Skin (12A)

Film

Drama

Skin.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>1</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
Rate this
 

Time Out says

Tue Jul 21 2009

The 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.
0

Reviews

Add +

Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Jul 24, 2009

Duration:

107 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Anthony Fabian

Screenwriter:

Anthony Fabian

Cast:

Sophie Okenedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige

Users say

0
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:8
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|22
1 person listening
Phil Chomak

I can't remember when I've disagreed with a review more. My advice to anyone considering watching this movie is to ignore Tom Huddleston's snide review and view this excellent film without preconceptions. My wife and I are both very picky critics about the films we watch. Both of us were riveted by the story, acting, directing, cinematography, and editing of "Skin." There was not one dull moment. This is a very moving work of cinema art. Don't cheat yourself by believing Huddleston's damning jibes: see this fine movie.

Phil Chomak

I can't remember when I've disagreed with a review more. My advice to anyone considering watching this movie is to ignore Tom Huddleston's snide review and view this excellent film without preconceptions. My wife and I are both very picky critics about the films we watch. Both of us were riveted by the story, acting, directing, cinematography, and editing of "Skin." There was not one dull moment. This is a very moving work of cinema art. Don't cheat yourself by believing Huddleston's damning jibes: see this fine movie.

zenkosi

Never been on this site before. Saw "Skin" and I agree with both Huddleston's piece and some of what the reviewers wrote. I was an African teen in the sixties in So.Africa and when we read about what the Laings were going through, we laughed. It saddens me today to recall all that realizing that not once did we think of what Sandra herself was going through. We just thought that the parents deserved what they were getting because they were "racist Afrikaners". Sad. I totally agree that Sandra should have been played by 3 people. The supposedly teenage Sandra just did not look young enough. It absolutely angered me thinking...."they could have done better". They quickly wanted Sophie's acting skills but it just did not go with her thirty plus look. The music could have been better. Still, I enjoyed the movie immensely.....maybe because I'm from So.Africa and it reminded me of "home" though I grew up in Durban with East Indians as neighbors and not a shack in sight. Movie got me teary eyed a few times. Good to hear that Sandra and her kids and their kids do well today. Touching indeed.

Katharine

An excellent film. I nearly didn't see it as I took Tom Huddleston's review seriously. Thank goodness I decided to ignore it. The film beautifully tells the story of a family struggling through the era of Apartheid. The characters are complex, leaving no one without reproach, and skillfully demonstrates how the apartheid regime twisted the lives and minds of good people. It is true that Sandra Laing should have been played by 3 actresses instead of 2, but Sophie Okenedo's acting does a good job of making you forget that she is a too old for the middle role. The film does a fantastic job of portraying the historical reality within a brilliant drama which grips until the end. One of the best films I have seen in ages. I will be sure to ignore anything Tom Huddleston writes in the future. He clearly isn't a very good film critic! And as for Alexander's comment here about friends of the film-makers... Has he actually seen the film? I have very high standards - and often walk out of films which are poor. I don't know who made Skin - but I can tell you, I look forward to the next film they make!

Katharine

An excellent film. I nearly didn't see it as I took Tom Huddleston's review seriously. Thank goodness I decided to ignore it. The film beautifully tells the story of a family struggling through the era of Apartheid. The characters are complex, leaving no one without reproach, and skillfully demonstrates how the apartheid regime twisted the lives and minds of good people. It is true that Sandra Laing should have been played by 3 actresses instead of 2, but Sophie Okenedo's acting does a good job of making you forget that she is a too old for the middle role. The film does a fantastic job of portraying the historical reality within a brilliant drama which grips until the end. One of the best films I have seen in ages. I will be sure to ignore anything Tom Huddleston writes in the future. He clearly isn't a very good film critic! And as for Alexander's comment here about friends of the film-makers... Has he actually seen the film? I have very high standards - and often walk out of films which are poor. I don't know who made Skin - but I can tell you, I look forward to the next film they make!

