Belle

 

Dido Belle is a sore thumb in the midst of upper class society in the late 1700s, and perhaps naturally, the film Belle which recounts her life is equally discernible within the world of the period drama.Amma Asante’s take on the 18th century period drama places its focus slightly wider than usual matrimonial troubles and uses her mixed race female protagonist as a way to explore not only the difficulties associated with gender or class but also race. Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance as Dido Belle captures all aspects of life which her situation causes and in doing so marks herself out as one to watch.

The film is inspired by of the life of Dido Belle, the illegitimate and mixed race daughter of an admiral. Although Dido is acknowledged by her father, brought up within the privileged world of her uncle Lord Mansfield, and given a considerable inheritance, she is still restricted by the colour of skin. We get a brief overview of Dido’s childhood but the main focus of the plot is the outcome of the Zong case, which Lord Mansfield, as Lord Chief Justice has considerable input in.

Although the film heads towards this decision about the state of slavery as its climax, this doesn’t mean to say that it becomes one track minded. The contrast between the slaves killed on the Zong ship and this heiress who are at once connected and detached from each other creates a viewpoint which is neither as an oppressor or a comrade but something far more ambiguous. The race issues allow a fresh light on what seems to be a well-trodden era, as does the use of a woman with perhaps a higher social standing than expected as our way into the issue. What the film does very well is that although slavery becomes a very large part of what Belle explores, it does not become the sole idea within it. Indeed the discussions on slavery do not overshadow the other social issues of the time such as class and gender and the film plays a very careful balance between these social constructs and barriers recognising that there were many ways to lack freedom.

The film has wider ambitions in its thematic material, namely the ethical consequences of turning human life into property, and uses the example of the Zong as way to discuss this issue in every form it takes. Despite this heavy duty subject matter, the film does not dispense with the typical romantic notions of the genre. Instead it allows this to become another way to reflect on the topics under discussion. Overall it is only the plot which allows the film to do something different, other than that it is a standard period drama with an interesting focus point but a very enjoyable watch.

Exhibition

Joanna Hogg fits nicely into the list of recent British female directors with a flair for realism. Her latest film Exhibition, depicts the lives of an artist couple as they make preparations to sell their house. Exhibition follows along similar lines to her previous film Archipelago, even containing another Tom Hiddleston cameo after his stunning turn in that story about a family trip to the island of Tresco. The same style and touches are apparent in these two films, but where Archipelago’s drawn out awkward silences took place mostly between people, Exhibition plays out these silences in solitude.

The film is a snapshot into the lives of two artists who live together in a Grand Designs style house, but work separately and on different floors. The house itself becomes very important in the film, not only is it the part of the plot, as our story revolves around their preparation for selling. But it also comes to reiterate aspects of their emotional states. The house, with its many floors and ever-reaching spiral staircase emphasises humanity’s ability to ‘reach’. It marks the boundaries of creativity and the film questions that idea of space, what it comes to represent and the home as both comforting as well as alienating.

The film itself focusses a great deal on this idea of solitude, and the separation of two people who life under one roof but can’t connect anymore. This disconnection results in a number of scenes which portray a character in isolation, in this way often dispensing with the human interaction which Hogg excels at, in favour of a more thoughtful and silent musing; not always to great effect. Exhibition is full of wonderful snippets of intrigue and conversation, but fleshed out with these slow and drawn out images of a person’s internal thoughts. Whilst the crafting of these scenes is clear and incredibly good, you can’t help but miss the moments when the two protagonists were connecting, either metaphorically or literally.

Overall the film is certainly a carefully crafted and cleverly constructed depiction of life which is at once incredibly relatable and utterly alienating. Although it doesn’t always work and you can’t help but long for the images of human interaction which Hogg is so good at, the film is about separation. The portrayal of individuals who are once together and disparate forms the tale of the film and in this way perhaps the silence is unavoidable.

The Wind Rises

‘I am retiring’ designer Caproni tells Jiro in one of his dreams, just one of the many references to the passing of creativity in what is Miyazaki’s swansong, The Wind Rises. Caproni may be referring to aeroplanes, but in the lines ‘aeroplanes are beautiful dreams, engineers turn dreams into reality’, the word ‘films’ would do just as well. The Wind Rises may be about planes, but the references to the length of a person’s creativity, and the ability to turn a dream into something tangible, is exactly what Miyazaki has always excelled in. These references succeed in acknowledging the retiring of a director who has managed to capture the hearts and the imagination of so many.

