Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Second Skin (Segunda Piel) (2001)
18

Even though Pedro Almodóvar was a major creative force in blowing away the severity of the Franco years, his films - like "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" - still caused shock-horror in the Spanish heartland. "Second Skin", though by another director (Gerardo Vera), will almost certainly do likewise. Like Almodóvar, Gerardo Vera kicks aside the Catholic certainties of conservative Spain as he delineates the instability of a marriage, specifically caused by a husband who is torn between his wife and another man.

However, in a more general sense Vera seems to be pointing to what happens when a couple follows two different agendas, of which a gay relationship is only an extreme example. This is a film where the characters embrace desire, anxiety, insecurity, confusion and, finally, a small sign of hope, with the latter not couched in some cute ending.

Elena (Ariadna Gil) and Alberto (Jordi Molla) seem to be in a nice contented groove (she even seems happy when discussing their daily routine), and they have a pleasant flat and a kindly kid to prove it. She discovers hotel receipts in his suit, then declarations of love on his voicemail, and so family life begins to shake.

All three leads move convincingly from confidence through emotional agony to grappling with new lives, even though Elena is much too understanding on hearing the bad news. Still, the basic situation is nothing if not authentic, even if the screenplay moves forward in ordinary, obvious ways. It does, for example, highlight the symbolism of the colour red. The trick, of course, is to be able to include surprise within the bounds of credibility. Nonetheless, the low-key direction is pleasingly emphatic in this properly intense, claustrophobic tale of obsessive love.

End Credits

Director: Gerardo Vera

Writer: Àngeles González Sinde

Stars: Javier Bardem, Jordi Molla, Ariadna Gil, Cecilia Roth, Javier Albala, Adrian Sac

Genre: Drama

Length: 104 minutes

Cinema: 2 February 2001

Country: Spain

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