A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Skin is a very mature drama based on the true story of a former neo-Nazi (Jamie Bell) who decided to escape his hateful society -- and the painful process he went through to do so. Expect intense violence, from guns and shooting, blood, death, fighting, punching, and stabbing to rough treatment of women, kids, and dogs. There's also a lot of seething rage and hate. Strong language is constant and pervasive, with countless uses of "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and much more. The main character has rough sex with one woman up against a wall and then moves to a second partner, with more sex (thrusting shown, but not much in the way of graphic nudity). Characters gulp down cans and bottles of beer and smoke frequently. Beer is given to a young boy, who takes a few sips, and there are spoken descriptions of drinking problems. It's very hard to watch, but it's also an important movie for difficult times, and ultimately it conveys examples of compassion, understanding, and tolerance.
What's the story?
In SKIN, skinhead Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell) is covered in racist tattoos, each earned by committing a hate crime. He's been raised by Shareen (Vera Farmiga) and Fred "Hammer" Krager (Bill Camp), who run a kind of camp that trains young men to be white supremacists; they recruit lost, hungry boys to become new members. When Bryon meets single mother Julie Price (Danielle Macdonald), he falls in love and starts to realize that he wants to renounce his hateful ways. Getting away from his vicious adoptive family will be no easy task, but it will be nothing compared to the process of erasing their legacy of hate from his skin.
Is it any good?
Absolutely unflinching in its portrayal of white supremacists, this fact-based drama starts out ugly and disquieting but slowly evolves into a movie of compassion and significance. Skin follows writer-director Guy Nattiv's Oscar-winning short film of the same name; although the two movies don't share the same story, they do share similar imagery, as well as star Macdonald. Skin drops viewers directly into the uncomfortable center of things, with an intense level of hate and rage. Perhaps one of the most unsettling moments comes at a rally, when Fred Krager announces that he's running for office.
But somehow even more unsettling is Farmiga's smiling, baited performance as the "mother" of the boys, luring them with calculated kindnesses and pet names. Macdonald is also spectacular, as tough-as-nails here as she was in Patti Cake$, but also earthy and vivid. At first, the movie positions her as only a possible conquest for Bryon, but her sheer force of will turns her into a real character. But it's Bell who does the heavy lifting, covered in ink and channeling all that surging violence and anger until it must have hurt. His redemption in the movie's second half brings great relief. Mike Colter plays the movie's true hero, Daryle Lamont Jenkins, who has devoted his life to helping people escape neo-Nazi groups. (The end credits include moving footage of the real Jenkins and the real Widner.) In the end, Skin is a tough movie, but a necessary one.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie view sex? What's the difference between Bryon's first partner and his next, final partner?
How are alcohol and cigarettes portrayed? Are they glamorized in any way? Are they used to look cool?
Who are white supremacists? What do they believe in, and why? What are their methods?
Is Bryon admirable in any way? Do his later accomplishments help erase the great harm he has apparently done in the past?
- In theaters: July 26, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2019
- Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jamie Bell, Vera Farmiga
- Director: Guy Nattiv
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and brief drug use
- Last updated: May 12, 2021
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