The film is based loosely on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, an aviation engineer whose dreams to make something aesthetically beautifully was tempered with issues of money and necessity, (again something reminiscent of the filmmaking process). The necessity in The Wind Rises is a military one, as the encroaching war means that Jiro’s talents are put towards making bomber and fighter planes. Indeed eventually the plane Jiro was responsible for was used for the Japanese Kamikaze campaigns of the Second World War, something which, as Kamikaze translates at ‘spirit wind’ or ‘divine wind’, hangs heavily over the whole film.

Despite this dense subject matter, the film is uncannily Miyazaki, and in typical style the political machinations form the backdrop for the love story which takes centre stage: a story about Jiro’s love of aeroplanes, and the woman in his life, Nahoko. Jiro’s calm and un-impetuous nature means he takes a step back from the immediate political upheaval, instead becoming the eye through which the audience observes, unbiased, and from a distance. Opening with the quote from Paul Valery, ‘the wind is rising… we must attempt to live’, the film immediately sets up its focus. This is a film about a coming storm, not about being in the eye of one, and in that way, the war is only spoken about retrospectively towards the end, and from a dream. Although there is no question about its impending arrival, the film is about the living in between, and becomes a story about hope.

This uplifting and dreamlike aspect of the film, which counters the increasingly bleak context, is made explicit in the magnetic animation of it. It looks beautiful, the stark colours of the Japanese cherry blossoms and surrounding countryside provide a striking backdrop to the story, mimicking the ongoing events. It is stunning and edenic throughout the scenes of blossoming romance, whilst the dark and miserable German weather, causing Jiro to turn up the collars of his bulky overcoat, are images reminiscent of early film noir.

The Wind Rises depicts a story of love in the midst of impending doom, flagging up the contrasts between tragically prophetic exclamations of ‘Japan will blow up’ and marriage proposals. Jiro’s love of aviation, which is the core of the film, comes to represent this contrast directly, and we are told ‘airplanes are beautiful, cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.’  Miyazaki’s final film is a beautiful meditation on what films do best, portraying an image of the power of human imagination and our capacity to dream.

Frank

The papier mâché mask of Frank starts out as a slightly intimidating image of wide eyed interest. The large blue eyes and slightly open mouth present a permanent expression of innocent confusion. By the end however, the smudged makeup of the night before, and the duct tape holding it together tell a very different tale. The film seems to wear a similar mask of its own and unfolds in very much the same way. The early innocent optimism and buoyant humour is replaced by fissures in relationships and the initial excitement gives way as deeper issues come to the fore.

The film takes inspiration from the real life Frank Sidebottom, the stage character of Chris Sievey who wore an almost identical head during his performances. The screenplay comes in part from Jon Ronson’s factual account as the keyboard player in Sievey’s band. Like Ronson’s other screenplay, The Men Who Stare at Goats, it merely dabbles with the truth in order to tell a story which encapsulates so much more than a simple, straightforward biopic could. Jon Ronson’s experiences are portrayed in Domhnall Gleeson’s character Jon, an aspiring musician and keyboard player who was in the right place and the right time and is recruited as the new keyboard player of the eccentric ‘Soronprfbs’ because he brought something ‘cherishable’ to the band. Jon then embarks on what turns out to be a year long retreat to rehearse and record the album in what resembles a Captain Beefheart style mindset.

Indeed it is not only the Frank Sidebottom myth that is dissected here, but the presence of musicians such as Captain Beefheart are clearly felt in the story. Exploring the long standing cliché of the links between creative genius and mental illness, the focus of Frank becomes far more universal than a single musical figure. Believing that Frank’s talent stemmed from a troubled childhood Jon didn’t have, and assuming the other members of this eccentric, yet highly innovative band all too suffer from mental health issues, Jon gradually discovers that the stereotype may not have a huge basis in fact.

