In Nicholas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth and John Carpenter's Starman an extraterrestrial character went under cover and moved in our midst; they had to figure out how to adapt to human relationships and societal standards. There is another such character in Under the Skin. Writer and director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth) has adapted this story from a novel by Michel Faber: both refuse to label her as an alien from another planet. Yet that is what she seems to be to us.
In Glasgow, Scotland, a strange woman commandeers a transit van, goes shopping, and drives around the city seeking to give men a lift. Most of these fellows are lonely souls looking for attention and sex. Arriving at her place, she walks ahead of them casually shedding her clothes and they do likewise. Then suddenly they sink into an ooze. This smooth dispatching of her prey gives this seductress even more confidence in her mission and her feeling of superiority over men.
But then she encounters a stranger with a badly disfigured face who has never been touched or kissed or made love to by a woman. She expends a lot of energy on him. And in a scene at a windy beach with fierce waves, she watches as two people drown. Even though this world is laced with tragedy and mystery, the alien grows attached to it and experiments with sex and other human adventures. In the end, she is unprepared for the fate that awaits her.
Scarlett Johansson does a credible job conveying the contradictory emotions of this beautiful siren. We actually found ourselves empathizing with her as she turns from being the hunter to being hunted herself. The eerie music by Mica Levi is right in sync with the drama and its attendant surprises.