Under The Skin – Movie Review

Under The Skin (presumed by most as ‘Species’ set in Glasgow) is not the most natural of handoffs for followers of its lead, Scarlett Johansson, coming off her near simultaneous billing in blockbuster Captain America 2.

It’s Sci-Fi, it’s Horror, the story is told predominantly through haunting imagery and with minimal dialogue and a truly memorable and unnerving score. It’s the cinematic equivalent of being played a beautiful minimal techno record after you’ve said you’ve enjoyed ‘Baby One More Time’.

That’s certainly the feeling I got from the audience I watched it with; predominantly boyfriends who had dragged girlfriends to see Winter Solider and who were now returning their partner’s patience by making a reciprocal compromise with Under The Skin. Indeed, assigned gender roles and expectations is a theme that ran throughout the film for me.

We follow Scarlett’s character as she prowls the streets of Glasgow looking to ‘procure’ unattached men. To what end and why is never fully explained and in a lesser film would be the entire focus. Under The Skin avoids this by keeping the interactions Scarlett’s character has distant and uninflected – we are left to draw our own conclusions about her journey and what (if anything) her encounters with males means to her.

More pertinently we are left to consider her treatment at the hands of men in general.

As ‘something’ masquerading as a female is her treatment atypical of what women in general undergo?

For me, the film approximates Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Tootsie’ as set in Glasgow more so than Species. We see Scarlett’s character, collected and in control, but only in so far as she conforms to accommodating the male gaze.

Her final fate comes about only after she refuses to acquiesce to these demands, leaving the viewer wondering how much scope, other than sexual, an alien or an android masquerading as a woman could possibly have in the world.

Beautifully shot and with a perfect accompanying score, my only gripes are that some scenes linger a bit too long and some of the seduction scenes repeat beats without adding any new information, although these are minor.

posted by admin at 12:16 am  

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