The Skin I Live In (2011)
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)
Kristen Lopez View All
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.
Good review you have here. I enjoyed the structure of this and rather enjoy it when some things within a film are left to interpretation or leave a few questions hanging there. Although I don’t care for it in the obvious left open for a sequel type way. Pedro Almodovar has been a sort of up and down film maker, but I’ve always liked the fact that his best stuff is weird and playful enough for me to enjoy and appealing enough to pass as a date movie.
I definitely think I made the mistake of making this my first Almodovar film. I didn’t know what to expect at all. As mentioned in the review I really didn’t do the movie justice lol. Thanks for reading!
Since this was your first Almodovar film I should let you know that as concepts go this isn’t that far out there for him. The first film I ever saw Banderas in was an Almodovar film called Tie Me Up Tie Me Down where he plays a young man who kidnaps a female porn star he is infatuated with and ties her to his bed. He’s a complete gentleman though (other than the whole kidnapping thing.) He’s not going to touch her until after she falls in love with him. It’s a comedy.
I’ve heard from numerous people that this was probably the wrong Almodovar movie to start with but I am interested in seeing some of his other work to form a more concrete opinion. I’ve heard of Tie Me Up Tie Me Down, I’m all for quirky comedies, officially got it on my Netflix. Thanks for the recommend!
You’re welcome. That might also not be the best one to start with. There was some controversy surrounding it back when it came out because of the MPAA. His film All About My Mother might be his most mainstream movie, although “mainstream” is a relative term. Talk to Her is a very good film, but it definitely makes you question your earlier feelings by the end (which is why it is good). I have not seen Volver, but it received good reviews. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown has some laughs in it, but Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down is funnier. High Hells and Kika are just okay. I have not seen his other films.
Oh the MPAA…continuing to show how outdated they are since 1975 (I could easily make this blog about my issues with them). My knowledge of Spanish film is limited but if there’s one thing I know, I’m behind on the Almodover craze so I’m thinking I just need to dive in! Thanks for reading!!