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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Scarlett Johansson
Jeremy McWilliams
Michael Moreland
Paul Brannigan.
Directors
Jonathan Glazer.
Screenwriters
Jonathan Glazer
Walter Campbell.
Running Time
108 minutes

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Under The Skin
Alien sex fiend


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Plot
A nameless, wide-eyed mystery woman (Johansson) drifts across Scotland, seeking men for apparently grubby encounters, before beginning to question the purpose of her existence — and the value of those around her.


Review
Under The Skin
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There’s a sexy, brooding, thrilling film to be made out of Michel Faber’s compelling novel of lust and death. This isn’t it. But, as frustrating and bewildering as Under The Skin is, it swims with moments of beauty and horror, and few films make you think so much. You can debate whether this is a recommendation.

Jonathan Glazer’s previous two features — Sexy Beast and Birth — grew upon being rewatched. The imponderable question, for now, is whether his third will reward repeat viewing or simply require it, as it feels in places impenetrable. Those who haven’t read the novel — or any reviews — may take most of the running time to discover just what the hell is going on, and even then the conclusion is unclear. If you crave certainty in your cinema then you are unlikely to enjoy it. Allow yourself to settle beside Scarlett Johansson’s malleable lead, though, and to ask questions with (rather than of) her, and it’s likely to be a more invigorating experience.

Under The Skin is — broadly — about an awakening, as a coldly efficient worker comes to wonder if there’s more to her life and that of those around her. It is — more specifically, spoiler-ifically — about an alien who adopts the body of a twentysomething hottie and stalks a cold, grey Scotland for men to pick up. It’s like inverted curb-crawling, as she drives around seeking strangers for apparent seduction, the blokes generally feeling they’ve won the lottery when a little small talk — establishing, usually, that they won’t be missed — leads to a lift from, well, Scarlett Johansson. It’s only when they’re alone with her that they realise their luck is actually bad and — in a startling visual space it’s impossible to effectively convey — this will be their final one-night stand. It’s like Species directed by Gus Van Sant.

Johansson is quietly brilliant. As the girl who fell to Earth, she is confused, repulsed and fascinated by what she finds — eyes searching for clues, as her face seeks the right expression, trying to become comfortable in her skin. It’s hard to imagine anyone being as appropriate for the part — and as brave — as her, blending innocence and inquisitiveness with a sexuality that’s both irresistible and monstrous. And though her much-vaunted sensuality is essential, there’s more here than natural huskiness or a body beautiful — the exposure is psychological as much as physical, for she has to portray someone — something, really — growing a soul.

The extent of the character’s transformation — the question of how much empathy is truly universal — is to be debated. Does Under The Skin stretch past its initial view of humans (reminiscent of the old nihilist tattoo: “Meat”) to something more comforting — and should it? Perhaps the film simply reflects yourself, how you feel about our journey from dust to dust, ashes to ashes. It perpetually feels like it’s threatening to develop a more accessible story, pregnant with expectation that doesn’t deliver, at least not in any conventional sense. But as infuriating or anticlimactic as you may find the ending, it floats in the memory, this feeling that we’re all at sea, tossed by the waves, reaching out for someone — anyone — to help. Save us.


Verdict
Odd and sexy, troubling and touching, frustrating and mesmerising, dull and haunting. A film by Jonathan Glazer.


Reviewed by Nev Pierce

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Under The Skin
Empire Star Rating

RE: NOT ARTY - JUST FARTY.......

Got to agree with the naysayers here... I managed to stick it out until about half an hour before the end but gave up there. At that point I was barely paying any attention. The film is no doubt visually beautiful; it reminded me of Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void for its bleakness, and use of soundtrack to create a very uncomfortable atmosphere. But a film needs more than to just look and sound good for me. Too many things went completely unexplained, too much was done purely for the sake of image... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by neilarmour at 15:18, 11 December 2014 | Report This Post


NOT ARTY - JUST FARTY.......

Boy those aliens were dumb. They traveled millions of miles across the galaxy to get to planet Earth for a little bit of honest body snatching and not one of them even thinks to bring along a simple taser gun. It sure would've made Scarjo's job a lot easier - think of all the money she could have saved at the petrol pumps! Directed by some bloke who thinks he's the next Stanley Kubrick, Under the Skin is a film that will confound and confuse in equal measure but left me as cold and dead eyed as ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 16:36, 29 August 2014 | Report This Post


wow. can't stop thinking about it.