Helen Carmichael

A "..bland, unmemorable biopic.." which has ".. lost sight of the conflicts inherent in her story .." and which relies "..on TV-movie cliche.." to tell the story? I couldn’t disagree more. Tony Fabian and his cast and crew have made a truly gripping and transformative drama out of a true story. They have also achieved something any storyteller knows is almost impossible - namely not altering the facts to suit the demands of drama. I saw the film with two South Africans, both of whom grew up in the South Africa of the 1950’s. Both were impressed by the truth of the storytelling and both were enormously affected on all levels, not the least emotionally. For me, who has lived my life in the film, TV and radio industries as a writer, editor, educator and co-producer, the film also achieved something few films have ever done: it completely absorbed me, so that at no time was there a part of me watching from a craft point of view. I can count on one hand the films that have achieved this over a life-time in the profession of storytelling. Rather than relying on TV or any other kind of cliche, the truth of this film is so powerful it totally suspended my critical judgement while I was watching it. The film touched me in a way drama is meant to touch: it moved me, and having moved me profoundly, it motivated me to think long and deeply on what it is to be human. It not only stimulated my mind, more importantly, it lifted my heart to see a protagonist survive the level of pain and injustice that Sandra Laing experienced. Finally, it gave me great pleasure to admire, post-viewing, the craft of the makers of this film. It is rare to see so many talents brought together into a cohesive whole - to span an entire lifetime with such economy, power and rhythm. It was a shock to read Tom Huddleston’s critique. One wonders whether the very power and truth of the film has caused such a response which amounts to virtually a total denial of the work. A pity when the film is not only worth seeing as a work of art, but also for the story it tells. Thankfully other critics did not see it as Tom Huddleston seems to have done.

Helen Carmichael

A "..bland, unmemorable biopic.." which has ".. lost sight of the conflicts inherent in her story .." and which relies "..on TV-movie cliche.." to tell the story? I couldn’t disagree more. Tony Fabian and his cast and crew have made a truly gripping and transformative drama out of a true story. They have also achieved something any storyteller knows is almost impossible - namely not altering the facts to suit the demands of drama. I saw the film with two South Africans, both of whom grew up in the South Africa of the 1950’s. Both were impressed by the truth of the storytelling and both were enormously affected on all levels, not the least emotionally. For me, who has lived my life in the film, TV and radio industries as a writer, editor, educator and co-producer, the film also achieved something few films have ever done: it completely absorbed me, so that at no time was there a part of me watching from a craft point of view. I can count on one hand the films that have achieved this over a life-time in the profession of storytelling. Rather than relying on TV or any other kind of cliche, the truth of this film is so powerful it totally suspended my critical judgement while I was watching it. The film touched me in a way drama is meant to touch: it moved me, and having moved me profoundly, it motivated me to think long and deeply on what it is to be human. It not only stimulated my mind, more importantly, it lifted my heart to see a protagonist survive the level of pain and injustice that Sandra Laing experienced. Finally, it gave me great pleasure to admire, post-viewing, the craft of the makers of this film. It is rare to see so many talents brought together into a cohesive whole - to span an entire lifetime with such economy, power and rhythm. It was a shock to read Tom Huddleston’s critique. One wonders whether the very power and truth of the film has caused such a response which amounts to virtually a total denial of the work. A pity when the film is not only worth seeing as a work of art, but also for the story it tells. Thankfully other critics did not see it as Tom Huddleston seems to have done.

Mark Rites

I found Skin's blandness almost unbearable, the quintessence of reducing complex issues to lowest common denominator cliches. Fabian manages to turn a potentially interesting storyline into an un-harmful TV movie. The sirupy, atrocious score peppered with dull as dishwater pop songs is just the cherry on a rather sickening cake. Unless you have a collection of individually named teddy bears or you happen to think that Bono is actually saving the world, avoid!

Steve Cabrera

I'm surprised by the review TimeOut gave this film! I found it moving, thought provoking and beautiful. It managed to combine the beauty of South Africa with the ugliness of aparthied. One test for me is whether it stuck in my mind and prompted me to recommend it to friends - it has done both. The reviewer's tone seems angry and hateful to me, especially in the comments - it's a shame!

Steve Cabrera

I'm surprised by the review TimeOut gave this film! I found it moving, thought provoking and beautiful. It managed to combine the beauty of South Africa with the ugliness of aparthied. One test for me is whether it stuck in my mind and prompted me to recommend it to friends - it has done both. The reviewer's tone seems angry and hateful to me, especially in the comments - it's a shame!

Basi Akpabio

Not sure that the reviewer and I saw the same film?! It's an amazing story well told and I found it intensely moving by the end. I'm not usually moved to comment on these boards but the injustice of the review has raised my shackles!

