Under the Skin (1997) Poster

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Lovely little movie that stays with you
ctowner116 November 1999
I was surprised at the fact that this movie has stayed with me several days after I saw it. The plot isn't anything special- and the writing didn't really affect me either. But somehow two elements of the movie HAVE remained: Samantha Morton's sweet and strirring performance as a young girl dealing with the pain of a lost mother and the music. I don't know who wrote the score, but it really helps to complement to sort of melancholy mood that embraces Ms. Morton. Ms. Morton's performance, which ranges from joyful, to needy, to desperate, to erotic is powerful. And her rendition of Alone again Naturally at the end of the movie is soulful. Surprisingly, the movie works.
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Stunning Performance by Samantha Morton
Scoo6 December 1999
Although I missed about the first 20 minutes of this when I saw it recently on HBO, I thought it was a very interesting film, with a brave, stunning, sexual performance by Samantha Morton. Quite a departure from her role on Jane Eyre, where I had seen her previously.

The sexuality was real and intense, and her desperation as a woman spinning out of control was effective and touching.

Some of the best acting I've seen in quite a while. And I liked the "out there" eroticism aspect of the film. True eroticism is not portrayed well in movies anymore, at least not in the US, basically because the studios lack guts.

And I liked the fact that the film was written and directed by a woman. The scene where she has phone sex with her lover and tells him what she wants to do to him is stunning, only a woman could have written that! A man would have shied away from depicting a woman's sexuality in such a frank and aggressive manner.
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Samantha Morton's Breakout Performance
loyola9529 October 2001
"Under the Skin" could be simply, though inaccurately summarized as simply the story of two sisters dealing with the death of their mother, with one sister becoming sexually loose as a means of escapism.

But the story runs much deeper than that. Samantha Morton plays the British version of a sexually "used" American male. She frets about calling a lover, she is mistreated when she does. She makes bad decisions in choosing lovers, and loses in the end with most of them.

"Under the Skin" presents a realistic portrayal of how sexual escapism only does so much, how it only paints the faintest of illusions of comfort and companionship. It is only a silkscreen for the real problems of the need for emotional as well as sexual fulfillment as part of companionship.

What makes Morton's portrayal so powerful is its complexity of character. Following her mother's death, Morton's character goes through a series of transformations. First she is the doer, the chooser. It is she who walks out on her boyfriend, she who decides to also cheat on him, she who sleeps with whatever man she wants.

It is Iris, Morton's character who is in control, while her sister Rose is an emotional wreck. She is having a baby, she thinks her husband fancies Iris, she is concerned about her appearance, her weight, and she can't find mum's ashes.

All of this is especially sad because she is mum's favorite daughter.

But then everything changes when Iris is mistreated by several lovers, one of whom physically humiliates and abuses her.

She tries to go back to her boyfriend but finds he doesn't want her. She is left without any money and has no one to turn to except her poor sister.

It is during these series of transformations from power to humiliation that Morton shines. It is no wonder many have called this the film that made her a UK star. It is the film's frankness and realism that is attention-grabbing as well. A true window to the world of random hook-ups. Love isn't very easy to find after all.
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excellent, deeply moving
sashacd15 February 2001
I saw Under the Skin on TV, very late, desperate to go to sleep, but I just couldn't stop watching it, it gripped me completely. It is a film about bereavment, and how different people cope with it. The film is deeply moving, courageously frank, and with a very strong visual style. The whole cast was excellent, but Samantha Morton was just fantastic. I recommend it fullheartedly.
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"Heartrending piece of cinematic poetry..."
Sindre Kaspersen26 November 2010
Brazilian screenwriter and director Carine Adler's award-winning independent film, her directorial debut, contains distinct and naturalistic milieu depictions, sterling cinematography, impressive acting and tells a deeply emotional story about two sisters different reaction to losing their beloved mother. While one shares her sorrow with her family, the other one feels completely alone and walks into a world of sexual escapism.

