Entertainment » Movies

Men Of Hard Skin

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Apr 23, 2019
'Men Of Hard Skin'
'Men Of Hard Skin'  

"Men of Hard Skin" is a very dark coming-of-age story about a teenage boy torn between being exploited by his pedophile priest and his demanding, machismo father.

Teenager 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 has left some years previously.

He's a major disappointment to his father, as he is a quiet, sensitive boy who shows no interest at all 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 he's there, he meets an older priest who has just been exposed in his own parish by the parents of a boy he had regularly abused, and this 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) is 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 and then fires him; then he goes off and 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. She also introduces the young boy to the man who will be the one who really falls in love with him. 

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

The fact that Ariel (a brilliantly convincing performance from young Javier) was torn between the toxic masculinity of his overbearing father and the priest — both of whom exploited the boy in different ways — had him desperately looking for an outlet for love of any kind, and some physical affection.  

This compelling 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. 

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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