Partly distant and dreamy, partly realistic, with a steady hand this debut portrays Iris (Samantha Morton) as she is hunted by sorrow, desire, confusion and despair.
In Under the Skin, nineteen-year-old Iris is confronted with the unexpected death of her mother. She is barely able to cope with the loss and is in danger of collapsing under her destructive behaviour. She resigns her job and has an affair with a certain Tom that leads to a relationship based entirely on sex. In her daydreams and nightmares, her mother however retains a prominent place. Iris was always jealous of her elder sister Rose, who is five years older and happily married. Rose is also upset by the loss of her mother and quarrels with her younger sister when she is found in bed with yet another young man on the day that their mother’s ashes are to be scattered. Iris shows Rose the door and the gap between the two sisters grows. Iris seems to lose control of her life. She starts roaming the city and her encounters acquire an increasingly ominous and humiliating character.In her début film, Adler paints with a steady hand a portrait of Iris plagued by sadness, longing, confusion and despair. The hand-held shots, some dream-like and others extremely realistic, are supported by discobeats, classical music and a rapid narrative style. A choice selection of experienced actors (Rita Tushingham, Claire Rushbrook) and newcomers (including the impressive Samantha Morton as Iris) carry the story. The film won the Michael Powell Award for the best British feature at the Edinburgh Film Festival. –IFFR