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.