Under the Skin Gets, Er, Under The Skin

By Niall McArdle


I’m still a little unnerved from watching Enemy the other day, so perhaps following it up with Under the Skin is asking for trouble.

I’ll be brief: this is a brilliantly-made, unsettling, strange, wonderful, and maddening film. 


Forgive the obvious lazy film critic in me here, but the film gets under your skin.

I don’t know what it’s all about, really, and I can’t decide if it’s really good or really pretentious … or both. I think it’s about our need for physical contact and love, but it may also be about how some people cannot handle those things. If David Cronenberg adapted a J.G. Ballard novel and then handed it off to Stanley Kubrick to direct, it might be this film.


It’s about an alien who takes on the form of Scarlett Johansson* and trawls the streets of Glasgow, picking up anemic-looking men and seducing them, sort of.

It’s from a novel by Michael Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White), and it’s directed by Jonathan Glazer (Birth, Sexy Beast).


It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re prepared to for a science-fiction film that appeals to the intellect and to the hidden shadows of your subsconscious, then you’ll be in for a cinematic treat.

It has long passages of silence and very little dialogue, and a very creepy score and sound design.



Visually, it’s stunning. Not beautiful, necessarily, but stunning.

And it’s by far the most interesting thing Johansson has ever done. Her performance is as strange and withdrawn as the film. You can see her growing into the character as the film progresses. She’s been heralded as a rare talent since she announced herself to the world in Lost in Translation, but I think it’s fair to say she’s been coasting for a while. No more: she has come of age here.

Verdict: Four Oily Black Pools Out of Five

* Mental Note: Increase my blog hits by getting everyone who comes here by searching for “Naked Jennifer Lawrence” to search for “Naked Scarlett Johansson”



6 thoughts on “Under the Skin Gets, Er, Under The Skin

  1. I really fancy this one, so thanks for the 4-pool review Niall. I loved ‘The Crimson Petal and The White’, and I am intrigued by the Cronenberg comment too. One for me to look out for, I reckon.
    Best wishes, Pete.


    1. my thoughts exactly. then again, a lot of people didn’t know what to make of 2001 when it first came out. I suspect that in years to come Under the Skin will be regarded as a sci-fi classic of a very particular kind


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