Watching Under the Skin is rather like wading through tar while wearing earmuffs... 

By Kathleen Sargeant

 

Directed by Jonathan Glazer, and based on Michael Faber's novel of the same name, Under the Skin charts the movements of a single female protagonist, played by Scarlett Johansson. The film teeters on the edge of silence and motionlessness throughout and, though Johansson is captivating at times, her performance alone is not enough to engage even the most patient of audiences. Johansson’s character spends the duration of the film driving around Glasgow and the Highlands, picking up male hitchhikers, whom she seduces and kills. Her motivation is unclear, and the identity of a motorcyclist who is occasionally in her company remains unknown. Under the Skin is a deliberately stilted film. For one, it’s deeply incongruous – certainly for Scottish viewers – to see Scarlett Johansson driving around Glasgow in a Transit van, often interacting with broadly-spoken non-actors. For another, the film deals in apparent metaphors; the female protagonist lures the hitchhikers to a dark room where they appear to sink into the floor. Glazer is also unafraid of long establishing shots of grey Highland countryside or crowds in Celtic scarves. Under the Skin, is a film designed to make you question, but the filmmakers do not burden us with any definitive answers.