This character-driven and fictional British film has a very experimental film style where sound, image, color, motion and atmosphere are key elements. With one of Liverpool's suburbs as a backdrop and with great compassion for her characters, Brazilian filmmaker Carine Adler examines grief's diverse effect on two working-class sisters. Her hand-held camera-movements, long takes and insistent use of close-ups creates distinctive realism, interesting perspectives and poetic moments, and the afflicting and far from sensual eroticism which is highly present in this internal psychological drama is effectuated by the fact that she tells the viewers more than she shows.

English actress Samantha Morton's involving voice-over narration drags the viewers into her consult seeking soul in a lyrical and fiercely honest way. Her debut feature film role is a bare-skinned interpretation of a character that is comparative to Emily Watson's title role in Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (1996), radiates the potential she has maintained in films such as Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999) and Jim Sheridan's "In America" (2002). "Under the Skin" is a melancholic study of character which due to it's sarcastic humor avoids falling into the dark deep. Large parts of the film plays out inside the mind of the protagonist and Samantha Morton's philosophical monologue is like an unreachable poem in this heartrending piece of cinematic poetry from the late 1990s.
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Depth of Emotion
Aeternox7 February 2003
This is a very good film. It grabbed my attention after seeing the great Morvern Callar last week, which also features Samantha Morton. As said in other comments, Under the Skin is considered her breakthrough. She is a truly gifted actress, I love her depth of emotion.

At one point in this movie she walks along a ribbed fence, while touching it with her right hand: taktaktaktaktak. I don't know if this is a reference, but it reminded me of a scene in one of Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs films (Rouge, I believe.) There an equally tormented woman walks along a brick wall in a similar way, wounding her right hand which starts to bleed heavily.

I wouldn't say those films are really the same, but I would certainly recommend the one if someone would like the other. In both films, as well as Morvern Callar, we follow a female protagonist unable to deal with a traumatic experience, the passing away of someone very close to her. We follow her down the road of estrangement, wondering if she will ever find peace.
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Life without joy
paul2001sw-110 October 2007
Samantha Morton has a reputation as a fine actress; but to me, she also has a reputation for appearing in "difficult" movies, and 'Under the Skin' is no exception. It tells the story of two sisters who struggle to cope with their mother's death; Morton's character cuts her ties with normal life, while her insecure sister manipulatively attempts to maintain the status she had as their mother's favourite. Of course, in a world of bland thrillers and romances, "difficult" can be a synonym for "good", and the drum-heavy soundtrack, and some disorienting camera-work, are actually quite effective at getting the viewer inside of Morton's head. On the downside, occasionally the film is slightly heavy-handed in making its points, the conclusion seems rather stuck-on, and not following naturally from the climax of the drama; and the world portrayed is, until that conclusion, one almost wholly without joy, so it makes for gruelling watching. It's an interesting film, but in the end, not quite original enough to make watching it an altogether pleasurable experience.
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Alexander Worka13 December 2000
This film was shown last night on UK TV. Unfortunately I missed the first 20 minutes or so but the rest was so good I feel it is still worth commenting on. The film centres around the different reactions of two sisters to their mother's death - don't however get the impression that this is a film to be endured rather than enjoyed. Although the subject matter is serious and the film very emotionally moving, there are flashes of humour throughout and it is not boringly earnest for one moment. I read somewhere that the director is an admirer of Mike Leigh's "Naked". While it is no poor relation, if you appreciate the work of Mike Leigh you would probably also enjoy "Under the Skin".
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A Star Is Born
Theo Robertson21 December 2005
After the death of her mother Iris Kelly embarks on a drunken promiscuous lifestyle to numb the pain There that's the plot ( For want of a better word ) to UNDER THE SKIN a typically British film from the mid 1990s . It's rather low budget and character driven and certainly isn't the type of film that would have appeared at the local multiplex alongside the local Hollywood blockbuster and is perhaps a film Britain produces on too much of a regular basis Despite being inspired by the work of such lauded British directors as Ken Loach and Mike Leigh I can't say that Carine Adler is in the same league ( Though I believe Loach and Leigh are overrated as directors anyway ) and her sometimes art-house type of directing can be somewhat irritating . In many ways you get the feeling Adler is stretching out a story that would have worked much better as a short film What everyone can agree on is that the performance of Samantha Morton is riveting in such a challenging role . Critics are always complaining that actresses aren't given good enough parts but think about it - What's a studio to do ? Cast a stunning looking actress in a commercial film or cast someone who can actually act in a movie like this with little commercial appeal ? Despite the very obvious flaws of UNDER THE SKIN Morton saves the film and has been superb in everything from CRACKER to the video of U2's Electrical Storm . She's almost certainly the most talented actress Britain has produced in years and one hopes to see her become a megastar
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wrenching, stunning
isseydauphin27 February 2002
writer & director carine adler does an admirable job in telling this story of how two sisters are affected by their mother's death. it avoids the sugary sentiment of most sibling films while exposing the frailties and faults of these characters in such an honest way. samantha morton is superb as a lonely young girl spiraling downward. i was touched and amazed by her performance. claire rushbrook (also in secrets & lies) is great as the maternal Rose.

