"A film by Almodovar." You know as a director that you've made it when your surname becomes a brand. That's clearly the case with Spain's masterful Pedro Almodover who has a name and a style unlike anybody else; The Skin I Live In couldn't possibly have been made by anyone else. And, even by his standards (as in both "bizarre" and "high"), The Skin I Live In is a remarkable piece of work.
It's also the sort of film where considering this review has probably taken longer than watching the film. There is a definite risk of giving key plot details away which, while not necessarily "spoilers" per se — and there's certainly enough to recommend here even if you've had the twists revealed — are the sort of thing you'd like an audience to find for themselves. Mind you, even if you suspect the twists — as I did — you'll push those thoughts to the back of your mind with a "surely not even Almodovar..." which means when he does pull them out of the bag later, they'll still hit you with the force of an express train. And, frankly, at regular intervals for days and weeks after as you consider what you've seen.
So, let's give this a go. Antonio Banderas plays Robert Ledgard, a gifted plastic surgeon who, since his wife was injured in a horrific car crash, has been working on a revolutionary synthetic skin for burn victims. It's not the only tragedy that Ledgard has struggled to come to terms with: his troubled, fragile daughter was the victim of a sexual assault that has fuelled his desire for revenge.
And that, dear Screenjabber reader, is where I shall leave it. Go, expect the worst, gasp (probably literally) as your most twisted thoughts take hold but seem to be ruled out by Almodovar's very clever plot structure; the story evolves through a series of flashbacks and mysterious developments that will baffle and hook you in roughly equal measure. At the end though, everything ties up with, appropriately, surgeon-like precision. It's a mad, twisted, occasionally funny, oddly moving, tale that stands alongside not only the best of this year, but also the best of Almodovar. And if that's not recommendation to see a film, I don't know what is.