The Skin I Live In (2011) Criterion Channel Movie Review

source: criterion channel / IMDB


The Skin I Live In directed by Pedro Almodovar (Volver, Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) tells the story of Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antion Bandera, AssassinsThe Mask of Zorro), a renowned plastic surgeon who has left his practice to work on creating artificial skin he calls Gal. Gal was the name of his wife who died some years earlier.

In a room in this huge house, there is a woman whose name is Vera (Elena Anaya, The Professionals TV Series). We are not sure how long she’s been there, but learn about halfway through the movie how she got there. With her being locked in a room we would think she’s being held against her will, which is half true. It seems she has come to terms with her fate and has given in, but just to make sure, Robert, literally, keeps her under lock and key.


Marilia (Marisa Paredes, Life Is Beautiful) is his housekeeper who has been with Robert since he was a little boy. Marilia’s son Zeca, with whom she doesn’t have a good relationship with shows up unannounced. Marilia soon learns that Zeca was involved in a jewelry heist and is looking for a place to hide. But she refuses to help. While walking around the kitchen Zeca sees two TVs with a camera into a room of a Vera. Marilia tries to convince him it’s a movie until Vera begins staring back via a camera in her room.

To get her son to leave, Marilia pulls a gun on Zeca who is able to get it away from her. He gags her and ties her up and then goes on the search for Vera, whom he finds. When Robert catches him with Vera, Robert shoots and kills Zeca. No, I’m not spoiling anything for you. The shooting of Zeca is the least of several shocking things that take place in this movie.

After the shooting of Zeca, we are catapulted six years prior and learn of all the secrets the universe has to hold. Robert is holding a secret that has changed his path as a medical profession, while Vera is holding a secret no one saw coming.



Each time I watch a movie on The Criterion Channel I say it’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long while. I always think there isn’t a movie to top the last one. But with this one, I think I can honestly say this is the best movie I’ve seen. I say this more so for the psychological effect it has on me. This is one of those movies I won’t be able to unsee nor not think about.

I like how we are introduced to Robert, Vera, and Marilia straight away and are forced to come up with our own plot lines for each character. We are wondering how did Vera get here. We know she is being held captive. But we witness her doing yoga, reading and watching TV. All of this makes us wonder how long has she been there to accept her environment?

Robert is an enigma. A brilliant enigma at that. We learn of the sufferings he had to endure, through flashbacks, and wonder are all twisted geniuses products of their pain? Was what he did his goal in life or did opportunity just present itself to him?

And what about Vera. Who is she and where did she come from? Why did Robert pick her to experiment on and why was she a willing participant?

When it’s all said and done and all the worlds collide it’s those left to continue on with life that we feel for.

Nothing will prepare you for a movie like this. As I was watching this film Eyes Without a Face came to mind, which is another movie you must see and also on The Criterion Channel

Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Antion Banderas, Elena Anaya, and Marisa Paredes
Released: 2 September 2011
Spanish film with English subtitles
Blue Haze Entertainment
Run time: 120 minutes

Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel



n one scene Dr. Ledgard is shown working on a bonsai tree. Bonsai is the art of creating spectacularly twisted dwarf trees, contrary to their natural patterns, by manipulating their nutrition, growing conditions and with ruthless pruning. This mirrors his ongoing experiment with Vera. (source: IMDb)

After a few days of shooting, Pedro Almodóvar had a conversation with Antonio Banderas in which he told Banderas that he needed to drop all of his ticks as an actor because the director wanted a really restrained character and the actor was playing him in a more typical psycho way. (source: IMDB)

There was other trivia, but it would have given the film away

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