual violence happening? Why or why not?

  • How does watching Stefano's suffering affect you and your reaction to his story? Did it change your opinions about police, criminal justice, or prisoner treatment? How? If not, why not?

  • How does our criminal justice system compare to others around the world? How can you find out more about things like how many people are in jail who haven't been convicted of a crime, for example, or how many prisoners die in their first week of incarceration? How fair is our justice system?

  • Are there any points in Stefano's story where things might have turned out differently? Where? What would've needed to happen?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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