Carine Adler’s feature length debut, “Under the Skin,” is an unsentimental exploration of grief and sexuality from an expressly female point of view. It’s a dark entirely character driven film reminiscent of early Mike Leigh. Samantha Morton (“Band of Gold”) plays Iris Ð a young woman trying to cope with both her mother’s recent death and her seemingly hopeless rivalry with her older sister. Believing that she was the less favored daughter, Iris buries her pain by indulging in a downward spiral of promiscuity and self-destructive behavior. Adler’s disturbing and evocative script demonstrates a refreshing emotional honesty. Samantha Morton’s subtle yet powerful performance maintains our sympathy for Iris despite her troublesome behavior.
The dark, bleak cinematography and obtrusive background sounds give the film an appropriate sense of heightened realism. Eventually, however, the unrelenting gloom and ugliness become alienating and keep one from truly entering Iris’s world. This, in combination with the fact that we’re not given enough time to empathize with Iris’ relationship with her mother, makes it difficult to absorb the full emotional impact of the story. Ultimately, this film is an impressive debut for Carine Adler. While her direction may currently lack finesse, her ability to communicate authentic human experience makes “Under the Skin” a film worth seeing.