Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Tue Jul 21 2009The true story of Sandra Laing – a dark-skinned ‘genetic throwback’ born to white parents in 1950s South Africa – deserves better than this bland, unmemorable biopic. Laing’s experiences served to highlight the absurdity of Apartheid-era racial profiling and segregation – she was rejected by both black and white communities – but director Anthony Fabian and his team of writers have lost sight of the conflicts inherent in her story, relying on TV-movie cliché and tired, unsuccessful attempts at emotional manipulation.
While Sam Neill and Alice Krige are solid as Sandra’s conflicted parents, the sight of the hangdog 38-year-old Sophie Okenedo as the rebellious adolescent Sandra is simply unconvincing. Though she grows into the role as Sandra ages, Okonedo’s performance lacks the requisite depth, but that’s the character as written: a battered symbol of human endurance rather than a rounded, empathetic figure.
Director Fabian allows his scenes to unfold in a series of drab, restrictive ranch houses, tin shacks and courtrooms. And considering the wealth of terrific music coming out of southern Africa in the ’60s and ’70s, his reliance on bland, syrupy strings punctuated with occasional bursts of jaunty, lightweight pop is disappointing. But this decision seems indicative of ‘Skin’ as a whole. The film feels totally unwilling to get its hands dirty, to tangle with anything approaching truth: mucky, messy, vibrant. In reducing its characters to archetypes, its politics to platitudes and its narrative to a glum historical lecture, ‘Skin’ does not do justice to a fascinating tale.
Author: Tom Huddleston