By Chris dos Santos
5th June 2019

At this years past Oscars, director Guy Nattiv won Best Live Action Short Film for ‘Skin’ and while it shares a similar name and cast, has no direct link to this feature film. Both pieces deal with racist skinheads in America whose main targets are the African American community. The short tries to emphasise both sides violence acts, but it just comes off as extremely problematic and insensitive. It has the message that both sides are as bad as each other and illustrates it through black face... yikes. So going into Nattiv’s feature-length film, I was extremely concerned and hesitant considering how he had already handled this material. Thankfully, the feature version of ‘Skin’ offers much more to its audience.

‘Skin’ is based on the true story of Bryon Widner, played here by Jamie Bell (‘Rocketman’, ‘Billy Elliot’), who has been raised among a group of white supremacists. However when he meets Julie Price (Danielle Macdonald, ‘Patti Cake$’, Netflix's ‘Dumplin’’) and begins to fall in love with her and her three young girls, he learns the life he was brought up in isn't as he seemed.


The cast here is incredible. Jamie Bell really sinks his teeth into his role in an extremely transformative performance. You really can feel him being pulled between the two worlds and the struggle he goes through. Once again, Danielle Macdonald proves her talents are becoming stronger with every role she gets, and you really sympathise with her taking care of three kids and how important they are to her. The supporting cast is also extremely talented, all really sucking you into this crazy world and really showing the negative and positive environments in Bryon’s life. Standouts are Vera Farmiga (‘The Conjuring 2’ universe, ‘Godzilla II: King of the Monsters’) and Bill Camp (‘Molly's Game’, ‘Red Sparrow’) as Bryon's parents who both leave you feeling so uncomfortable with some of the ways they recruit new members.

Jamie Bell really sinks his teeth into his role in an extremely transformative performance.

Of course, the uncomfortable feeling throughout comes from a racist being reformed, an extremely tough and sensitive topic. For the most part, the film does a good job at showing the consequences of your actions, and that a lot of these people are not good people.

Overall, the film does leave it up to audience to decide how they feel about the whole story, although it definitely wants you to sympathise with Bryon and the change he goes through. ‘Skin’ is a film worth checking out to start a conversation about these issues and whether a racist can really be changed.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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