Movie review: The Skin I Live In

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From the November 24, 2011 edition

“The Skin I Live In” is a departure for Spanish director Pedro Almodovar — and a pretty huge departure from anything else opening this holiday week.

But it also gets my highest recommendation for the week with two caveats: 1) The less you know going in, the better. 2) This movie is dark, dark, dark and not for everyone.

So here’s what you should know. The film opens in Toledo, Spain, in 2012. Plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is working on an experimental skin that could revolutionize his field.

The project is an obsession for Ledgard, perhaps because his wife was horrifically burned in a car crash. And his experimentation falls outside the lines of ethics — medical and otherwise.

Almodovar treats this tale — adapted from a French novel — almost like a horror film.

As the timeline leaps backward and forward, details emerge slowly in squirm-worthy reveals. There’s a Hitchcockian tension in the air here, and I found myself sucked into the film.

Banderas grounds the film with a performance that’s coolly methodical but offers some needed emotional accents. Elena Anaya is also outstanding as his test subject.

There is violence, sexuality and plot points that may shock, but there’s also a master director showing off his storytelling chops.