Under My Skin – A fresh and heartfelt exploration of non-binary gender identity

5 mins read

Under My Skin is currently awaiting a nationwide release date, and this post will be updated when one becomes available.

With its world premiere at this years Raindance, Australian writer-director David O’Donnell’s Under My Skin is a fresh, delicate yet captivating exploration of gender. In a movie that joyously unpicks and rewrites the classic romantic drama. Reflecting a diversity of relationships that rarely find expression in cinema. While at the same time embracing and furthering non-binary gender representation on screen. The resulting picture both complex yet accessible in exploring the barriers and challenges of a non-binary ‘coming out’ process within a stable, loving yet delicate union.

Denny is a musician, travelling from bar to bar earning meagre tips while waiting for a lucky big break. The vitality of Denny’s music and talent mixed with a sprinkling of rebellion and the soft glow of artistic freedom. Meanwhile, Ryan (Alex Russell) is a corporate lawyer, slowly working his way up the slippery slope of success. His boss demanding attention, while equally playing each young recruit off against each other, in a game of corporate control. But, on a works night out, Denny and Ryan’s worlds collide in the booze-soaked haze of a local bar. With Denny’s music and energetic spirit captivating Ryan. And so develops a deep relationship and emotional connection. Their life together quickly progressing from casual dates to sex and finally, the sharing of Ryan’s apartment.

However, as Denny begins to explore gender roles kept hidden through years of personal containment. Ryan starts to worry that his life and career may not be able to support a gender-neutral partner. Their love for each other tested as discussions progress and Denny begins to take testosterone supplements. And when Ryan’s need for a corporate ‘girlfriend’ enters the fray, Denny feels a pressure to conform to a set of gender stereotypes that defy internal feelings.

The resulting journey that Ryan and Denny take is both heartfelt, powerful and nuanced in construct. With Ryans career uncomfortably sitting alongside the internal need and desire to support Denny. While at the same time, Denny’s internal battle to discover a personal comfort is layered with a deep love for Ryan, and the simmering need for artistic expression and personal progression.

Meanwhile, Ryan holds a deep and enduring love for Denny that he can only fully express when they are alone together. The pressures of social image, career and progression damaging his ability to walk with Denny on a personal journey of discovery. However, despite this, Ryan is committed to their relationship; his love embedded in a commitment to understanding their needs. With Alex Russell beautifully portraying a man who is merely striving for understanding, despite the pressures surrounding him.

But, it is in the portrayal of Denny’s journey to personal freedom that David O’Donnell’s direction takes a brave and inspired route. With Denny finding a voice through four different actors, Liv Hewson, Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Chloe Freeman and Lex Ryan. Each person demonstrating a unique side to Denny’s journey; highlighting the internal struggle to define place and purpose. With each performer bringing a unique and wonderfully realised depth to Denny’s character, led by the effervescent Liv Hewson.

Under My Skin burns with creativity alongside exceptional performances, creating a genuinely modern, diverse and representative romantic drama. With O’Donnell’s direction excelling in both vision, screenplay and artistry. His decision to focus on the internal struggle for recognition, dovetailed with a broader reflection of love transcending social barriers. In a fresh, witty, heartfelt and urgent exploration of non-binary gender identity. And one can only hope that Under My Skin marks the start of further non-binary representation in films over the coming years.

Director: David O’Donnell

Cast: Alexis DenisofLiv HewsonAlex Russell, Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Chloe Freeman, Lex Ryan

Liv Hewson also appears in Bombshell and Let it Snow

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