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The Skin I Live In Review

By Beth McCabe

Skin Creep


With over a century of film behind us, it's increasingly hard to shock. We've seen it all by now. At the heart of it, it seems that there are only so many variations on a finite number of themes that will sell tickets. Remakes are rampant and horror movies rely more and more on special effects than actual storytelling. Every once in a while, though, you get a real gem. "The Skin I Live In", Pedro Almodóvar's latest, is just that: creepy, shocking, brilliant.

Antonio Banderas is suave as ever as Robert Ledgard, a widowed plastic surgeon. His wife was the victim of an accident that burned her alive years ago, and she hung on for a while before throwing herself out a window. Of course, her disfigured body landed right in front of their young daughter, who was playing in the yard - which then profoundly traumatized her. Ultimately (years later), she chose to end her life in the same way. After all of this, it's safe to say that Dr. Ledgard has some issues of his own. Who wouldn't?

And he seems to be taking them out on Vera (played by Elena Anaya). Vera is lithe, luminous, and locked up in Ledgard's imposing (but oh so stylishly decorated) mansion. How did she get there? Unclear. Why is she there? She's Ledgard's lab rat - the recipient of a complete skin transplant (several, in fact) as the doctor experiments on her to create the perfect skin: resilient, flawless, and of course utterly resistant to burns. Her world is a single room and she spends her days doing yoga in a special bodysuit he makes her wear. She also bears a striking resemblance to Ledgard's late wife.

It's all very strange.

As the story unfolds, strange becomes horrifying and the reveal is indeed shocking. As the details of Ledgard's life unfold, Vera's story and true identity become clear and it's not really anything you'd expect. Faithful Marilia, who has looked after Ledgard from infancy, is ever his accomplice, but there are those who would stand in their way. With the unexpected appearance of Zeca (Marilia's son), things start to unravel.

Similar to 2006's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer", "Skin" takes an obsession, warps it with perversion and spins a captivating story around it. Once it's clear what has happened here, you want to be horrified - and you are horrified - but you're also drawn even further into the creepy nuance of Ledgard's twisted scheme. Did he really do this unspeakable thing? As hard as it is to believe, it's much harder to turn away. The season of horror movies is upon us, and while "Skin" may not fit the bill of a classic film of this genre, you'll be hard pressed to find anything more horrifying than this.

What did you think?

Movie title The Skin I Live In
Release year 2011
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary "Skin" takes an obsession, warps it with perversion and spins a captivating story around it. It will truly make your skin crawl.
View all articles by Beth McCabe
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