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Under the Skin

Director: Carine Adler


Already acclaimed and honoured at many festivals, Carine Adler’s powerful and assured Under the Skin is one of the most impressive feature debuts in recent British cinema. At once moving, disturbing and very stylish, Adler’s film delves deep into the female psyche as she focuses on a woman whose startling reaction to her mother’s death poses broader questions about family relationships and female sexuality.
Nineteen year-old Iris (Samantha Morton) is stuck in an emotional void after the untimely death of her mother (Rita Tushingham). Her frustration is exacerbated by her combative relationship with her older sister Rose (Claire Rushbrook), of whom she has always been jealous. In her confustion, Iris desperately seeks emotional fulfilment through a series of casual sexual encounters which only seem to add to her distress. Her relationship with her sister grows even more edgy and confrontational as she spirals into self-destruction.
Under the Skin is imbued with a moving, affecting sense of melancholy so strong that watching Iris stumble through her grief is at times almost unbearably painful. The visual style of the film (shot by long-term Ken Loach collaborator Barry Ackroyd) and its anonymous setting (Liverpool in fact) both add to this sense of dislocation. But what sticks in the mind most are the performances through which the sisters’ different responses to loss are captured.

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