Under My Skin, which has its streamed world premiere this week at the Raindance Festival , tells the story of an unlikely romance bewteen singer/composer/painter Denny and Ryan, a sharp-suited ambitious corporate lawyer.
Denny unravels a secret – they are having gender and identity issues. O’Donnell shows brilliantly the transitioning of body and personality by using 4 non-binary or trans/non-binary actors to portray the troubled Denny. The main portrayal is by Liv Hewson but O’Donnell often uses mirror sequences to change the actor and their appearance from long-haired woman to ultra-masculine Den, as they eventually become.
All four actors – Hewson , Lex Ryan, Bobby Salvor Menuez and Chloe Freeman bring different characteristics out of their portrayals but the heaviest load falls on Hewson who opens and closes the film.
The initial “ courtship” is slow and haunting as well as funny and we the audience see very early on that there’s a gender issue at the heart of Denny’s very being.
Angst, anger, disbelief and incredulity all pass through Ryan and the finale , not to give it away, is both plausible and positive.
The film abounds with symbolic images and dialogue about identity and truth – from the huge male cheesecake underwear street billboard to Denny’s erotic and conflicting art which they paint on Ryan’s living room wall.
O’Donnell’s ex partner Raynen O’ Keene, who transitioned , is the film’s other collaborator, and apart from anything else, it’s an informative piece about the transitioning process – both physical and mental.
It’s an important film that both educates and entertains.
It’s only available on line on Thursday and Saturday , October 29 and 31 . It’s free but donations are welcome. The film should be on general release in 2021.