Since I saw this film, I can't stop thinking about it. I understand why some people would hate it, but personally I was blown away. This is a brave film for a film star of Johannsons stature; excluding the nudity, this is almost art house and she must have known would polarise audiences and reviewers alike. You're never completely sure what's going on but some of the scenes in the house are genuinely very creepy and by the end of the film my jaw was on the floor. Not many films make a lasting... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by howiet1971 at 18:47, 22 August 2014 | Report This Post


Spot on I recon

I haven't read Empire's review. I never do. But I do agree with the star rating. This is a beautiful film with a great soundtrack, but is that enough? For me no. It just felt like 2 hrs of very clever and beautiful images. Perhaps I'm being too shallow in expecting a bit more substance. Unlike some I didn't find this pretentious but it was just missing something. I wont be watching it again but I'm really pleased I did. And I will still be excitedly waiting for the next work from Glazer. The man... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 17:00, 21 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Under the Skin?

its not for everyone but then what is these days The shadows of Kubrick and Roeg loom alrge but that's no bad thing and its great to have Jonathan Glazer back as well 8/10 ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 17:53, 14 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Under the Skin?

I was one of three in the cinema for this and the other two walked out after an hour. I'm still struggling what to make of this and the motives behind it? Why, for example did Scarlett Johannsen take the part when it could have been played by anyone as she is an A list Hollywood star juxtaposed against a cast of nonentities. Did she do it because she wanted to work with Jonathan Glazer and spend six weeks in the pissing rain in Scotland? It's a film that wont travel too well as some of the acce... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Brother L at 15:47, 09 April 2014 | Report This Post


Under the Skin?

What can I say... There definitely are no vital organs. It drags on and while Johansson is no doubt beautiful, her acting is some what... how to put it... crap and her nude scene (along with the other nude scenes in the film), completely uncalled for. This is the first film I have sat through in the past year and have witnessed several walk outs through out. Understandable as it tries far too hard to be an artsy fartsy type of movie where a more direct approach would have been more appealing. It... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by J_BUltimatum at 21:30, 24 March 2014 | Report This Post


Fascinating DRAMA!!!!

Thoroughly enjoyable mystery sci fi drama concerning the strange goings on of an alien being in the form of ultra sexy Scarlett Johansson, stalking hapless and desperate men using her van. This is a creepy, fascinating vision from director Jonathan Glazer, it moves slow sure, but every frame and sequence has a mesmerising quality to it which makes it all the more fascinating to watch and endure. We watch in a state of deep trance as our strange alien /female hybrid deliberately stalks and... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 18:30, 24 March 2014 | Report This Post


Extraordinary... obviously

See this film. It's only losing a star because I think there was room to explore a couple of the themes more in the round but really, damn, go see this. Exceptional. Also pick up some Michel Faber if you've never read him, especially his short fic. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by thespyglass at 02:30, 23 March 2014 | Report This Post


Extraordinary... obviously

See this film. It's only losing a star because I think there was room to explore a couple of the themes more in the round but really, damn, go see this. Exceptional. Also pick up some Michel Faber if you've never read him, especially his short fic. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by thespyglass at 02:28, 23 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Empire's Hall of Shame, continued

Um....nothing special really. Okay, great weird atmosphere and look to some scenes, but film got overly repetitive, even tedious, and lost it somewhat around half way through. They could have done so much more with this, but then all that style could also have gone into a better, more original premise. I cannot believe some people are comparing this to The Man Who Fell To Earth, it's not at all like it including quality. 5/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:57, 18 March 2014 | Report This Post


Empire's Hall of Shame, continued

Empire fucks up. Again. No wonder the last time I spent a dime on the rag was about 20 years ago. And no, the adverts on the web page have zero influence on me either. With all the endless barrels of shite out there, they give this 3 stars, just like Dredd. Oh, didn't they give you a behind-the-scenes exclusive? If Empire was around 30 years ago they'd have under-rated BladeRunner, The Thing, and The Shining like all the other fucktards at the time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jonny24 at 00:46, 18 March 2014 | Report This Post


Cannot comprehend...

