The Dove Take:
Skin simply can’t be Dove-Approved for its language, sex, and violence, but the real-life story of Bryon Widner is a harrowing reminder of the dangers in group think and racism.
A destitute young man, raised by racist skinheads notorious among white supremacists, turns his back on hatred and violence to transform his life, with the help of a black activist and the woman he loves.
There isn’t much to compare Skin to, given that few films have dared to tackle the evil oppression of white nationalism and oppression. But in the story of Widner, audiences see the brutality of the life he chose to leave and the powerful forces of truth and love that were necessary to help him escape.
Widner (Jamie Bell) is casually violent, nonchalantly vile when the camera first finds him. He’s been taken in by Fred and Shareen Krager (Bill Camp and Vera Farmiga), and raised as their son to be an extension of their violent, racist, misogynistic bile. He’s actually a gifted tattoo artist, whose talents are used by the Vinlanders Social Club (VSC) to fund their illegal activities against minorities and others. But he comes to the attention of Daryle Lamont Jenkins of the One’s People Practice as he also meets a woman outside of the VSC, Julie Price (Danielle MacDonald).
Widner was the subject of an MSNBC documentary about the removal of his tattoos, including the ones covering a majority of his face. That is the hope I can provide an audience with — the knowledge that, even while we watch Bell-as-Widner do some terrible things, and have terrible things done to him, the outcome of his story is one of redemption and hope.
The story is one of determination, by both Price and Jenkins, to believe a man could change; it’s one of salvation, as Widner accepts the help that is offered to him and proves that he can change. It’s a brutal journey, through fire, trouble, violence, and pain; but in the end, it’s one that leads to hope for the future of what we can do when we break the cycle of hate.