Who wants to feel terrible? Yeah, me too! Gather around because I’m about to ruin your day! Don’t be shy! I only want to confirm your suspicions that humans are capable of the most horrible things. IN HER SKIN is based on a true story and I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. It’s the tragic tale of a family dealing with the disappearance of their 15-year-old daughter and their coming to terms with what befell her once her heart-breaking fate is discovered. It’s currently on Netflix Streaming and why have I never heard of it? People should throw awards at everybody in it! Did you like HEAVENLY CREATURES? Of course you did! And you’ll dig this also. I say that because this too is a reality-based story with flashes of surreal, psychologically expressive fantasy not because I don’t know the difference between New Zealand where HEAVENLY CREATURES is set and Australia where IN HER SKIN’s events occurred. I promise I do.
It’s hard to imagine anyone who would want to do harm to the Barbers’ daughter, Rachel who is pretty, talented and loves life. That is until you meet her next-door neighbor and former baby sitter Caroline Reid Robertson who is not so pretty, not so talented and not so life-loving. Caroline suffers from a raging hatred of herself. She covets Rachel’s seemingly charmed existence to the point where she fantasizes, obsesses and ultimately devises a plan to appropriate her life by destroying it. If I’m making this sound like your standard SINGLE WHITE-usurper Lifetime drama than I really stink because it’s not. Director/writer SIMONE NORTH takes what could have been such and creates something darkly poetic and profound.
GUY PEARCE and MIRANDA OTTO give excellent performances as the slowly loosing hope parents of Rachel and SAM NEILL is convincingly artic as Caroline’s emotionally absent father. The real stunner though is RUTH BRADLEY as roaring misery monster Caroline. She oozes the most uncomfortable type of madness… sad, sick, insecure and, most challenging of all, somewhat sympathetic. (She kept me flashing back to that line from SESSION 9: “I live in the weak and the wounded”.) As impossible as her actions are to fathom, it’s nearly as difficult to understand the inaction of those in her life to get her the help she outright begged for.
Grim, shocking and fascinating, IN HER SKIN coils around the viewer like a snake. As rare as this true case may be there’s something common and timely about Caroline’s frenzied coveting of someone else’s life to the point of destroying it and her own. Seriously, how much of our current culture goads and feeds upon people hating themselves and desiring to be someone else? This is a hard movie to watch and it’s a hard movie to turn away from- even though turning away is exactly what we all seem to have been trained to do. Go on, check it out. You’re looking a little too chipper today anyway.