Despite the rather large mask, Michael Fassbender portrayal of Frank is a marvel. With the facial expression completely redundant, Fassbender has to resort to his physicality and his voice in order to transform a papier mâché head into a real three dimensional character – something which he certainly succeeds in. Frank is both highly complex and incredibly charismatic, a trait not easy to portray when your face is frozen into one expression. Scoot McNairy’s Don bemoans early on that he wants ‘to be Frank’, which at first glance seems like an entirely strange longing. Fassbender’s performance however creates a character who is utterly captivating and charming; the type of person who can make life both more interesting and more difficult. It is this reason why people gravitate towards him and indeed the ensemble cast presenting a similar collection of eclectic characters. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Clara is attached to Frank, to the point that she does not want to share him with anyone else. Her clear dislike towards Jon, as he attempts to introduce Frank to a wider audience, manifests itself as anger and bitterness and creates some of the most hilarious moments of the film. McNairy too is excellent as a caricature of a troubled soul struggling to flourish creatively, and all this collective chaos is watched on by Gleeson’s overly keen Jon, whose attempts to give the band a more prevalent social media presence. All this contributes to the humour of the film.

After all this is a tragicomedy, and the weightier issues are countered by the laugh out loud black comedy that runs throughout. In the end, Frank is a darkly funny yet ultimately poignant exploration of the psyche attached to creative genius. It tackles and yet disposes of all the clichés attached to the image of a tortured artist and in the same way manages to collide head on with difficult issues concerning mental illness and suicide. The mask of Frank uses a dual application, both representing the liberation and the restriction of the character. Frank himself manages to be at one point entirely unique; it is a part of this incredibly interesting and charismatic man. At the same time it represents more than itself and manages to create an anonymous figure that we can all relate to, giving this story universal application and appeal.

Blue Ruin

Think ‘revenge thriller’ and what generally springs to mind is a Schwarzenegger esque figure with a vast amount of weaponry or the dulcet tones of Liam Neeson reminding you that he ‘will find you’. At the very least, you assume that protagonist will be someone who looks comfortable inflicting pain. Although still fitting nicely into this genre of revenge thrillers due to its plot, there is not a whiff of the Liam Neeson type about Blue Ruin. In fact the protagonist of this film doesn’t look at home weilding a gun so much as positively shocked to look down and see it in his hands. Indeed much of Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin contradicts the usual genre conventions, but that is what makes it what it is; a redefinition of a genre which was veering towards caricature, into something lean, gritty, and above all things, heart-stoppingly thrilling.

The film begins with an image of the life of outsider Dwight Evans. He is living out of his car, breaking into people’s houses for baths, and eating out of bins. What we then get is a mysterious and chilling conversation in which a local police officer breaks the news to Dwight that his parent’s murderer is going to be released from prison. What then follows is Dwight’s attempts at revenge, and a visit to his estranged sister, and throughout all of this, very tiny details of the plot are slowly revealed. The film is careful to never give too much away, the reason for revenge is clear at the beginning; his parents were murdered. But as the information does gradually seep out, what is revealed is a complex intertwining of lives, in which life and death create tightly knitted bonds.

Despite absolutely dripping in graphic and brutal violence, Blue Ruin does nothing to glamourise it. Indeed the nature of the film’s brutality is that violence only ever breeds more violence, particularly in a society which places so much emphasis on the right to bear arms. The plot is not a story of a one-hit revenge, but a never ending back and forth of increasingly bloodthirsty attacks. The ever resilient blue Pontiac, the ‘Blue Ruin’ of the title, which becomes as much a character as any, also signifies the cyclical nature of a revenge saga. It is passed to and fro, until eventually we end as we started and you cannot help but feel like Sisyphus as the rock inevitably falls downwards again.

Macon Blair’s Dwight embodies an ordinary man desperate for revenge. He doesn’t cut an imposing figure, or look remotely capable of extreme violence. What Jeremy Saulnier’s film does however, is explore how grief can push someone over the edge and completely alter them. Blue Ruin is a thrilling tale of just such emotional extremes and is a truly masterful take on a classic genre.

Tracks

Having grown up in a house in which Lawrence of Arabia features very highly on a list of heroes, it is not hard to see why the desert has such a magnetic pull to those wanting to explore. Clearly thinking along the same lines, Robyn Davidson, bored with the hustle and bustle of city life, decided to walk the Australian desert, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean; a journey which in total is nearly two thousand miles. Requiring serious planning, the first part of the film chronicles these early stages of preparation and the first thing to do is to find some camels. The film moves with considerable pace through the two or three years leading up to the actual journey but once the journey itself starts, the pace of the film slows right down, as for what everyone is calling a ridiculous and mad journey, the immediate dangers are limited. Instead Tracks is a film about perseverance, and the difficulties arise from the sheer stamina needed to complete the physically tough and mentally draining six month trek.