i watched this late one night not knowing what to expect and was fascinated by the slow disintegration of the main character Iris. definitely a film to watch for anyone who appreciates movies that reveal things about life rather than offer mawkish fairy tales to pacify viewers.
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Iris and Rose
jotix1006 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Two sisters are at the center of this interesting film, the debut of Carine Adler, who unfortunately has not done anything after this auspicious beginning. Iris, the younger serves as the narrator. Their relationship with their mother is solid, but as the older woman is diagnosed with a terminal disease, the lives of the two siblings seem to fall apart.

Iris, the younger, is the most affected one. She has to deal with realities which she was ill equipped to do. Staying in her home turf, she begins exploring with sex to some bad results. Iris gets sucked into despair after things do not turn the way she wanted. Even the relationship with the man she wants leaves her unsatisfied.

Rose, on the other hand, has a solid marriage. She is expecting a child. Her sister's situation worries her, but there is so little she can do to restore her sibling's peace of mind. Their conflict comes to an end after Iris has fallen deeply into a situation she cannot get out of without Rose's help.

A stunning directorial debut for Ms. Adler, as well as a breakthrough performance for the twenty-year old Ms. Morton, who soon after the release of the film has been working steadily in her native country as well as in American films. The film is set into a depressing background, which bears heavily in what Iris is experiencing after the ill timed death of the woman, whom both daughters adored. Rose's life is serene as she can deal with grief differently, whereas Iris begins a descent into hell.

Ms. Morton shows no fear in giving her all in the film. She proved from the start she had what was needed to create her character. Clair Rushbrook, who we saw in Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies" has turned to television work. Her absence from the big screen is missed. Rita Tushingham, who was the darling of the English cinema in the 1960s and has enjoyed a long career, is seen as the mother of the Rose and Iris.

The film has a gritty quality enhanced by the camera-work of Barry Ackroyd, who has collaborated with Ken Loach and other excellent directors. The incidental music is by the talented Ilona Secacz.
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Realistic and disturbing
The_Triad27 May 2006
Under the Skin is the story of Iris, a young woman who goes off the rail into drink and promiscuity following her mother's death. What follows is a very unpleasant viewing experience, as this character destroys every solid relationship she has around her as a result of her self destructive behaviour. The film is very well acted by all involved, and the director should be commended for maintaining a state of realism without being (to) graphic. One scene in particular did genuinely shock me. Overall, if you're in the mood for a depressing ride watching someone disintegrate into sex and alcoholism, well acted, scripted and directed then it will be worth a watch, but ultimately it may prove a bit too much.
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One of the best movies I've ever seen!
Kmalin10 March 1999
Under the Skin is a deeply touching and disturbing movie, which has affected me more than any other. If you have ever been through great sorrow, see this movie! It shows very clearly that there is no "right" way to handle your grief.
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is there a special word for BOMB in UK English?
rduchmann31 May 2000
Samantha Morton, second-best daughter in the family, drifts into slut life after her mother's death. After a curious start, with Morton drawing magic marker faces on her nude body, the film really goes nowhere (and not at all fast), although Morton must be the only mainstream actress in the history of English-speaking cinema to perform a scene in which her boyfriend ruins the mood during sex by deliberately urinating on her (I don't write them, I just report them). And you thought all Brit cinema was like MASTERPIECE THEATER! TV print is badly pan 'n' scanned, and there is enough jerky, hand-held camera work to finish off everyone who survived BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Unlike some UK films, the dialogue is moderately intelligible to listeners who only speak American English.
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Under your skin and right up your nose.
Gary-1619 January 2001
Rita Tushingham is in this picture. She still can't act. She can't even sweep with a broom. The sixties are a long time past, but this film makes you curiously nostalgic. Iris has a novel way of adjusting her skirt. She writhes around on her bed making very strange noises. When she gets up the skirt looks somehow worse. But women have their ways. Suddenly Rita Tushingham's performance improves. She is put in an urn. As best as one can garner from this film, female sexuality is disquieting and one is left with the vague feeling that it should be controlled. The women in this film go out on their own and use phone boxes. Is that wise? The next thing you know they'll be picking up film cameras.
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bare Morton
SnoopyStyle24 September 2016
Iris Kelly (Samantha Morton) adores her mother (Rita Tushingham) but she senses that her happily married pregnant older sister Rose (Claire Rushbrook) is the favorite. Their mother is diagnosed with brain cancer and dies. Rose is devastated but it's Iris who spirals out of control in sexual promiscuity. She breaks up with her nice boyfriend Gary and goes on a string of meaningless sexual encounters. All of her relationships suffer.

