Film Review: Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In

by Echo Xie

I saw the trailer of The Skin I Live In (starring Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya) right before the movie 50/50 (starring Jonathan Levine and Seth Rogan), when every muscle of mine was relaxed and prepared to laugh. So you can imagine my mood.

Basically, it was two minutes of pure weirdness. Imagine:  a bald woman with a mask scrawling on the floor, a creepy man dressed like a tiger chasing her around, a scary looking doctor performing god-knows-what surgery on some poor young boy, an old maid holding a gun… everything you DON’T expect to see in a movie, at least not in one movie.

At the end of the trailer, the title finally raised:  “The Skin I Live In, A film by Almodóvar.” Then immediately I decided to see it. Talk about cultural snobs! Ah!

And I went. It was the strangest cinema experience I have ever had.

The movie The Skin I Live In is the 18th feature film from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. Anyone who is familiar with his work would know he is not afraid of unconventional topics. From his earlier work Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! to his more recognized ones like Bad Education, Almodóvar is known for his candid depiction of sex, relationships, abuse, desire and crime. And yet underneath those themes, he manages to maintain a subtle, fragile and aesthetic presence in all his major films.

This time he is breaking out of his comfort zone.

Somehow The Skin I Live In seems to resonate with B-class horror movies or some experimental films, but it is so much more. It is not only the boldest story I had seen in years, but also an ambitious one. Science, psychosis, a Frankenstein experiment, rape, plastic surgery… it collects elements that are so random and eccentric, and seamlessly links them all together to reflect a deeper and more humane subject – how do you face your past.

Despite its creepy surface, this film is about expectation, beauty, identity, trust, revenge, ethics, and love.

It is such a unique piece, even for Almodóvar.

Up until now I didn’t mention any substantial details about the plot. I even feel guilty to have spilled some key words here, simply because I had so much fun (or horror, depending on how you look at it) watching it without knowing anything beforehand. Every turn of the story was a new surprise. And there were times I was completely shocked.

So here is my advice:

Watch the trailer if you wish (see below), read no spoilers, don’t Google for reviews, just go and see it yourself.

(The poster is from the Sony Pictures Classics’ film The Skin I Live In and is used for promotional purposes.  To see the trailer for this R-rated film, please check below.)

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