Often literary accounts of journeys are not measured by a physical distance, but by an inner one; making it not an account of a newly discovered land, but a sentimental journey of inner discovery. Refreshingly, Robyn Davidson’s account really is a story about her, the camels and the incredibly gorgeous and mysterious terrain of the Australian outback. Opening with the following quotation from Robyn: “And there are new kinds of nomads, not people who are at home everywhere, but who are at home nowhere. I was one of them”, the film tells you immediately that this is not going to be an over wrought, sentimental drama about someone finding themselves. Instead what we have is a stirring yet unsentimental account of a journey, in which the physical distance, not the inner one comes to the fore. Certainly, with a scarcity of characters, a lot of the information comes from a voiceover of Davidson, or flashbacks into her childhood. But once the logistics and the origin of the journey are done with, the voiceover disappears and the script gives way to the external voice; Robyn’s conversations and actions. There is no denying however, that a journey of this magnitude will create a certain level of emotional stress, but except for one blunt and honest exclamation of ‘I’m so alone’ to National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), the only insights we get are through Davidson’s actions.

Any emotional turmoil is balanced perfectly with the smatterings of humour and few human relationships the film offers. Davidson’s friendship with her guide through the holy lands Eddie, played by Roly Mintuma, is one conducted via gesticulation rather than words. It provides an upbeat and positive interlude as Eddie’s good humour is infectious, extenuating the fact that this journey, whilst hard, is not born out of a negative mind-set. Equally Adam Driver’s Smolan is similarly cheerful, much to the distain of Davidson, and their more ambivalent relationship is equally fun to watch as his keen attempts at friendship are often met with a ‘fuck off’.

But it is the character of Davidson herself who takes centre stage here, as it is after all a solo undertaking. Mia Wasikowska’s portrayal of this women attempting to shun human interaction to be alone with her dog and newly acquired camels is wonderfully honest. Her affinity with the animals, which she seems to prefer to people, is clear. It is a truly physical performance in which both her strength and vulnerability is captured simply through her movement, and in particular the ever so frequent act of walking.

The film is a wonderfully truthful account of someone’s desire to do something bold and different, not, as she describes, to prove something, but simply because, well ‘why not?’ The landscape the film portrays is stunning and disquietingly unsettling at the same time. For anyone who has ever fantasised about a similar exploration, the film embodies the magic of a voyage into the unknown and plays beautifully on all your dreams of adventure and faraway lands.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve recently acquired some new glasses and my vision is no longer impaired, but it seems like 3D technology is coming along in leaps and bounds. All questions of its necessity or implications for the future of cinema aside, I am slowly, albeit very slowly, coming round to the idea that, used sensitively and in certain situations, 3D can be great fun; something which is exhibited perfectly in the slow pace accentuated shots of Spider-Man jumping of very tall buildings and zooming along the Manhattan skyline which punctuate this film.

Marc Webb’s first Amazing Spider-Man film was an origin story, so a lot of time was given over to the creation of Spiderman, and setting up Peter Parker’s backstory. With all that out of the way, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was able to get straight into the real business of defeating as many baddies as can be squeezed into the films 140 minute run time. There really were villains a plenty, whether it was the misunderstood fanatic who has become charged up, or the abandoned rich boy who is not only taking on Spider-Man, but the tyranny of a sinister multi-million dollar corporation. The film crash banged and walloped its way through one huge set piece after another, giving the audience no end of spectacle.

This is not to say that the human drama was forgotten however. The beauty of a superhero movie whose protagonist is barely out of high school and still lives with his aunt is that there are plenty of relatable jokes about laundry and such. Indeed one of the reasons this film works so well is its delicate balance of high octane drama with the banal kitchen sink mundanity of the superheroes alter ego; helped no doubt by the chemistry between its two leads. The relationship dramas between Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker are just as fun as the life threatening battles, as they bring a gentle humour and a youthful heart to the film, which something like Batman, with its distant and intense protagonist, doesn’t have.

Now that it’s got the origins and explanations out of the way, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can fly full pelt in every direction. It is a deliciously exciting romp which keeps you entertained right through to the X-men clip at the end of the credits. Leaving you heartbroken and exhilarated in equal measure is not a feat I thought many films could manage. With its cheeky humour, nail biting fight sequences, and the ever developing mystery of Peter’s father and how Spider-Man came about, this Marvel outpouring has got plenty more in it and I’m definitely staying along for the ride.

