by Julianne Snow:
Fifteen year old Rachel Barber, a dancer and daughter to Elizabeth and Michael Barber fails to step off the tram where her father waits for her on a cool March evening in Australia. The resultant panic and concern from the Barber family sparks a campaign to find her and bring her home, despite the lack of police help. What the Barber’s don’t know is that Rachel has been taken by the disturbed and tormented eldest daughter of the family that lived across the street, a young woman who had once baby-sat for the family. In Her Skin, also titled I Am You is the story of Rachel’s disappearance and ultimately her discovery.
After deciding to watch this last night, I will admit that I was not optimistic that I would find it anything other than formulaic with respects to other abduction stories I have viewed in the past. I could not have been more wrong.
There is a real sense of dread and despair that unfold as the opening scenes play out. While there is an introduction to the lovely young Rachel, it’s the scenes that follow that will leave your stomach feeling different; on the verge of taking up residence your throat.
Michael, played by Guy Pearce, awaits his daughter after school at the local tram stop and there’s a foreboding atmosphere that tells you something isn’t right. While it’s the premise of the movie, there is something more there – something that lies just beneath the surface of understanding, but still you recognize it. After witnessing the desperate first moments of the phone search by Elizabeth, Rachel’s mother, you can tell that they both will fight tooth and nail if need be to find their daughter.
As the search intensifies, with little to no help from the police who are under the assumption that Rachel has simply run away, you learn that Rachel was going to meet up with a friend after school. An old friend that had an opportunity for Rachel to make a lot of money. Enter Caroline Reid, soon to be known as Caroline Reed Robertson. From here the story takes quite a few heart-breaking turns before dropping you at the conclusion without thought to your own frayed emotions.
Ruth Bradley is absolutely stunning in In Her Skin, playing a hateful young woman who not only hates herself, her parents and her life. She hates the one person who epitomizes the perfect life she wants to live. With sickening moments of psychosis, following by deranged moments of calm, Ruth embodies the struggle that must have surely tormented Caroline Reid.
Miranda Otto and Guy Pearce give heart-breaking portrayals of parents who desperately wish to find their daughter. I’m not ashamed to admit there were moments when the emotion washed over me so much so that I cried along with the characters.
Based on a true story, this is so much more than a biopic rendering of a terrible tragedy. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of cinematography that tells of a disappearance of young girl. One of the best films I think I have watched. Truly.