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Movie Review: Under the Skin

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Writers: Walter Campbell (screenplay), Michel Faber
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay

Synopsis: An alien seductress preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland.

After a re-watch and some thought, some viewpoints are not exactly the same. While the film has some flaws, there are some fascinating themes explored here. Much of my words expressed in the video are still valid, but our latest Extra Film segment explains more. Listen to that podcast here.

Under the Skin is an extremely polarizing film that features an amazing performance from Scarlett Johannson. While this film features some interesting themes, it’s also methodical, mundane at times and feels like a bunch of random brushstrokes. The second half is much more intriguing and the exploration of becoming human and what that means is pretty fascinating. While it may work well for some, for me it was more hit or miss. The visuals are pretty amazing and the score is creepy and harrowing.






InSession Film founder and owner. I love film. Love art. Love how it intersects with our real lives. My favorite movies include Citizen Kane, The 400 Blows, Modern Times, The Godfather and The Tree of Life. Follow me on Twitter @RealJDDuran. Follow us @InSessionFilm.

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  1. powbamboom

    JD, you talk about how “critics” will celebrate this while taking shots at mainstream film but you have to take into account that they are not, and should not, be judged by the same rubric. I think an important distinction you have to make is in what I would call art versus product. Something like Captain America 2 is a product. It is literally designed to fulfill certain psychological needs for its audience. Action, action, comedy beat, conflict resolution, action, action, blatant sociopolitical subtext, action, action dangling mystery. Every once in a while that product will overlap with art (as I would say it largely did with Nolan’s Batman series), but 99% of the time, that’s not the case. What Glazer is doing here is decidedly more niche and, yes, artistic.

    I don’t know about you but I’m a big fan of modern art. I would much rather see some strange painting of bright red streaks over 1940s newspaper or something that I can’t quite put my finger on than a Victorian-era portrait of some snooty old lady or even a painting of some realist farmscape. For me, art is something that lends itself to challenging its audience. That particular brand of realism doesn’t challenge me as an audience member.

    So am I thinking of Glazer’s Under the Skin as more of an art installation than a product? Absolutely. But, like Enemy, it leaves me with something to think about, process, dissect, and actually try to wrap my brain around rather than just watching robots punch each other for two hours. But to each their own.

    • InSession Film

      Hey, I’ll explain this further with our podcast this week, but my problem with mainstream “critics” goes much further than this film. I feel like many of them already have their mind made up before they see it and let public “norms” dictate how they react to a film. It’s not like that all the time, but in general, that’s how I feel, which is why I said it that way.

      And DON’T get me wrong, I love modern art cinema too! Honestly, my biggest fear regarding this review as that people may mis-interpret what I’m trying to say within it. I loved Enemy, thought it gave me a lot to chew on. Her was my #1 of last year. There are many, many art films that I love. Under the Skin just didn’t give me anything to grasp or engage with, although, I do like it’s themes. Too mundane for me. But like I said Johansson was great and I liked the score a lot here too. I was mostly using this film as en example of something that just tends to drive me nuts with film expectations.

      Also, to be fair to this film, this is one of those movies that really needs a re-watch for me to fully latch on to. For this week’s Extra Film podcast, I will give it a re-watch and come in open minded with a guest who I know loved it. So we’ll see. For me, it’s not whether it was an art film or not (even tho I used that to further another idea), it was just too mundane for me. But I’ll give it another shot.

      Hopefully that makes sense, but I appreciate the comment and I’m always up for the debate.