Basi Akpabio

Not sure that the reviewer and I saw the same film?! It's an amazing story well told and I found it intensely moving by the end. I'm not usually moved to comment on these boards but the injustice of the review has raised my shackles!

Harriet Salisbury

Re: Skin review What on earth is Tom Huddleston talking about? How can he claim a film refuses to tangle with the truth when it has been made with the involvement and full approval of the main protaganist? I have heard Sandra speak about the film and I did not get the impression she lied about her life or had been manipulated by the director. She said that the film told her story. But clearly your reviewer knows better. Tom complains that the shacks and courtrooms in the film are drab and restrictive - what does he want - luxury appartments with views of the Eiffel Tower? I imagine that most shanty towns are a bit on the drab side. But the comment that incensed me most was that he wanted the film to be more 'mucky' and 'messy' - I take this to be a euphemism for 'more sex and violence, please'. Great, so let's push it up to an 18 certificate. I took my 12 year old to see it and he was completely gripped, plus it taught him more about race and apartheid than seven years worth of Black History lessons at school. I have been a subscriber to Time Out, but am seriously reconsidering. This was not a fair review - it did not even mention that audiences have voted to give this film awards at film festivals around the world. Is Tom just a wee bit racist? I think we should be told.

Harriet Salisbury

Re: Skin review What on earth is Tom Huddleston talking about? How can he claim a film refuses to tangle with the truth when it has been made with the involvement and full approval of the main protaganist? I have heard Sandra speak about the film and I did not get the impression she lied about her life or had been manipulated by the director. She said that the film told her story. But clearly your reviewer knows better. Tom complains that the shacks and courtrooms in the film are drab and restrictive - what does he want - luxury appartments with views of the Eiffel Tower? I imagine that most shanty towns are a bit on the drab side. But the comment that incensed me most was that he wanted the film to be more 'mucky' and 'messy' - I take this to be a euphemism for 'more sex and violence, please'. Great, so let's push it up to an 18 certificate. I took my 12 year old to see it and he was completely gripped, plus it taught him more about race and apartheid than seven years worth of Black History lessons at school. I have been a subscriber to Time Out, but am seriously reconsidering. This was not a fair review - it did not even mention that audiences have voted to give this film awards at film festivals around the world. Is Tom just a wee bit racist? I think we should be told.

Vonney

The headline grabbing hook of this film is the absurdity of apartheid in 1960's South Africa but its depth is in a much more universal story of identity and family breakdown. Bizarrely, some of the film's lighter moments come from depictions of the absurd apartheid laws (for exmple, placing a comb in Sandra's hair and asking her to shake her head as a test to see if she was white or black). The more harrowing scenes reflect the impossible choices which had to be made by Sandra and her parents, the ensuing separations, loss and, eventually, partial reconciliation and acceptance. Like TH I may well have preferred a happy ending showing us a 'rounded empathic figure' but I suspect the real ending of this true story is simply one of resignation. Heartbreaking. I think it would have been a cliche to depict the happy ending sought bt TA in the rounjded...... The harsh reality is that this tale ends in esignation and acceptance. Heartbreaking.

Liam Coman

I rarely go see a film twice but this is a must for me. The story draws you in, like a good book you don't want it to end. I wanted to get to know the characters better and spend more time with them to fully understand their plight, moreover since its a true story. Having never been to South Africa and knowing many South African friends and work collegues I was interested to see an all too rare event as a film based in the country. Sandra Laing's story must question the prejudices however small we all feel from time to time in our lives. You will walk out from this film with a hightened perspective. Go see and enjoy, I certainly will be again this week.

Liam Coman

I rarely go see a film twice but this is a must for me. The story draws you in, like a good book you don't want it to end. I wanted to get to know the characters better and spend more time with them to fully understand their plight, moreover since its a true story. Having never been to South Africa and knowing many South African friends and work collegues I was interested to see an all too rare event as a film based in the country. Sandra Laing's story must question the prejudices however small we all feel from time to time in our lives. You will walk out from this film with a hightened perspective. Go see and enjoy, I certainly will be again this week.

Alex

My Mum took me to this film. I am 13 and didn't know anything about the story of this lady before seeing the film. I knew a little about the way South Africa kept white and black people apart - this film really made the history of South Africa more real for me. It was really moving and I thought the girl who played Sandra as a child was brilliant. I have told all my friends to go and watch this film if they can.