Calvary

In a film that pits the dark cramped confines of the confession box against the vast open landscape and indeed in a film titled Calvary, place and space were always going to be important. The sweeping shots of the sublime Irish countryside and the deserted outstretch of beach, which represents the film’s ‘Calvary’ provide the antithesis to the insular and claustrophobic village life in which everyone knows everyone. In Calvary John McDonagh has created a mesmerising picture of the religious man, and the film’s comic interludes allow him to explore the complex religious ideas and implications of the Catholic priesthood in a way that is nuanced and measured.

“Killing a priest on a Sunday. That’ll be a good one.” In an unapologetic punch of an opening sequence, a man confesses to Father James Lavelle the sexual abuse he suffered as a young boy at the hands of a priest. His choice of revenge is not to kill a bad priest, and the one in question is dead already. No, instead he chooses to take providence into his own hands and as a result Father James is given a week to set his affairs in order.  In a reversal of dramatic irony, he admits to his superior that he knows who it is who is going to kill him, but the audience doesn’t. What follows is an introduction to the possible suspects as the audience frantically attempts to match the voice to the character. In typical McDonagh style, this bleak plotline is balanced with black comedy and the script delivers this contrast between the hard-hitting and the humorous with typical aplomb, never allowing the comedy to alleviate the emotional impact.

The daily rounds of the priest bring us into contact with each of the ensemble cast, and each of their tales of woe. But instead of enlisting the help of Father James, the village seems hell bent on parading their sins in front of him, and the oppressive nature of this environment, which seems only to mock, makes it hard for him to maintain his composure. Not that Father James is portrayed as a perfect character, he is a priest with integrity certainly, but, as we slowly piece together, one who has as much to beg forgiveness for as anyone else. Brendan Gleeson’s turn as Father James manages to bring out every aspect of this complex character and deliver them with a force that will set the audience reeling. We knew he had a talent for comic timing but it is the emotional weight that Gleeson brings to this central role that makes it something breathtaking.

From the off, Father James is set up as the Christ-like figure of the film. Calvary plays on this idea of sacrifice and suicide and, recovering from an attempted suicide herself, James’ daughter describes how Christ was included in a list of famous ones. “I think thatthere’s too much talk about sins and not enough talk about virtues,” Father James tells his daughter on the Sunday his death is pencilled in at. For a film so intent on finding sin in every character it seems strange to lament the lack of consideration given to virtue. But perhaps this is the very question the film ponders. In the end though there is no need for the film to lay out explicitly what it is exploring as indeed it is the tight interweaving of so many ideas that makes it so enthralling.

There always seems to be something very physical about a religion that regularly takes in the blood and body of its saviour, and Calvary takes this idea and runs away with it. The visceral and the physical take centre stage in a film where religious symbols are mingled with butcher’s carcasses, adultery, suicide and cannibalism. These in turn give way to the raw and elemental, in which the earth, sea and fire take in and destroy the man-made.

Calvary is a film of huge breadth and the absolutely perfect balance between the black comedy and the tragedy gives way to an intricate and harrowing drama. It is a layered character piece with each story pulling you in a different direction, making you question and re-question constantly. The film hangs heavy on you. It will invade your mind and make you return to it again and again to re-live the thought provoking yet hilarious story. To feel again the powerful sense of emotional disquiet, and to wonder again at the beauty of a piece that can make you do both those things at the same time.

Starred Up

Starred Up shares many of the qualities we have come to expect from the gritty British prison drama. But with the interesting father/son relationship at its core and a stand out performance from Jack O’Connell, there are many things about this film that make it worth a watch.

The film follows Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) as he is ‘starred up’ (having been moved to adult prison despite being only 19) and ends up in the same wing as his estranged father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn). Eric ends up here due to his excessively violent nature, something which we become a party too very early on in the film as Eric almost fatally beats up someone trying to give him a lighter. The result being that Eric finds himself in solitary confinement, and strikes a bargain with the prison guards that he can go back to the wing as long as he attends group sessions headed by Oliver (Rupert Friend). Many ups and downs follow; there are still outbursts of violent rages but the group sessions get steadily better until Governor Hayes, who we gradually realise is the real criminal of the film, wades in.

