"In Her Skin" is a Movie That Will Get Under Yours


The 2009 Australian film "In Her Skin" is based on a true story of a mentally unstable woman and her obsession with a neighbor girls perfect life.  Its a story of two families dealing with heartbreak, class structures, self-esteem and who is to blame.

Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto play Mike and Elizabeth Barber the upper middle class parents of Rachel, a 15-year-old Dancer, who goes missing after accepting a job from an estranged older friend named Caroline, played fearlessly by Ruth Bradley.  The girls exist at opposite ends of the class and popularity spectrum.  Rachel is young and beautiful with an equally beautiful boyfriend.  She has two loving parents and a normal home life.  While Caroline, who is in her early to mid 20s, lives alone in an apartment always on the brink of some kind of mental breakdown.  Her parents are divorced and her father has long given up hope of having a "normal" daughter.  He has had to learn to just deal with her craziness after having to bail her out of situations her whole life.  Caroline works a dull and dreary office job with little to no motivation to do anything more with her life.  Rachel has been a sort of obsession and role model of hers ever since she babysat for her years back.  An idealized version of what she wishes she could be.  Caroline feels trapped and cursed to roam the earth in her overweight and unattractive body.  She is unloved and unwanted. We can only watch as the clock ticks forward to an enviable breakdown. 

After Rachel doesn't return home one afternoon.  Her parents start to worry and call her friends and the  They go to the police but are devastated to be told that Rachel must have run away or is just out on a bender and will probably show up in a day or two. With all of the other more important cases, they can't be wasting their precious recourses on a missing teenage girl.  Mike and Elizabeth do eventually find an investigator dedicated to finding what happened to Rachel and it all leads back to Caroline.

The film is uniquely structured in that it is split up into three sections dealing with the individual characters viewpoints and personal struggles.  After a brief intro we start with a title card "Mike and Elizabeth", Then go on to "Caroline", then finally "Rachel".  The resulting story is raw, honest, and heartbreaking.  It is superbly acted by all involved and unlike most Hollywood studio movies doesn't offer any easy answers.