Skin (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/07/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Powerful apartheid drama with a strong script, intriguingly complex characters and terrific performances from Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill and Alice Krige.

What's it all about?
Directed by Anthony Fabian, Skin tells the true story of Sandra Laing (Ella Ramangwane, then Sophie Okonedo), a black woman who was born to white parents Abraham (Sam Neill) and Sannie (Alice Krige) in 1950s South Africa. When trouble at her all-white school leads to Sandra being officially reclassified as coloured, her parents go to court to try and overturn the ruling.

Years later, the law is changed so that the descendants of white parents are automatically classified as white, but this has severe repercussions when, after a series of disastrous dates with white men, Sandra falls in love with a black man (Tony Kgoroge as Petrus). Estranged from her parents as a result of her relationship, Sandra tries to have herself reclassified as coloured again so that she can legally live with her husband and children.

The Good
Fabian's direction is assured throughout, refusing to succumb to the usual manipulative cliches such as the stirring soundtrack or the big emotional speech. As a result the film feels more naturalistic and the various scenes of family conflict are all the more devastating.

Neill and Krige are both terrific in complex roles, while Okonedo is brilliant as Sandra, portraying her with a powerful inner strength and a formidable stubborn streak. Okonedo also has genuine chemistry with the likeable Kgoroge, which makes it all the more upsetting when years of frustration and alcoholism take their toll on his character.

The Great
The fact that this is a true story is gripping enough, but what makes the film stand out are the fascinatingly complex characters. For example, Abraham genuinely sees Sandra as white and fiercely adheres to the apartheid laws (his own racism is apparent in a subtle scene where he refuses to touch the hands of his black customers), while Sannie is deeply conflicted between her loyalty to her husband and her love for her daughter and she doesn't always come down on the side you expect.

Worth seeing?
Skin is a powerfully emotional, genuinely fascinating story, enriched by complex characters, superb performances and assured direction that resists the usual cliches.

Film Trailer

Skin (12A)
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Content updated: 24/03/2019 17:01

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