Skin follows the story of Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell), a skinhead who tries to escape his fascist gang with the help of a black Antifa member. Having met Julie (Danielle MacDonald), a single mum who herself has escaped the white supremacist lifestyle, Bryon dreams of a new life but his “family” is not going to let him go so easily and he finds himself trapped and fearing for his life.
This is a really affecting story that shows how extremist groups target vulnerable people. When Bryon joins the group he is young, homeless and desperate. The group leaders, Fred (Bill Camp) and Shareen (Vera Farmiga) provide him the family and acceptance he has always craved and they play on this loyalty and love at every opportunity as Bryon tries to pull away.
Writer/director, Guy Nattiv, does a great job of conveying the claustrophobia and hopelessness of Bryon’s predicament. The group uses their resources to infiltrate every aspect of Bryon’s life, attempting to destroy his relationship and giving him no place to hide. Although Bryon is one of the group’s drill sergeants and capable of brutal violence there are ongoing hints that he has a compassionate core and with the right influences he can turn his life around.
Telling Bryon’s story interspersed with showing the slow and painful removal of his fascist tattoos over several years is very effective and Jamie Bell does an incredible job with the role. He has really proved himself as a strong character actor and someone I look out for in films. Danielle MacDonald gives a powerhouse performance of a woman who has simply had enough of everyone’s shit. Farmiga also stands out as she manages to balance both the sinister and the maternal sides of her character.
The fact that this is a true story only makes it more compelling. I really enjoyed this film and how it looked at the psychology of indoctrination and extremism. Highly recommended.