Elizabeth Connell

I was deeply moved by the film and it made a profound impression on me. I was weeping copiously at the end, not only because of the sad story but also in shame for having been born into that iniquitous system. It was all so true. I loved all the authentic touches. The bakkie, the clothes, the hair styles, and I am sure I had the selfsame hat the mother wore to the court. I was also at a Dominican convent that taught Asians and 'coloureds'. Oh yes, we were very liberal, so long as no-one made a fuss. Every thing the Time Out review is completely wrong in every particular. So what film was he watching, or what is his secret agenda? Liza Connell

Elizabeth Connell

I was deeply moved by the film and it made a profound impression on me. I was weeping copiously at the end, not only because of the sad story but also in shame for having been born into that iniquitous system. It was all so true. I loved all the authentic touches. The bakkie, the clothes, the hair styles, and I am sure I had the selfsame hat the mother wore to the court. I was also at a Dominican convent that taught Asians and 'coloureds'. Oh yes, we were very liberal, so long as no-one made a fuss. Every thing the Time Out review is completely wrong in every particular. So what film was he watching, or what is his secret agenda? Liza Connell

Jonathan Mervis

As a young white South African at the time when the Sandra Laing story broke in the 1960s I was a first hand witness of that story as it unfolded. The unembellished facts of what actually happened were so poignant and heart rending they did more than anything to accelerate the change the attitude to the race laws then held by the vast majority of White South Africans. The criticisms contained in the review of Skin were unfair irrespective of the opinion every reviewer is entitled to hold. Leaving opinion aside, here follow some glaring factual errors or grossly misguided comments in the review • “…unwilling…to tangle with anything approaching truth�. One of the merits of Skin is that it is a rare example of a film sticking precisely to the fascinating dramatic factual story, without a scintilla of manipulation – just not necessary here. • The producer uses as a set “… a series of drab restrictive ranch houses, tin shacks and courtrooms� - Those are precisely the locations for the story -namely the white trading store in Piet Retief, the black township home nearby and the actual court room in The Supreme Court in Pretoria where the hearings took place. • “…considering terrific music from South Africa…his reliance on bland… lightweight …syrupy strings….lightweight pop� is untrue. Miriam Makeba arguably the greatest Black Female vocalist out of South Africa makes a major contribution to the music. The review is further littered with unflattering unsubstantiated epithets which I understand to be the prerogative of a reviewer but nevertheless are unjustified. For Time Out to give Skin the very worst rating of the clutch of films reviewed this week is manifestly unjustified. Another view could be that this film is brilliant or worth seeing. As it is the type of film on such an important subject it is particularly reliant on getting a fair review –opinions apart- in Time Out. Would you consider giving another reviewer the chance to let your readers consider Skin more equitably? Jonathan Mervis

Jonathan Mervis

As a young white South African at the time when the Sandra Laing story broke in the 1960s I was a first hand witness of that story as it unfolded. The unembellished facts of what actually happened were so poignant and heart rending they did more than anything to accelerate the change the attitude to the race laws then held by the vast majority of White South Africans. The criticisms contained in the review of Skin were unfair irrespective of the opinion every reviewer is entitled to hold. Leaving opinion aside, here follow some glaring factual errors or grossly misguided comments in the review • “…unwilling…to tangle with anything approaching truth�. One of the merits of Skin is that it is a rare example of a film sticking precisely to the fascinating dramatic factual story, without a scintilla of manipulation – just not necessary here. • The producer uses as a set “… a series of drab restrictive ranch houses, tin shacks and courtrooms� - Those are precisely the locations for the story -namely the white trading store in Piet Retief, the black township home nearby and the actual court room in The Supreme Court in Pretoria where the hearings took place. • “…considering terrific music from South Africa…his reliance on bland… lightweight …syrupy strings….lightweight pop� is untrue. Miriam Makeba arguably the greatest Black Female vocalist out of South Africa makes a major contribution to the music. The review is further littered with unflattering unsubstantiated epithets which I understand to be the prerogative of a reviewer but nevertheless are unjustified. For Time Out to give Skin the very worst rating of the clutch of films reviewed this week is manifestly unjustified. Another view could be that this film is brilliant or worth seeing. As it is the type of film on such an important subject it is particularly reliant on getting a fair review –opinions apart- in Time Out. Would you consider giving another reviewer the chance to let your readers consider Skin more equitably? Jonathan Mervis