Basically I saw this today and still can't sum up what I thought of it in words. I can say it's definitely one of the best films of the year so far (one of two starring Johansson) and is not a film to be dismissed as pretentious. The film is nuanced on so many levels and should not be taken for granted. There is so much to debate, discuss and ponder that I can't quite express it yet. Tonally it is nightmarish but emotionally it is all-encompassing...it's really difficult to describe. And much li... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FoxDhoj at 00:34, 18 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Under The Skin

Known for his work in commercials such as the infamous Surfer ad which he did for Guinness, director Jonathan Glazer made his film debut in 2000 with the British crime flick Sexy Beast. Following his 2004 strange “Kubrickian” drama Birth, there was a ten-year gap from making films and return to advertisements and music videos. Now Glazer has return to the big screen with his loose adaptation of Michel Faber's darkly comic science fiction novel Under the Skin. Under the skin of an attractiv... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 19:53, 15 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Much, much better than this review suggests

L: fiercehairdo L: horribleives L: fiercehairdo I saw this at the London Film Festival last year. It was the best film I saw from a very good selection. Frankly to give this 3 stars is very unfair. It is rightly getting 5 star reviews elsewhere. I thought it was a sublime piece of film making. Deeply unsettling and unlike anything else out there at the moment. Empire has a bad habit of strongly backing very conventional movies and then leaving genuinely groundbreaking... More

Posted by horribleives at 17:47, 15 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Much, much better than this review suggests

L: fiercehairdo L: horribleives L: fiercehairdo I saw this at the London Film Festival last year. It was the best film I saw from a very good selection. Frankly to give this 3 stars is very unfair. It is rightly getting 5 star reviews elsewhere. I thought it was a sublime piece of film making. Deeply unsettling and unlike anything else out there at the moment. Empire has a bad habit of strongly backing very conventional movies and then leaving genuinely groundbreaking... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 13:51, 15 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Much, much better than this review suggests

L: horribleives L: fiercehairdo I saw this at the London Film Festival last year. It was the best film I saw from a very good selection. Frankly to give this 3 stars is very unfair. It is rightly getting 5 star reviews elsewhere. I thought it was a sublime piece of film making. Deeply unsettling and unlike anything else out there at the moment. Empire has a bad habit of strongly backing very conventional movies and then leaving genuinely groundbreaking films out to dry. Unfort... More

Posted by fiercehairdo at 12:55, 15 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Much, much better than this review suggests

L: fiercehairdo I saw this at the London Film Festival last year. It was the best film I saw from a very good selection. Frankly to give this 3 stars is very unfair. It is rightly getting 5 star reviews elsewhere. I thought it was a sublime piece of film making. Deeply unsettling and unlike anything else out there at the moment. Empire has a bad habit of strongly backing very conventional movies and then leaving genuinely groundbreaking films out to dry. Unfortunately this is a case in... More

Posted by horribleives at 06:16, 15 March 2014 | Report This Post


Also think this is better than Empire's review

It's strong, creepy, stunning, horrifying, with a wonderful score. It's unmissable, so 5 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Daaiiisy at 01:18, 15 March 2014 | Report This Post


Also think this is better than Empire's review

It's strong, creepy, stunning, horrifying, with a wonderful score. It's unmissable, so 5 stars. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Daaiiisy at 01:18, 15 March 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Under The Skin

I was trying to think of a pithy descriptor for Under the Skin. Cronenberg's Man Who Fell to Earth? Nah, the trouble with that is you could see at least being within DC's oeuvre. To sum up the aesthetic clash and distinct "otherness" of Jonathan Glazer's film, I'm going to go with igh's Cat Peopletarts with (and mostly adheres) to grotty British urban visuals, shot in many instances guerilla style and free-form amid unsuspecting Glaswegians. This also somehow manages to tap another astra... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 21:24, 14 March 2014 | Report This Post


Much, much better than this review suggests

I saw this at the London Film Festival last year. It was the best film I saw from a very good selection. Frankly to give this 3 stars is very unfair. It is rightly getting 5 star reviews elsewhere. I thought it was a sublime piece of film making. Deeply unsettling and unlike anything else out there at the moment. Empire has a bad habit of strongly backing very conventional movies and then leaving genuinely groundbreaking films out to dry. Unfortunately this is a case in point and this lukewarm r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fiercehairdo at 20:45, 12 March 2014 | Report This Post


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