Coming Soon: Skin Deep (2024) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of Kino Lorber

Winner of the Queer Lion at the Venice film festival, Alex Schaad’s sensational debut feature film is an intriguing take on the body swap trope.   Science fiction has always been one of the most important genres because it asks us as human beings to ask difficult questions about reality, and about our pasts, presents, and futures.  Skin Deep delves into high concept questions such as gender, identity, and sexuality in a manner not commonly done with this kind of subject matter, eschewing horror cliches for an intimate look at humanity.  Featuring a unique presentation, a remarkable ensemble cast, and a fresh approach, this is one of the finest films of the year thus far. 

Leyla and Tristan are an apparently happy couple who attend a weekend getaway with a unique purpose:  Swapping bodies with the other participants.  What follows is a thoughtful, sexy, melancholic exploration of identity, love, and desire.   What grips the viewer from the near Midsommar like first act is how much passion Schaad and his crew put into this project. Cowritten with his brother, the acting is organic, and everything is approached with a simplistic, but respectful manner.  Mala Emde steals the limelight at Leyla.  Her natural fears then juxtaposed by being swapped with another persona are communicated with a perfect amount of grace and hopeful subtlety that enhances the entire experience.  

Ahmed El Nagar's light-soaked cinematography has softness too it that offsets the handheld vibe of the shots, especially once things move to the main act.  The sex scenes are legitimately steamy, answering kinky, yet also loving questions such as would you have sex with yourself?   It is rather interesting how many of these themes relate to gender and sexuality, which most likely assured why the film won the Queer Lion, despite the brothers being straight men.  This is the power of this quiet, intimate film.  It looks at these concepts through a macro lens, focusing on the philosophical underpinnings and never really finding a true answer.  Like all great art, it leaves everything up to the viewer.

Coming soon to theaters and to digital on demand, Skin Deep is a refreshing take on a genre that is almost entirely horror or slapstick comedy.  The Schaad brother's approach is one of endearment and tenderness, asking heavy questions about the nature of humanity, sexual desires, and love.  The result is a wonderful experience that is never heavy handed, leaving everything on the stage.

--Kyle Jonathan