A wrong-footing blend of sci-fi mystery and realist grit, British director Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is compelling and unnerving in equal measure: to get a handle on it, imagine a bizarre meeting of Stanley Kubrick and Ken Loach.
An adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2000 novel, the film casts Scarlett Johansson as a kerb-crawling alien roaming the shabby streets of present-day Glasgow in a white van, an extraterrestrial predator prowling for male flesh. As she chats up potential victims – many of them played by unwitting locals filmed by hidden cameras – her alien-eyed view of our world is unsettling and thought provoking.
What happens after she lures her pick-ups back to her lair has a skin-prickling fascination and eerie beauty – qualities accentuated by Mica Levi’s dissonant score. And Johansson’s casting is a real coup. Even in a black wig and ratty fake-fur coat, her otherworldly allure is intact, confirming any suspicions you may have that Hollywood stars belong to another species.
Certificate 15. Runtime 108 mins. Director Jonathan Glazer.