I wasn’t sure what to expect from Under the Skin, having heard some incredibly mixed reviews, so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
Scarlett Johansson stars as a woman who drives around the streets of Scotland looking for men who won’t be missed if they, um, go missing. That’s about it, really. We never learn much about her or her motivations, only that as the film goes on, she begins to exhibit unhappiness with her situation and a reluctance to carry on, clearly questioning her previous actions.
I sort of don’t want to say any more about what little plot there is, in case you want to find out for yourself. I think my enjoyment was greater, having gone in knowing little about what actually happens. I will say that it really won’t be to everyone’s tastes: it’s incredibly slowly paced, there’s little action, not much of a story and many long silences and lingering shots that will frustrate many viewers. There are some extremely peculiar images which leave you wondering what it all means, but they’re so nicely shot that I didn’t really mind. I should also mention the wonderful score which sets exactly the right tone, sometimes increasing the tension to uncomfortable levels. By the end I was saying “what in the name of arse did I just watch?” but, I found it strangely compelling in spite of this, and I think I sort of liked it.
Incidentally, I haven’t read Michael Faber’s book which this was based on, but the synopsis shows that there’s a lot more to the book than we ever learn in the film. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s ever seen a film that was adapted from a novel, and while a truer adaptation might have been easier to digest, I still think the film is worthwhile on its own.