The Skeleton Twins (2014) – With spoilers and trigger warning

Rating 15
Length 1h33
Release 7.11.2014
Director Craig Johnson
About When Maggie visits her brother Milo, who has attempted to commit suicide, she asks him to come live at her home for a while. Soon, their broken relationship starts to become stronger.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Apple TV (rental)

Trigger/spoiler Warning: this review, much like the film itself, deals with suicide and sexual assault of a minor.

The Good

  • For its theme and covered topics, this film is incredible charming. It approaches its narrative in a raw, unflinching way. It doesn’t live within a particular genre. Instead showing how life is full of black, white and shades of grey.
  • Both Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are incredible. Proving once again, that comedians can do wonders with serious roles, that they have range and that some times it is acceptable for a straight actor to take on a gay role without hitting every stereotype. (Not that anyone should make the assumption of Hader’s sexuality. Even if he has been married and in relationships with women in the past, present or future.)
    In fact, it is Hader who steals this show for me. There are things that are not explicitly said, but Hader’s performance certainly suggests. That, actually, is a beautiful thing that will allow others to identify with the character and perhaps gain something meaningful from watching.
  • It’s not explored, but the film does touch the surface of the hereditary aspect of mental ill health and well being. This is perhaps something that hit me the hardest, in a soothing and cathartic way. Some people who do experience mental ill health and episodes of psychological trauma are not able to watch films like these, let alone enjoy them. Myself, I find comfort in the openness, the unity and the expression. It helps to know it’s something others can go through and it helps that there are films like this that those who perhaps never experience the other end of the spectrum can empathise in a safe way.

The Bad

  • Viewers who perhaps have never experienced a form of childhood trauma might struggle to even like the two protagonists. I personally really struggled with the character of Maggie and how she responds to some of Milo’s actions and personality traits. I’m also aware how Milo’s character could struggle to be liked by viewers. They’re both selfish and destructive and to not leave this film without feeling like you’ve wasted your evening is to accept that you need to check your judgement at the door when the film starts. You won’t gain any fulfilment of this film unless you do.
  • I don’t like the message it sends when Maggie chastises Milo for reconnecting with a man from his past. It is revealed that the man he’s been in contact with is a former teacher who Milo had a relationship with when he was 15.
    Maggie is angry. She blames Milo. I understand the anger, however I do feel the film didn’t address the issue in the best way. Milo was 15 and had lost his father to suicide only a year earlier.
    Milo was already in crisis when he was groomed by this teacher. Regardless of Milo’s perception of the relationship, it was another trauma. It was abuse. Even when an adult, and he attempts to reconnect, it is an abusive and toxic relationship.
    I know Maggie’s response to the reveal says more about her, than it does about Milo however I can’t help but feel there should have been an acknowledgement that this is not the response you give to someone who is as vulnerable as Milo is in that moment.

The Ugly

  • It’s film trope time. *Spoiler*: Maggie has an affair. Although, if you don’t see that coming from the moment this film starts, you really need to go get your eyes tested.
    Anyway, there’s a scene in which she ‘attempts’ to call off the affair and the blokes response is to undress her and initiate sex. Okay, fair enough. There is an attempt to make clear her resolve is weakening, if not non-existing from the moment the scene starts. However, and this is the rub, she says “no”. Multiple times. For fucks sake! I know what the film is trying to do and Kristen Wiig makes it “clear” (at least my reading of the scene) that she doesn’t mean ‘no’ and she does indeed kiss him back.
    I’m also aware that those who perhaps would take this as a “oh, when a woman says no she really means yes” excuse would not be watching this sort of movie, but this trope needs to be retired in the films they *do* watch. If that’s the case, it has to be challenged in every movie.
    Am I saying that this sort of things doesn’t happen in real life?! No. I’m sure there are women out there that do exactly what unfolded in the scene. However, they’re not my concern. My concern are the women who say ‘no’ with its intended purpose. By allowing these scenes to be present in our media, it confuses the message, it confuses some people and it gives the entitled an excuse to try.

Final Thoughts

A dark, charming film that addresses what it feels like to be a fuck up because of childhood trauma.

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