This is a film which is very interesting to think about and talk about after seeing it, perhaps more so than while watching it.
The skin is that of Scarlett Johansson, once the child actor in films like The Horse Whisperer, moving to significant adult roles in Lost in Translation, more lately having a mixed career in The I am Man and The Avengers films.
In 2013, she was a significant presence in Her, a character not seen on screen but only heard, the voice for a computerised robot, designed as a companion for a man who invested in this kind of technology.
This time she is, initially, a strange woman who seems to assume the identity of another woman and then is seen driving a van through the streets of Glasgow. She keeps asking people the way, ordinary men in the street, some of whom respond, getting them to get into the van, with lustful intentions which are then seen to be extraordinarily frustrated, becoming surreal as they walk into a viscous pool and are destroyed.
No explanations given. The audience is left to wonder about the relationships between men and women, about seduction, about willingness to be seduced, about sexuality, about the destructive woman.
While this seems eerie and sometimes unreal, there are many scenes of life in Glasgow, contemporary, shops and supermarkets, and discussion about the 2014 referendum for Scottish independence.
There is an interlude at a beach, where Scarlett Johansson sees a couple in difficulties in the water; and the discussion with a man from the Czech Republic – a man who seems ordinary and sincere, but doomed in his encounter. Another interlude involves her asking directions from a man with a disfigured head and face, reminiscent of the elephant man. She interrogates him about his life, loneliness, sexual desires, sympathetically seducing him, but with different results.
The film is based on a novel that takes elements in a different direction with social commentary about life and work in Scotland. Under the Skin, however, just focuses on the woman, her predatory and destructive behaviour, and leaves audiences to ponder all of this, male and female stereotypes and transcending them, and what is, ultimately, alien behaviour.
- Peter Malone, ACOFB
Starring Scarlett Johansson Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Dougie McConnell, Kevin McAlinden, D. Meade, Andrew Gorman, Joe Szula. Directed by Jonathan Glazer. 108 minutes. Rated MA 15+.