A young Samantha Morton really lays bare figuratively and emotionally. It's a devastating performance. The story is a little bare, too. It's not the most complex of plots. This is mostly compelling as a showcase for the future star.
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A film where the real underneath is suffering
videorama-759-85939120 October 2014
Watching Samantha Morton do her thing here, is one of a few reasons to watch this better than average movie, about how one copes with family loss. Sending Morton's world spinning, her release is through sexual encounters. She even makes the moves on his Sister's husband which was easy to foresee. Simply, Under The Skin is more a realistic situation of the movie, in an aftermath of family tragedy, but really focusing on Morton's character, Iris, who shows many different emotions, some really violent tempered, and some psychologically scarring. One scene has her talking to an empty payphone, feigning a conversation, where another person is fighting for it. A particular funny and guilty moment. Her chubby girlfriend is doing her ex where a little bit of fight ensues. This is one of those films, where you have the lead, who's so powerful and gets their point across, steal the movie. You can't keep your eyes off that actor, as like Joseph Gordon Levitt did with Mysterious Skin, and watching the great Morton is a treat itself. Far from great, Under The Skin, is another Art-house drama, that is enjoyable, with some eroticism, but to a small minority, one can't over look as a time passer. It's a movie you got to look deep under it's story and characters for a real message, but like Kissed, it's beautifully told.
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The next English hype: Samantha Morton
rocco sifredi14 May 2001
"Under the skin" is an untypical English movie about the fail to hell of a young woman who has recently lost her mother. It's an untypical English movie because the sense of (black) humour of films as "Full Monty" or "Billy Elliot" it's replaced by not easy images of the sexual nights of the principal actress. But "Under the skin" is a great movie because of the great work of her great revelation, a great actress called Samantha Morton, new muse of Woody Allen and Steve Spielberg (!), which shout out loud to be considered the new Emma Thompson, the new Emily Watson or anyone of the great British actress and ladies.
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Absorbing and disturbing
davek2828 January 2001
I'm not sure why I found this film quite so fascinating. I assume it was all about Iris' problems in coming to terms with her mother's death.

I agree with another comment on here that the music was especially good. It would be nice to have a soundtrack album available. Some of the ambient stuff was worth playing again.

In a way, this was a kind of magical realism. Iris certainly had some mental health problems and I think this was brilliantly portrayed by the director and by Samantha Morton. I can't believe I already saw her in Emma. I must revisit that one.

