Skin Deep review — Body swap concept prompts thoughtful allegory

Directed by Alex Schaad | Written by Alex Schaad and Dimitrij Schaad | 103 min | ▲▲▲▲△ | VOD and Digital

The high concept of this sci-fi drama is this: a couple, Leyla and Tristan (Mala Emde and Jonas Dassler), goes to an eco resort, an island where they can switch bodies with other people.

It’s not permanent — except in certain, accidental cases — but it gives the participants an entirely new perspective on life. They drive around in other people’s skin and enjoy the way the world feels in another body. For some, that means a vastly different emotional landscape. It certainly has a profound impact on relationships, as Leyla and Tristan discover when they switch bodies with another couple.

Able to see through the eyes of another woman, Leyla is free of melancholy. More than that, she’s able to recognize it as a curse, something she’d rather be free of for good. Tristan, on the other hand, is confused and unhappy in another body. But then Leyla switches bodies with a man, and Tristan, back in his own skin, is challenged to be intimate with her/him.

As an allegory for gender fluidity the picture works well,  offering a lot of space for human variation. It asks how much we can know our partners, and suggests, perhaps sadly, that we only get there if we actually climb into their bodies. It also considers what part of ourselves is our physicality — someone who plays guitar struggles to do so in another body since the ability is at least partly in his fingers. It gives the actors a whole lot to do — a big part of the pleasure of the film is watching them manifest the characters.


This isn’t the kind of science fiction that has much time for science — there’s no explanation as to how these body switches work — but it also doesn’t matter at all. If you’re worried about that, you’re missing the meat of the project, the ideas under the skin that should allow for a lot of conversation afterward with your chosen cinepanion.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.