Movie Review: Under the Skin


Sometimes, you like a movie. Sometimes, you’re not sure if you should like a movie. Sometimes, you only like a movie because you feel like you’re supposed to like that movie. Under the Skin seems to fall under that last category.

Under the Skin is the latest film from British director Jonathan Glazer. I am told by people smarter than me that he is a very good director. Some might call him a visionary. While I haven’t seen Birth or Sexy Beast yet, I can get on board with those claims. The guy knows how to frame a shot and tell an entire three act story using barely any dialogue. This is a pretty big feat considering the fact that most sci-fi movies today are bogged down by exposition.

In Under the Skin, the characters have no names and undefined intentions. The plot itself may be a great mystery, but it feels almost secondary in the grand scheme of things. Scarlett Johansson plays some form of alien life form who dons a beautiful female body and an accent and starts praying off unassuming men. So yes, she is basically the villain from Men in Black II.

Under the Skin might best be described as an existential coming-of-age story where the question being answered is “who are we?” instead of “what is up in the night sky?” In fact, Glazer doesn’t even seem that interested in what life is like on other planets. It is never once revealed where this alien came from or why she is here. This is about an alien who has the chance to see life through a person’s eyes and through that, she learns about what it means to be human.

Maybe that is part of my biggest problem with the film. I personally love science fiction that builds a unique and original world. I like when the production design creates as much of a story as the characters do. Glazer has no interest in that. Because of that, I cannot fault him. Under the Skin would only be a failure if it were attempting to do just that. However, Under the Skin would rather be 2001: A Space Odyssey than Star Wars.

At times, Under the Skin is able to achieve that. From the Hitchcockian music to the innovative low budget visual effects, it is often mesmerizing. Johansson, meanwhile, does so much with so little. A much talked about nude scene in the film is not there for pure shock value. Here we are, watching an alien try to figure out her body in a way that both scares and frightens her.

Yet, there is still something a little cold and uninviting about Under the Skin. I feel the same way about Under the Skin that I once felt about Drive, a similar film that I have since warmed up to: I admire it more than I love it.

Brain Farts From The Edge

  • Parts of this film are essentially a Dali painting come to life. Does that make me sound smart?
  • The A24 logo is probably my favorite in the industry right now. Also, while I don’t love every film that they make or distribute *cough Spring Breakers cough* I love the fact that they take big creative risks for big rewards.
  • This film deserves a second viewing. I will probably regret many of the things I said in this review in the future.
  • Now, just a few more days until Guardians of the Galaxy finally comes out.