I recorded this off Channel 4 and only recently got around to watching it. I think it deserves a second viewing.
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Apt companion piece for "Morvern Callar"
mockturtle11 January 2003
This 1997 debut feature is no less deserving of praise than `Morvern Callar.' Lynne Ramsay's (justifiable) status as wunderkind along with Samantha Morton's heightened profile (not to mention an impending Criterion DVD) have combined to make `Callar' a movie that will be seen, hopefully ancillary interest will send cinephiles looking for this breakout. The two films have a lot in common, their cinematography and coloration, especially in nightclubs, their soundtracks are similar and both feature absolutely scorching performances by Samantha Morton. The reason why I wonder that this hasn't received more press and play is that it contains the showier part, `Morvern Callar' landing on an even finer point between freedom and malaise. Not to mention the complete wonder that this phenomenal performance is coming from a 19 year old. Not to mention that she's really very attractive and it's not exactly rated PG. This director is really something, as evidenced by the fact that she had late lamented Katrin Cartlidge for her first short film. I can't think of any reason why Carine Adler hasn't made more movies. Look for new Hwood pretty-darling Stewart Townsend as a mysterious sex partner. The DVD contains several alternate posters with different pictures and taglines, most are horrible and try to make the movie look like it's going to be some kind of update of `The Scarlet Empress,' with things like `Iris is being a very bad girl!' The best one of these, and the tagline that strikes closest to home is `Iris lost her mother, now she's losing herself.' This is a really good movie and deserves much more notice. This lady has to make another movie. Hopefully some day when Samantha Morton collects her fifth Oscar it will be released in a DVD package. She often reminds me of a Jennifer Jason Leigh that always operates at her full potential.
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Kitsch_bitsch_originals4 February 2006
I saw this film early one Friday morning in the odd, drunken, insomniac fallout between Xmas and New Year - time is immaterial and you can go to bed and rise when you damn well feel like (if at all!) Taxi Driver - a firm favourite of mine - ended and I was about to switch off when a slutty, slightly scary but beautiful Iris appeared on the screen. Coupled with the fact it was a Brit film, I propped my eyelids open with matchsticks and kept watching! It is a tawdry, sexy, emotional downward spiral, made all the sadder for me by the fact it mirrored how I behaved after my Gran died in 1995. It's so very thought provoking...and heartstring-tugging! On times you feel guilty for finding the sex sexy, daft when you are moved to tears at her latest crisis and on occasions, want to charge into the screen to either slap her stupid or pick her up and run away with her! WATCH THIS FILM - I'm glad I did!
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A moving drama about loss and adolescence
al-13713 May 1999
Splendidly acted English drama about a young girl who deals with the loss of her mother by having sex with anyone who wants her. This is a very subtle and real film which deals with a girl's search for her identity and destiny; at times reminiscent of Kieslowsky. Hard to believe anyone could dislike this fine work...
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It is about more than casual sex.
jmh-1024 July 2000
Most people seem to focus on the sex in this movie. When I looked beyond the obvious in-your-face sex, I noticed that Iris had much more than boyfriend problems. She was hallucinating, hearing voices in cell phones that weren't there, behaving out of character, dressing oddly . . . This is about a young woman in severe emotional crisis. I'm not a psychiatrist, I don't have a copy of DSM-IV on hand, but it seems to me this movie portrays a young woman's psychotic breakdown after the death of her mother. As such, a very good film.
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Disappointing look at a troubled young woman.
Hermit C-26 November 1999
Samantha Morton stars in this movie as Iris, the younger of two English sisters who worship their mother. When Mom dies early on in the film, Iris is completely knocked off her axis and reacts by shirking personal responsibility and having casual sexual encounters, the result of a suddenly overheated libido. She doesn't want to listen to any suggestion that her behavior is due in any way to her mother's death, either.

After spinning out of control for most of the movie, she apparently resolves her problem with her mom's passing and a conflict with her sister as well. But this film does a lot better job of depicting Iris' problems than it does explaining them, or explaining how things work out in the end. Consequently this viewer felt about as satisfied as one would after one of Iris' sexual encounters. Although this film was written and directed by a woman, produced by another woman and focuses on female characters, it doesn't explain the woman's point of view to my satisfaction. The film had a lot of potential but was ultimately disappointing.
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Aww, come on, it was better than that!
N.L.14 December 1998
A risky, edgy film which is not easy to watch, but clearly I liked it a whole lot better than these other commentators did and apparently so did the Boston Society of Film Critics. They awarded "Under the Skin" two honors on 12/13/98: best actress for Samantha Morton and best new filmmaker for the director of the film, Carine Adler.
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