As Denny finds their true self, Ryan sits on the sideline. Love compels Ryan to support their decisions and actions, but at the same time, this is not what he bargained for, and Ryan’s image of the perfect relationship is morphing in ways he didn’t expect. Ryan is thinking about his job and becomes insistent that Denny wears the dress he bought. Also, in the back of his mind is how his co-workers and partners will ultimately treat Denny.
As a love story, step back, and you’ll see the general conflict between Ryan and Denny is pretty standard—two mismatched individuals finding love. Traditionally, the mismatch is often centered on class or race, but in Under My Skin, the focus is on gender identity. As Denny begins to live and transition as a trans-non-binary person, Ryan must constantly examine and sometimes redefine his visions of love.
Under My Skin is a non-traditional/non-conformist love story. Seeing as this is a non-conformist love story, it’s best to tell it in an atypical way. Four different non-binary/trans-non-binary actors play the role of Denny in Liv Hewson, Bobbi Salvor Menuez, Lex Ryan, and Chloe Freeman. At first, I thought maybe it was to represent phases on the road of transition, but no, the four actors become interchangeable. I interpreted it as exemplifying the struggle Denny is going through as the image of themselves is constantly shifting, and at some point in the end, Denny has to come to embrace their true self.
For me, a straight film critic, I found Under My Skin utterly captivating. It’s an apparent new twist on a love story. The use of four actors playing Denny worked because it kept me off balance throughout and helped me empathize with Denny’s journey. Though Hewson takes on the bulk of the acting duties, the performances by all four are special. I ultimately loved O’Donnell’s film because of its portrayal of love between Denny and Ryan. It does not preach or scream at you, demanding that you accept non-conforming couples. Instead, it acknowledges that love, in general, is always complicated and never traditional.
"…four different non-binary/trans-non-binary actors play the role of Denny..."