Grade: A-

Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay

Subtlety is key in Jonathan Glazer's hard-to-describe thriller about an intrigued girl and her seducing ways with the guys in which she comes in contact. From the piercing and quiet score by Mica Levi and the crystal clear cinematography of Daniel Landin, to the alarmingly bare dialogue written by Glazer and Walter Campbell, Under the Skin is a harrowing tale that is equally hard to watch and impossible to ignore.

The subject of Under the Skin is an unnamed woman parading through Scotland in search of companionship and identity. Scarlett Johansson turns in one of her more interesting performances as the beautiful, but troubled girl. As she continually meets gentlemen in the evening hours and leads them back to her house, she undergoes self-reflection at its deepest. The men, all unknowing of the ultimate demise they are bound to fall under, venture to her apartment in the hopes of a good time. What turns this on its head is the unnerving fear that each man seems to be experiencing as they slowly peer into the woman's home, as if they are wrestling with whether or not to trust her. It's the excitement of the moment that ultimately wins each soul. The woman's own uncertainty to life and its meaning becomes the backstory of a dark and twisted tale. When you place what's really going on, it makes it even more terrifying.

Director Glazer has pieced together an incredible collection of images. The cold and gray images of a regular Scottish society is at once modern and intriguing but also stifling at the same time. It's as if those moments in life when you're surrounded by groups of people, but feel more alone than ever, put to screen in the form of Johansson's searching woman. She peers from male figure to male figure, zeroing in on the next victim. Once they make it inside, the scenery is stripped away and the true puzzling nature of the beast is revealed in its own, quiet, dark way.

There's an interesting commentary to be discussed among the film's themes. The woman is never discriminatory in who she picks, as seen when she invites a young man with a disfigured face to the house for a rendezvous. It's unfortunate that in his first intimate moment with a woman, his world will end. Johansson herself has become quite the sex symbol over the years, which means many men will understandably watch this just to catch a glimpse of her disrobed body. Falling victim in the same way as the men on screen is perhaps a coincidental lesson in what draws people to the deep and dark places.

Each moment in Under the Skin is clearly specific, whether it makes sense upon the first viewing or not. There are moments that are shocking and moments that are unnerving, but it all seems to flow in a way that makes it easy to swallow. Call me weird, but I liked how disjointed and slow-moving the film felt. The lack of dialogue brought it into its own realness and made each moments even that more interesting. It never falls victim to being "weird" for the sake of being "weird," which allows it to be an art piece all of its own.

Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

No comments: