Skin is another A24 film to be dropped onto DirectTV in the US unceremoniously and that is a real shame. The film has a lot of interesting things to say in regard to its subject matter and it is possible to have a good time while watching it. What is the film about, though? Neo-Nazis. Well. It’s a true one too. One about Neo Nazi’s path to redemption and to change from the person he once was into a contributing member of society.
Jamie Bell plays Babs, a skinhead, face tattooed neo-Nazi. He is trapped into being a tattoo artist, donating money into his family’s group and going out at night to start fights and in one shocking part of the film, burn down a mosque. He is completely transformative in the film and this transformation is linked to the arc in the film.
Once he meets his girlfriend, Danielle Mcdonald from Patti Cake$ (who is also brilliant in this film) and begins to fall in love we intercut with his tattoo removal process so in many ways he is both mentally and physically transforming. He is shedding his former skin and becoming a new man.
A surprise addition to this film was Vera Farmiga as Babs’ racist and overprotective mother, she is also great in this film. She feels evil and radiates it completely. Even down to her costuming and make-up, just pure nazi evil.
In a lot of ways, this film is truly brutal to watch. We see such brutal acts in all their horrendousness. Racism, fascism and a healthy dose of sexism are all present in this man’s life and the film does not shy away from this. Some scenes are very difficult to watch, especially the scene mentioned previously. It was so eye-opening that it made me almost ashamed to live in a world where things like this take place.
It brings up some politics that may be hard to hear for some, and in some ways makes us question, can people who have done such terrible things really change? This is brought up throughout the film and encouraged by a supporting character whose life this is also based on. Mike Colter (Luke Cage) plays this role, that is so small that I don’t remember his name. This a regrettable omission as it feels in the final edit that he didn’t play much of a part in his conversion, I wish wasn’t the case because the life of this activist who actively tries to convert fascists is an interesting one, but the film has much more to focus on in the family drama.
Overall, the film is a truly wild ride with a redemption arc that will make you question the cancel culture of today’s society but also where you draw the line on where people should be forgiven. The man teeters on the edge for me it is difficult to say all is forgiven which makes the film quite controversial for humanising him. Jamie Bell is brilliant and transformative. Plus, cannot deny that the film is “raw” and feels true to life. I don’t know how many times I can say brutal, but did I mention this film is brutal?