Free of the stylistic show-offery of his prior work, Gregg Araki’s magnificent Mysterious Skin charts the divergent paths of two teenagers – emotionally remote, unbearably cool gay street hustler Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and nerdy, reclusive mama’s boy Brian (Brady Corbet) – as they attempt to cope with the lingering effects of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by their Little League coach (Bill Sage). Years after their traumas, Neil remains certain that the coach’s actions were born of love while Brian, having almost fully blocked memories of the event, becomes convinced that he was abducted by aliens and falls into a relationship with a supposed abductee (Mary Lynn Rajskub). The boys exist as two sides of the same tarnished coin, one meek and the other self-assured, but both deliberately mired in a state of denial in which carefully constructed fantasies function as their primary means of expressing pain, embarrassment and anger over their pasts. Araki utilizes womb imagery, a healthy dose of signifiers regarding childhood and innocence, and his usual array of pop culture references for his fractured flashback-saturated story (adapted from Scott Heim’s novel), creating a real-and-yet-also-unreal sense of psychological dislocation. And Gordon-Levitt’s performance is nothing short of astonishing, exuding equal measures of hungry sexuality and destructive alienation in crafting an unsettling vision of teenage confusion and longing.