This has all the conventions of a gritty prison drama and for most of the film it does play out that way. But the central father/son relationship means that the film is not unremitting; at times it actually lets up and despite the violence it is not pessimistic.  The film gently balances the extreme violence against the budding friendships and progressive group therapy and although it is not got any of the sentimentality of an against all odds success story, there are small rays of hope in the form of human relationships, the friend, the lover, the father.

For the most of it Starred Up is ambivalent to its central character and while it does not shy away from portraying the violent nature of Eric, it does not encourage you to hate him. As with many films of a similar genre, the film plays out like a Greek tragedy, and akin to someone like Achilles, it is Eric’s bursts of anger and pride that become his fatal flaw. The film owes much to O’Connell’s portrayal of said character, and the depth at which he tackles it is overwhelming. Always appearing to be seething beneath the surface and overflowing into fits of terrifying anger and maniacal laughter, it is a full-bodied performance which gives the audience insight and empathy into what could have easily been an alienating protagonist.

The supporting roles are equally brilliant, with Ben Mendelsohn doing what he has proven to do so well in the past few years, where we have seen him as scarily and violently unpredictable characters.  Starred Up also sees Rupert Friend doing what he does best and in his role as Oliver, the volunteer prison psychologist, he is both approachable and meek, whilst at the same time managing to convey the tough underside that lurks beneath.

It may not be the first of its kind, but there is something to be said for a prison drama that puts human relationships first. The gritty realism is mingled with the familial bonding, allowing two people to reconnect despite dire circumstance. The result is a film with a soft inner to its tough outer shell, and with the knockout performance from Jack O’Connell, Starred Up well and truly delivers.

Under the Skin

The science fiction use of the alien-human interaction always carries the weight of its metaphorical significance. Jonathan Glazer’s appropriation is no exception, and Scarlett Johansson’s seductive foray into humanity allows for some introspective soul searching of our own.

Although there is no explicit mention of the extra- terrestrial, the eerie opening sequence which results in Scarlett Johansson undressing an immobile Scarlett Johansson sets our otherworldly alarm bells ringing. That, and the complete absence of anything resembling a recognisable human emotion. The first half settles into a repetitive pattern as Laura, the alien Scarlett Johansson drives around Glasgow on the lookout for men to lure to her home. What happens then is an eerie sequence in which the house we entered has fallen away and left us in pitch black unfamiliar surroundings, in which Laura glides over what the men sink and disappear into. The uneasy sequences are all set up in the same way and after the initial shock of what takes place, are always accompanied by a feeling of dread, as, by an unfortunate twist of dramatic irony, the audience knows exactly what is about to happen. Completed with a truly enthralling animated sequence, which sets every hair on your body on edge, the whole set up is unsettling, not least because it is jarringly juxtaposed with a world which looks and sounds so familiar. Glazer gives us an alien who shops in Republic and Claire’s Accessories, who offers to drive people to Tesco and who rides the bus. The contrast of the banal and familiar with the extraordinary series of events she causes and the ever present chilling soundtrack creates an atmosphere so mesmerising and strange that for days afterwards it will creep up and tap you on the shoulder.

The second half of the film breaks out of this pattern and after a Lacan style moment in which Laura becomes aware of her own reflection, she abandons the safe haven of her van and the populated city to venture out into the wild Glaswegian countryside on her own. During her incursion into human interaction, she experiences both the best and worst that humanity has to offer. Set against the jaw-dropping backdrop of the natural and sparsely populated landscape, Glazer questions the natural state of mankind as we see Laura fall into situations which both give you hope, and make you despair about the state of man.

Under the Skin belongs to Scarlett Johansson; she carries us through the film and despite the sparse dialogue, has the audience hanging on to her every move. We watch in horror as she lures these men to their desperate fate, but gradually will her to run faster as in the end the roles are reversed and it is she who falls foul of her kindness to strangers. The whole film is a truly immersive experience and the consistent and reoccurring soundtrack never lets up, keeping you constantly on the edge of the confusing awestruck and horrified state that it creates.

Intriguing from start to finish, the film is a dazzling yet unrelenting exploration of everything that it means to be human. Under the Skin reminds you of the power and majesty of a cinematic experience which takes you so far out of yourself that when you look down on a world that you thought you knew so well, it seems very very away.