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In depth reviews, ratings and recommendations for films from both modern and classic cinema.

Under the Skin (2014)

Postby ctaulbee » Apr Wed 12, 2017 4:01 pm

Under the Skin (2014)


Cast: Scarlett Johansson, D. Meade, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Dougie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden

Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Music by Mica Levi        
Cinematography by Daniel Landin
Based on the Novel by Michel Faber

Running time: 108 minutes

Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language.




Scarlett Johansson plays a mysterious woman in "Under the Skin,", luring men into a fatal mating dance, a brilliant science fiction movie—more of an "experience" than a traditional story, with plenty to offer about gender roles, sexism and the power of lust. It adds a pretentious gloss to the old story about men's fear of women, and women's discomfort with their own allure. As you watch films of this type, you think about what they're trying to say, or what they "mean," or on a much simpler level, what the heck is happening from one minute to the next. But at a certain point you realize that on the simplest level, such films are saying: "Here is an experience that's nothing like yours, and here are some images and sounds and situations that capture the essence of what the experience felt like; watch the movie for a couple of hours, and when it's over, think about what you saw and what it meant or did to you."  

The film is a odd and sexy, troubling and touching, frustrating and mesmerizing, ephemeral and haunting film by Jonathan Glazer.  A sexy, brooding, thrilling film it swims with moments of beauty and horror, and few films will make you think so much. The popularity of his previous two features — Sexy Beast and Birth —  grew from being re-watched. The  question, for now, is whether his third will get the same treatment.  For those who haven’t read the novel — or any reviews — it may take most of the running time to discover just what the hell is going on, and even then your conclusion may not be clear. If you crave certainty in your cinema then you are unlikely to enjoy it.  If however you allow yourself to join Johansson’s journey and discover "with" her it’s far more likely to be a enjoyable experience.


The film in a broad sense is about the awakening of a coldly efficient alien who adopts the body of a twenty something hottie and roams the cold of Scotland for men to pickup and comes to wonder if there’s more to her life. It’s like inverted curb-crawling, as she drives around seeking strangers for apparent seduction, the men generally feeling they’ve won the lottery when a little small talk leads to a lift from, well, Scarlett Johansson. It’s only when they’re alone with her that they realise their luck has actually run out and the harsh understanding floods in, this will be their final one-night stand. It’s like Species directed by Gus Van Sant.


Johansson is quietly brilliant as the girl who fell to Earth, she is confused, repulsed and fascinated by what she finds. Her eyes constantly searching for clues, as her face seeks the right expression, trying to become comfortable in her new skin. It’s hard to imagine anyone being any more appropriate for the part than she is, blending innocence and inquisitiveness with a sexuality that’s both irresistible and monstrous. And though her much-proclaimed sensuality is essential, there’s more at work here than just natural allurement or the temptation of a body beautiful — the experience is psychological as much as physical, for she has to portray something alien growing a human soul. Still the extent of the character’s transformation, the question of how much empathy is truly universal, is to be debated.

She's the woman imposter, yet she's also "just" a woman, or "just" an alien creature. She is everything and nothing. There are times when the film seems to be too freighted with meaning, as if inviting scholars to write thesis papers analyzing its masculine and feminine symbols. At other times it seems to be deliberately mocking such impulses, giving false clues to literal-minded viewers who insist on trying to "solve" movies like equations. But the film's disturbing finale goes beyond such simplistic "this=that" analysis. First it removes all doubt as to who the heroine is—what her "secret" is. Then goes beyond those questions as well, so that you feel a real mix of despair and wonder not unlike what you'd feel at the end of a melodrama, or a Grimm fairy tale whose ending, however dreadful, is not depressing because it feels right.  

I intended to watch "Under the Skin" several more times before I reviewed it. Life has gotten in the way of that. No matter: I'm confident in saying that it's on my list of 2014's best movies. Is it a perfect film? Probably not. It could be too much of this, or too little of that. Oh well time will sort out the particulars. But I do know that the movie's sensibility is as distinctive as any I've seen.

Simply summed up "Under the Skin" is hideously beautiful and has a life force of it's own.


EFX Rating35 stars


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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby alienmem » Apr Wed 12, 2017 4:16 pm

I think it's a masterpiece
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby ctaulbee » Apr Wed 12, 2017 4:21 pm

Me too, easily on my top 10 list for 2014 :)
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby topmeasure » Apr Wed 12, 2017 4:27 pm

I missed this movie in 2014, but it just got on my must watch list.  :)
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby Fogdude » Apr Wed 12, 2017 4:28 pm

I was a bit surprised by it. Not as impressed as some, but I did enjoy it.
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby VincentLupo » Apr Wed 12, 2017 7:47 pm

Getting closer.  U is at the end of the alphabet.
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby chouette » Apr Thu 13, 2017 3:30 am

It looks art house, is it?
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby ctaulbee » Apr Thu 13, 2017 3:33 am

Yup it sure is :D
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby chouette » Apr Thu 13, 2017 3:41 am

Yeah, thought so. Then you know what I think of it, lol
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby bankska22 » Apr Thu 13, 2017 8:32 pm

Missed this one!
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Re: Under the Skin (2014)

Postby chouette » Apr Thu 13, 2017 9:07 pm

bankska22 wrote:Missed this one!


You might want to watch baseball instead Banks, I know I would. :D
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