Australian writer/director David O’Donnell has produced a film of stunning beauty and importance inspired by real-life experience.
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.
Alex Russell as the lawyer plays wonderfully with all four actors as thier character struggles to come to terms with the realities of living with someone in transition.
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.
Info at www.raindance.org