I probably shouldn’t be reviewing this right now. Director Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In is a film that requires one to really sit back and think about whether they liked it or not. I equate this a lot to something like Melancholia where I didn’t like it on first viewing, but it stuck with me for several days before I declared I did like it. I don’t think I’ll have those same thoughts with this one. I think this film will be one where I say “Wow, that was weird.”
Plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is keeping a woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) locked in a room of his house. Never able to leave, Vera has tried numerous times to kill herself and is forced to wear a bodysuit. Robert is attempting to develop a new type of skin that can’t be harmed and Vera seems to be the guinea pig. When the secret of who Vera is and why she’s kept locked away is revealed, Robert will be forced to confront his own dark demons.
I’d heard all the rave reviews about this movie and I’m generally a fan of Spanish film. The Skin I Live In tells one messed-up story about several individuals who are far from being angelic. Robert is not only keeping a woman held captive, he’s also holding some resentment after the suicides of his wife and daughter. The movie doesn’t do much to tell us the direction of this story, in fact the plot isn’t unfolded until about twenty minutes in when the maid’s son shows up and precedes to rape Vera. A side note, 2011 seemed to be a bizarre year when rape was presented very frankly (another example was the remake of Straw Dogs). An R-rated film can show rape, yet Shame gets an NC-17 for consensual sex…go figure!
Anywho, I think this movie just left me flabbergasted at how melodramatic it all was. I should say this is my first Almodover film and maybe I’m not used to the stories he presents but so much tragedy happens one after another it just seemed ridiculous. Not only is there a subplot involving Robert’s wife and her running away with someone and committing suicide, we then see the poor daughter who witnessed said suicide battle with mental illness before being sexually assaulted herself. The movie relies a bit too much on sexual assault and while it does pay off in the end, it’s just a lot to take in that makes you question “how the hell is all this important to the story?”
The twist is nothing short of…unexpected? The sheer amount of questions I had already multiplied and while I figured something like that might happen, I sure didn’t think the movie could pull it off. It’s not nearly as melodramatically played as I expected, but it turns the movie into a revenge thriller I didn’t really want.
I really have to let the film sink in. Suffice it to say, The Skin I Live In isn’t for everyone but if you do watch it, prepare to have your mind screwed with.
Grade: C+ (for now)
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.