In Her Skin

Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto

In Her Skin (2009). Written and directed by Simone North.

Rachel Barber (Kate Bell) is a 15-year-old student that appears to have everything. She’s a beautiful and talented dancer, has a steady boyfriend and enjoys a great relationship with her parents. 20-year-old Caroline Reid (Ruth Bradley) is Rachel’s former baby-sitter and neighbour from across the street. She is overweight, has bad skin, suffers from depression and has a strained relationship with her parents.

Caroline hates herself and wishes that she could be more like Rachel. She desperately wants to become a new person and devises an elaborate plan that will take Rachel’s life.

When Rachel disappears, her parents Mike (Guy Pearce) and Elizabeth (Miranda Otto) worry about her safety and notify the police. The police are uncooperative and suspect that Rachel is just another teenage runaway.

The film is based on the true story of Melbourne teenager Rachel Barber who was murdered in 1999 by Caroline Reed Robertson. I knew this going into the film and surprisingly, it doesn’t take anything away from this thriller.

The performances by Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto are painful to watch at times because they’re so believable. The way in which they cope with their daughter’s disappearance is a stark contrast with Sam Neil’s performance as Caroline’s father. He sees Caroline as a nuisance.

Ruth Bradley

Ruth Bradley’s performance as the deeply troubled Caroline is quite powerful. At times it feels a little forced but overall, she’ll make you feel very uncomfortable in several scenes. The murder scene is very intense, startling. It comes close to some of the violence that has shocked me in Michael Haneke’s films Caché and Funny Games.

First time director Simone North does a good job at maintaining a certain level of suspense throughout the film. There are some interesting camera moves that borrow from David Fincher’s Panic Room that I enjoyed.

One thing that didn’t work for me at all was the choice of music at the beginning and end of the film. The tone or feeling that the music evokes felt completely wrong. I would have expected something dark and sombre. The whole music video montage at the end of the film felt unnecessary, like it was pasted on during final editing. It’s possible that I saw a working print of the film and it still isn’t finished.

Despite the ending, I enjoyed In Her Skin which had its North American premiere at OzFlix in Toronto. I would love to know how it is received in Australia once it is released.


Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in OzFlix at 8:56 PM