Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin Film Review

   Under The Skin could not possibly have possessed a more fitting title – it’s a work of art that lingers in the conscious and subconscious long after its heart-rending conclusion, and one which spends the majority of its running time pressing at the brain and the nerves on the back of one’s neck with equal, tender ferocity.

   An ambiguous, terrifying, sexy and thought-provoking movie which assaults the senses viscerally and cerebrally, it’s a rare movie which inspires hope, lust and fear in equal measure. Fittingly, the theme of the movie is all of these things and much, much more – Under The Skin is a haunting feature about feelings, emotions, understanding and, ultimately the mystery of what it is that makes us human.

   Jonathan Glazer’s third film, a movie which exists in a twilight reality of its own, blends documentary and fiction movie-making techniques as it chronicles the existence of an extra-terrestrial being whom plunders contemporary Glasgow for men to seduce, slay and consume. The black widow here is Scarlett Johansson who delivers a nuanced, career best performance.

   Mere words struggle to do justice to the other-worldly experience which unfolds over the course of Under The Skin. Whilst Glazer's camera lingers over a Glasgow recognisable to all who have visited the city, an eerie, cold detatchment causes the viewer to re-look at everyday scenes one takes for granted - like Johansson's unnamed alien, our eyes observe with the sterile passion of an anthropologist. Shopping centres, nightclubs and street corners, the humdrum of everyday living, appears to us as bizarre, uncanny. Mica Levi's remarkable, erotic score of textured scrapes and siren notes which fall between tones displace us. The world we know so well is presented to us anew - its a strange and fascinating place.

     Glazer's film puts us in the position of Johansson's alien and, in turn, we learn to hold empathy for her. Similarly, we watch the alien's empathy grow - her cold, calculated seductions are slowly replaced by something more uncertain; she is an autodidact who learns to feel and share emotions of those she comes in contact with. Yet, Glazer asks, is being human necessarily a good thing? Sure there is a beauty in the world but there is a heart of darkness among us too.

   Perhaps the great British film of the decade so far, Under The Skin is a film like no other and Glazer has cemented his reputation as an uncategorisable film-maker capable of making cinema like no other.


  1. Thanks for such a well written review Kieron - really enjoyable. I particularly love the part where you describe the audience as being akin to anthropologists. I've been meaning to watch this and seriously even more so after your review!

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  2. Thanks for the kind words Bob!

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