Under the Skin is the kind of strange, imperfect, lovingly crafted film that goes down a treat at film festivals, but will divide audiences upon general release.
For example, during our showing a number of people walked out, while a similar number stayed right up until the end of the credits. Why did the film provoke such differing reactions?
Under the Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as a mysterious woman with an english accent who drives around Glasgow in a white van trying to seduce local men. Having lured a number of men backs to hers, she begins to have second thoughts about what she is doing and begins to question who she really is.
One of the more creative elements of the film sees the main character interacting with real Glaswegian men as they use their own unique brand of Weegie charm to win over Johansson. There’s something almost poetic about the Glaswegian dialect, and these scenes contained some great moments as chalk met cheese.
Despite this, the pacing of he film did seem a little off, and while the choice was obviously deliberate, to create the sense of space and disconnect Johansson’s character was feeling, for me it was a misstep. Yes, it does give the film it’s own weird, unique feel, but I do think a more tightly packed first half could have achieved just as much without alienating the audience quite so much.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Under the Skin to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is a similar kind of sci-fi film which doesn’t lay everything out on a plate, is spacious, but yet causes us to lean in rather than zone out with its narrative choices.
Thankfully the last act of the film brought me back on board and showed that the film was more than “Scarlett Johansson meets Glaswegian Men with vaguely amusing consequences”. It deals the human spirit, our sense of self, and our need to genuinely connect with others.
It is a film first and foremost about nakedness. Not merely of the body (although that is important too), but also of our soul. Of course within a loving relationship the two are intrinsically linked; a marriage works best when both parties allow the other to see every part of them.
For me Under the Skin was like spending the evening with an intelligent, slightly awkward, but well-meaning new friend. There were times when I was checking my watch and thinking about the drive home, but also times when I was swept up with the tangent I was being taken on.