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“Skin Deep” is a beautifully transcendent film that will leave you asking the question, if you could become somebody else, would you?

Skin Deep

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Skin Deep is a German film from the mind of Alex Schaad (co-writer/director), with a plot device we have seen utilized in films like Freaky Friday, Being John Malkovich, Freaky, and others stretching across many genres. I can confidently say this is one of my new favorites.

A body-swap romance, sci-fi horror film, and deep thinker, Skin Deep does not have to explain itself to you.

The film starts with our main couple, Tristan (Jonas Dassler) and Leyla (Mala Emde). Leyla is riddled with self-loathing, resenting her body. To deal with her insecurities, she brings Tristan, who seemingly just wants her to be happy again, to a body swap retreat where you get paired up with another couple and swap bodies — feeling everything they do and being burdened with any physical and mental problems the other suffers with.

Within this, Leyla begins to thrive, living without the things that once weighed her down and feeling free to live her life again. However, this freedom comes with a high price. Tristan has the opposite reaction to the experience, as he begins to lose himself in the process.

Skin Deep is one of those films you really don’t want to know much about and go in completely blind watching it.

From the very beginning, this film is picturesque, riding the coattails of Midsommar with similar aesthetics and characters.

Skin Deep is very melancholic with somber overtones, from its deeper colors to its intense soundtrack. All of this together works perfectly, setting the tone and really hitting the mark to reflect how the characters are feeling. When they are at their peak with joy, the film radiates with lively colors. Once things become heavy, the tonal shift is so subtle and really changes everything.

This film touches on sensitive subjects.

As someone who can relate to some of the themes touched on in Skin Deep, it really spoke to me, and I appreciated the way it dealt with issues of mental health.

Our main character, Leyla, has engaged in acts of self-harm in the past. She stopped working, stopped seeing people, and stopped going out into the world. It’s beautiful to see her journey of healing and blossoming. We feel every feeling she does, and it’s easy to understand the feeling of self-hatred that takes over and makes it difficult for us to function.

Dealing with personal identity in a way I don’t think has been done before, Skin Deep offers a unique story.

However, it can get complicated. Fortunately, Schaad lets us know when the body swap happens and who has swapped with whom. Yet, I could imagine that some viewers may get overwhelmed trying to figure out who is who.

Skin Deep was an amazing watch. Going into it without watching any trailers or reading up about what to expect, it was truly a magical experience.

With a collective of very strong performances, this transformative film asks a lot of profound questions. It isn’t your David Cronenberg body swap horror; it’s deeper than that. It really makes you think about life and how you want to feel in your own skin.

As a fan of foreign horror, this really shines bright.

I know subtitled films aren’t for everyone, but I plead with you to give Skin Deep a chance.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4

Skin Deep had its World Premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded the Queer Lion. It opened in theaters via Kino Lorber in February 2024. Click here to be notified when it’s available to stream. 

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