An alien engaged in a process of capturing and cataloguing human beings embarks on a journey to understand what it means to be human.
Scarlett Johansson flexes her indie credentials in this low budget British film that does its utmost to resist the pigeon hole. Part dark sci-fi, part metaphorical human drama, the first act is Invasion Of The Body Snatchers by David Lynch and the second a kind of Cronenberg-esque reinterpretation of Starman. Under The Skin attempts to be a mirror held up to humanity, inviting the viewer to re-examine what it is to be human and how we perceive each other. Johansson’s alien is initially unquestioning in her role, using her appearance as a honey trap to entice an assortment of all-too-willing men into her collection. But when she encounters a man suffering from a physical deformity who needs and experiences genuine affection, she undergoes a catharsis that leads her to begin a journey of self discovery.
The finale is a meditation on sexual identity and self when this newly learned feeling of intimacy actually means something and suddenly becomes something of value not to be violated or taken from her. A cynic may point out that the plot is little more than one of those scenes in Star Trek when a soft-focused alien hottie in a beehive says to Kirk “What is this Earth thing you call love…?” and it does share Cronenberg’s penchant for cold detachment meaning that the story fails to engage on an emotional level.
However some striking imagery and an interesting and thought provoking script makes Under The Skin transcend the limitations of its genre to create something rather unique.