Under the SkinTitle: Under the Skin (2013)
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Runtime: 108 minutes

You’ve probably only heard of Under the Skin if you’ve always wanted to see Scarlett Johansson naked. That, or you follow the independent film scene, and heard of a really weird story about an alien in Scotland. Either way, I can’t tell you if this film is for you or not. What I can share, though, are my experiences, which is the best way to sum up this film.

I could give you the vague plot from IMDb, or another source, but I’ll just give you the same setup as the film does: a random guy on a bike finds a body by a lake and takes it away to a room. Inside this room the body is stripped by a naked Scarlett Johansson (she plays both characters), and then she ventures out in a van, and picks up men who are lonely and have no one to go home to.

If you’re looking for an actual plotline, you might be let down. The film runs for two hours, and offers under one hundred lines of dialogue, and that’s me being generous with the count. The point is that there isn’t a whole lot being said in Under the Skin. The hardest thing to follow is that they use real, local men from Scotland, and their accents are very strong which left a few audience members grumbling that they couldn’t make out what was being said.

The acting is pretty straightforward, and I really enjoyed Johansson in this weird little role. She may or may not be an alien, and she’s doing something with these men. She plays this weird unfamiliar entity rather well with blank stares and softly spoken lies.

There’s a scene near the end that offers a really weird look at everything, and things go differently than normal. It kind of hit me, and I still can’t place my finger on whatever that was.

Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast and Birth) directs, and while I didn’t care for any of his other films, I have to say he really rolls with what he’s got here. The unsettling soundtrack just builds so much odd tension that I was sucked right into the film, and the two hours flew by. Meanwhile, a lot of people in the audience were wandering through mundane tasks like texting, snoring, or even filing their nails; all of which happened during my viewing at the theater.

See, Under the Skin is an art house film through and through. I’ve seen very few films that leave me questioning just what the hell I saw, but I think that’s the point. I can actually see myself rewatching this, hoping to find something else, like a clue, maybe, as to what the meaning behind all of it is. This film isn’t for everyone. It can be considered slow, boring, and pointless, but yet I was drawn in from the opening moments. This is a film that actually made me think, which rarely happens anymore. If you’re going into this just to see Johansson nude, then you should just save yourself some time and try searching Google instead.

three_and_a_half_stars

Chris Ranson
Film Critic at Cinefessions
Chris was raised on horror films, which gave him a deep love for the genre, especially its most quirky and offbeat titles (like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). This love quickly turned into an obsession for cinema in 1997, when he decided he needed to see every major theatrical release. Video games (JRPGs), reading (anything but fantasy), and reality television (Survivor) are just some of his other passions. He's been with Cinefessions since 2013, and has been writing reviews all over the internet for the past twelve years.