In Her Skin

In Her Skin (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Rachel Barber (Kate Bell) was a young woman who had a lot of promise: she was a talented dancer, had an effervescent personality, had a lot of friends, and her family (Guy Pearce, Miranda Otto) loved her. On the other hand, Caroline Reed (Ruth Bradley) felt abandoned by her family (Sam Neill, Rebecca Gibney) which resulted to her eventual self-loathing and crippling depression. Caroline babysat Rachel and her sisters back when they used to be neighbors. Out of jealousy, Caroline lured Rachel to her apartment with a promise in making a quick buck. When she had the opportunity, Caroline came from behind and choked Rachel until she could no longer breathe. Realizing that it was unlike their daughter to not call when she was expected, the Barber household went to the police but their missing person claim was assumed to be just another runaway case. Based on a true story, “In Her Skin,” also known as “I Am You,” wasn’t as strongly executed as it should have been so even though it was based on a true story, I kept wondering, “So what?” The acting, at least in the beginning, felt like it was taken off a bad Lifetime movie. Pearce and Otto either overacted or underacted which was, at times, accidentally comedic. However, the film came into focus and slowly gained dramatic gravity when we were given the chance to observe how disturbed Caroline really was. She craved attention from her father but he didn’t have the heart to admit to himself that he didn’t like spending time with her daughter because she was clingy and highly dependent. He resulted to classic avoidance instead of sitting down with her and talking about their issues which led Caroline into believing that her mother was the reason for all the tension in the family. At work, Caroline was unstable and prone to fits. Her friends used her as a means of convenience. No one respected her on a deep level so she learned to become more comfortable in her fantasy world. She admitted that she wasn’t happy because she was fat and ugly. Perhaps. But I reckon the problem was the fact that she equated happiness with everything having to be perfect. Written and directed by Simone North, I liked that the film tried to make sense, from the perspective of a murderer, of something that was inherently senseless. Yes, it showcased Caroline as annoying, detestable, and hopeless but she wasn’t one-dimensional. Bradley did a good job. I felt her characters’ sadness when she was alone in her room desperately wishing for a better life and her temporary happiness when she earned her father’s approval. The murder scene was raw. It wasn’t meant to be titillating. It was meant to be ugly and it was. “In Her Skin” could inspire audiences to turn the movie off or walk away because of the first few scenes’ unnecessary melodrama. But I say give it a chance. It had an interesting take on being both about a loss of a child and attempting to understand the horror, and ultimately sad reality, of mental illness.

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