Talk about puzzling and disappointing—“Under the Skin” is this and not much else. What was Scarlett Johansson thinking when she agreed to star in this film? Better still, why did I sit through the entire movie? “Under the Skin” is billed as science fiction, but excuse me if I like my science fiction with a tad more dialogue and exposition.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer and written by Glazer and Walter Campbell based on Michel Faber’s novel, “Under the Skin” is about a female alien who drives around Scotland luring single men into coming with her under a variety of pretexts and then using their bodies… for? Most of the time she drives a white van, but how she learned to drive or get money for gas (possibly money from her victims) is something we have to take on good faith. And don’t get me started on what she does about her clothing. Perhaps aliens don’t give off body odor, but certainly wearing the same clothing for days on end, running through all kinds of muck, surely that would give her clothes an “aroma.” But to give credit where credit is due, the lone amusing scene does answer the question about how/if aliens digest food.
What is good about “Under the Skin?” The photography is breath-taking. When it’s not raining we are provided with some beautiful pictures of Scotland’s countryside. All the scenes are beautifully shot and the score is perfect for this moody sci-fi.
“Her” provided film-goers with just Johansson’s voice. If we didn’t know it before, we learned from “Her” that Johansson has a beautiful, lilting voice. In “Under the Skin” we have the exact opposite…just her body and very little else. To cast her in a movie and have her practically mute is a shame. The little dialogue Johansson speaks is used to draw men in. These men do speak, but their brogues are so thick they are nearly impossible to understand.
As noted earlier, “Under the Skin” has very little exposition, so if you decide to see this film, some of you may be as lost as I was. Who was the man on the motorcycle? What was he all about? An entry in Wikipedia will explain this to you. But if you need “Cliff’s Notes” to understand a film, is it really worth it? My recommendation is to save yourself the trouble and erase “Under the Skin” from your must-see list.