In his 20-min short film Skin, Guy Nattiv (“Mabul”, “Strangers”) tackles the cyclical and self-destructive nature of violence in a small revenge story grounded in racial tensions.
The film follows Jackson Robert Scott (“It”) as Troy, a young white boy raised in a redneck, white supremacist community. At the mall with his parents, he shares a smile with a black man at the other side of the aisle: this small and innocent act of kindness is misconstrued by the boy’s father Adrian, played by Jonathan Tucker (“The Virgin Suicides”, “The Ruins”), who follows the stranger to the parking lot and brutally beats him. The black man’s own family, a wife and son that mirrors Adrian’s own, watch the scene, powerless. Some days later, after hearing of the assault, a rival black gang decides to retaliate.
The script was written by Guy Nattiv and Sharon Maymon (“A Matter of Size”, “The Farewell Party”), and the best part of it lies in its handling of the young characters. Both Troy and the black man’s son Bronny, played by Lonnie Chavis (“This Is Us”, “White Famous”), are powerless witnesses to the adults’ gang war, soaking up all the violence and getting caught up in a cycle of revenge for their own fathers. The two young actors are impressive, especially Jackson Robert Scott on whose shoulders the film mainly stands.
While very brutal at times and with a clear message, the film still succeeds in showing intimacy and subtlety: Troy has a very loving relationship with his father, introduced to us in the very first scene where Adrian gives his son a haircut. This is followed by a bonding scene between the two in which Adrian teaches Troy how to shoot a rifle: the scene is not shot with an over-dramatic tone, but instead organically mixes familial love, the kid’s playfulness, and the violence such a lesson entail. This is a clever way to convey how insidious hatred and violence can infiltrate someone’s upbringing.
The handheld camera follows each character very closely and gives the story a realistic feel, documentary-style. The only time the film switches to more stylized shots are for a particularly stunning scene in the black gang leader’s garage. This also marks the rupture between a rather conventional & realist story, and the third act based on a fascinating yet slightly over-the-top plot twist. The in-your-face ending might be a little too much for some but is an effective and original way to deliver the main message: hatred only begets hatred, and the hate you give might one day turn against you.