Entertainment » Movies

Men Of Hard Skin

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Oct 15, 2019
Men Of Hard Skin

Teenage Ariel (Wall Javier) lives in a large rambling farm outside of Buenos Aires with his machismo father (Claudio Medina) and older sister (Camila Diez) after his mother had left some years previously. He's a major disappointment to his father, as he is a quiet, sensitive boy who shows no interest in helping run the farm.

Ariel prefers to volunteer at the local soup kitchen attached to the local church, but that is also because he has been a willing participant in sexual abuse by Omar the Priest (Germán Tarantino) having confused their hook-ups for romantic encounters. Omar is actually conflicted about his own sexuality, and goes off to a Catholic retreat to try and resolve his feelings; but whilst there, meets an older priest who has just been exposed in his own parish by the parents of a boy he had regularly abused, which seems to confuse him even further.

Although Ariel is upset by Omar now rejecting him, he soon moves his attention to someone closer to his own age: Julio (Juan Salmieri), a bisexual laborer who works on the family farm. Ariel's father spots them making out in the barn one day, and beats Julio up before firing him. Ariel's father then recruits a young whore to make a man of Ariel.

She, however, is more than happy to take the father's money and eat a decent meal, going along with Ariel's request to pretend that she has taken his virginity. It is also she that introduces the young boy to the man who will one day fall in love with him.

This dark tale takes on a different angle on the classic pedophile priest story, showing that Ariel was a willing participant who was led to believe that their relationship went beyond being merely physical. The reality, however, is that this is very sadly typical of these scenarios, and that Omar is a serial offender who can somehow combine his religious faith with his complete lack of morals.

The fact that Ariel (brilliantly performed by young Javier) is torn between the toxic masculinity of his overbearing father and the priest, both of whom exploit the young boy in different ways and leaving him desperately looking for love of any kind and some physical affection.

This compelling rather dark coming-of-age tale from Argentinian filmmaker José Celestino Campusano has no possibility of ending well for any of its central characters — most of all, sadly, for Ariel.

"Men of Hard Skin"

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.

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