Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

United Kingdom/United Kingdom/Switzerland 2014
Directed by
Jonathan Glazer
108 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Under The Skin (2014)

Synopsis: A mysterious woman (Scarlett Johansson) and her accomplice lure man to their death on the streets of Glasgow.

English director Jonathan Glazer adds to his small but high quality directorial CV (his previous films were Sexy Beast (2001) and Birth (2004) with this chilling and opaque film, a kind of David Cronenberg and David Lynch meets Danny Boyle and Stanley Kubrick mash-up.

For the most part the film oscillates between banal sections in which Johansson’s unnamed protagonist drives around the proletarian streets of Glasgow (Glazer has directed a best-of Blur video) inveigling shell-suited males into her van and hyperstylized sequences in which she takes them back to her “place” where their ritualized death occurs. There are a few permutations on this basic scenario before the woman starts to lose the plot, so to speak, and wanders semi-catatonic into the countryside where…well I won’t say anymore.

Under The Skin scores high in the road-less-travelled stakes. Glazer is clearly film literate director and there discernible connections, if not direct allusions, to the films of the directors already mention as well as, no doubt, many others. It is however is a film that possesses it own identity as a enigmatic, immersive experience, powerfully aided by Daniel Landin’s cinematography, Mica Levi's sonic score and a highly effective sound design (the opening sequence has it all it in the respect).

It is also quite a disconcerting experience for the male viewer. The unidentified woman is the ultimate predatory female and her murderous actions are prefaced by chatty exchanges made all the more scary by the fact that their outcomes seem completely unmotivated or of interest to her.  There is no ghoulish satisfaction to be had from these deaths and it is only when some interest seems to develop (after she picks up a deformed male) that  things start to change for her.  And periodically the woman’s motorbike accomplice makes an appearance. It’s perplexing but intriguing stuff which meant that for me the film’s ending was a let down, in that it provided a too easy relief from the eeriness of the formidable interweaving of realism and horror that sustains what has gone before.  

After many years of playing it safe in packaged sexpot roles, Johansson has been making more challenging choices of late, oddly enough, all with a sci-fi theme. Her character here belongs with the computer operating system in Her and the drug-altered superwoman of Lucy. There also is a disarming physical frankness to her physical appearance that feel much more suited to the self-conscious young lady who made her debut in Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World some twelve years ago.

With its inscrutable stylishness, Under The Skin is a film that some will rush to endorse too easily, others dismiss for the same reason. I'm impressed but not entirely convinced and want to see it again but I’m going to look at Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth before I do.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst