Skin (2018) Movie Review – 2019 Oscar Shortlisted Short Film

Skin, directed by Guy Nattiv from a story by Sharon Maymon, is a story of white supremacy with a twist. Film Threat equated the twist with those of The Twilight Zone, and perhaps that is accurate. But the final moments of Skin do not leave you wondering about the broader implications of the unique event that has just occurred. It does illustrate an ironic result of passing on racist values to a new generation, but the sheer one-of-a-kind concept is more of a visual shocker than a conversation starter.

Nattiv has also directed a feature-length film of the same name, starring Jamie Bell, that tells the story of a man attempting to leave a white supremacy group and reform his belief system. There are shades of this idea in the short, which mostly focuses on the perspective a child (Jackson Robert Scott) being raised in hate without understanding the hateful actions of his mentors.

But this concept is abandoned early on in favor of a more myopic view of race relations. The homey opening scene, in which the child’s father (Jonathan Tucker) shaves his head, is juxtaposed with the disquieting scene of the father talking the son through shooting an assault rifle at a target.

This is a setup for an interesting tale, as it depicts an average child who has been born into something more sinister than he currently understands. Where the narrative moves on to, in order to make way for the The Twilight Zone twist, flattens this world. A violent encounter proves that every character is related to a gang in some way, ultimately perpetuating a stereotype that the racist characters in the film believe. And the depiction of gang violence is shown with a frankness that makes it difficult for the film to engage in a nuanced conversation about racially-charged violence.

Given that the film’s entire narrative revolves around such violence, the resolution of the narrative leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Not because the implications of the twist are unsettling, but because the film is provoking that unsettling feeling without providing a deeper understanding of the problem at hand.

Danielle Macdonald, from last year’s Patti Cakes, makes a small appearance here as the mother. Her performance, albeit brief, is strong. And the acting from Jackson Robert Scott is also commendable. The ominous score, too, is effective. But the small-scale successes of Skin do not make up for the more problematic shortcomings stemming from its narrow dialogue of a serious subject.


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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)


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