Critics Consensus

Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, and Alice Krige do wonderful work in Skin, delivering performances whose strength is underlined by the incredible real-life events upon which the movie is based.



Reviews Counted: 63

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Average Rating: 3.8/5

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Movie Info

A dark-skinned girl born to white South African parents attempts to explore her identity in the era of apartheid as her government, her parents, and society as a whole struggle with what it means to be a black child of Caucasian descent in a nation deeply divided by race. The year is 1955. Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) has just been born to a pair of white Afrikaner parents, her brown skin and curly hair the surprising result of genetic throwback. As the government's rigid apartheid system struggles with whether to classify Sandra as white or black, the young girl and her parents gradually realize that the complications they face due to her appearance run deep and wide. Sandra lives in a society where the color of your skin determines the outcome of your life, and though she is eventually granted admission to an all-white school, she suffers endless torment from her intolerant classmates. Her father, Abraham (Sam Neill), is having a particularly difficult time accepting his daughter. Despite the fact that tests indicate he is her biological father, the neighbors constantly whisper behind their backs. And while Sandra's mother (Alice Krige) does her best to provide her daughter with understanding and emotional support, those consolations come at a high price for both mother and daughter. Her parents believe it's their daughter's birthright that she live as a white woman, though only after she grows up and falls in love with a black man will the conflicted Sandra finally find the strength to embrace her true identity as an African woman. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Sophie Okonedo
as Sandra Laing
Alice Krige
as Sannie Laing
Sam Neill
as Abraham Laing
Ben Botha
as Dawie
Hannes Brummer
as Leon Laing
Graeme Bloch
as Bailiff
Ruaan Bok
as Henry Laing (age 10)
Danny Keogh
as Van Tonder
Zoea Alberts
as Girl in Classroom
Thami Baleka
as Factory Worker
Bongani Masondo
as Henry Laing (age 20)
Tony Kgoroge
as Petrus Zwane
Kate-Lyn Von Meyer
as Elsie Laing (age 9)
Ella Ramangwane
as Young Sandra
Terri Ann Eckstein
as Elsie Laing (age 19)
Jonathan Pienaar
as Van Niekirk
Morne Visser
as Dr. Sparks
Gordon van Rooyen
as Judge Galgut
Zamanthebe Sithebe
as Young Thembi
Faniswa Yisa
as Nora Molefe
Nomhle Nkonyeni
as Jenny Zwane
Kaylim Willet
as Adriaan Laing
Onida Cowan
as Miss Van Uys
Nicole Holme
as Miss Ludik
Duane Saayman
as Boy in Classroom
Valesica Smith
as Factory Worker 2
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News & Interviews for Skin

Critic Reviews for Skin

All Critics (63) | Top Critics (24)

Audience Reviews for Skin

A true story converted to film usually is bastardised in the process, and while that is true here the strength of the story itself, about how we encourage racial distinctions and the price of that decision, carries this film throughout with a sense of childhood betrayed that stays long after the credits roll. The execution is flawed but the punch loses no power.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Based on a true story. This movie really makes one re-think what they "know", and "believe", about race. This lady's story is truly a sad, and unjust one, and prompted me to research apartheid era racial classification tests, and the life of Sandra Laing. This unusual case really highlights the effects of South Africa's racial classification system. Very interesting story with actual footage at the end of her, and her white family.

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer


I usually approach docu-dramas cautiously - they can certainly be a mixed bag, where the story usually trumps any attempt at creating art; thankfully Skin, due to the very nature of its story, is so compelling that it transcends the genre. Telling the story of a 1960's South African girl, born to white Afrikaner parents, Skin shows us apartheid up close and personal, since Sandra, the young girl in question, appears to be "black". The story shows it all, how the government's rigid yet ridiculous determinations of race affect both sides of the equation, leaving Sandra an outcast in both worlds. The story focuses on Sandra as she grows up - from getting tossed from an all white (segregated due to Apartheid) school due to her appearance, to her late teen years as her white parents try to hook her up with suitable white suitors. Ultimately she falls for a black man who seems the only man who can make her smile. When her father finds out he has his own daughter arrested - since doing the horizontal with someone not of your race is considered a moral crime. What strikes you most, aside from the austere terrain, is how Sandra is a woman with one foot in each world, and yet an outcast in both. By law she cannot marry outside her race, so the children she produces with her black "husband" are considered an affirmation of her lawlessness, and is always aware that the government can step in at any moment and take her children from her. And yet she "looks black" so cannot find a good "white" job, or fit in with white society. The story is heartbreaking showing not only Sandra's strong character, but how a system can destroy - case in point is the destruction of Sandra's black shanty town; not only do the bulldozers level the place (so white folk can develop the area), but they also destroy the dreams and ultimately the soul of Sandra's man - as well as the formerly loving relationship they had together. There was no reason for any of this, and yet bigotry still runs rampant, each generation instilling the same fear and apprehension of things we find different from ourselves. I found the performances profound throughout, especially that of Sophie Okonedo as Sandra and Alice Krieg as her mother, caught in two hells - the one concerning the color of her daughter's skin and a second as a 1960's wife who must meekly obey her husband, though it breaks her heart to do so. A thought provoking film on so many levels - this should be required viewing for all early teens.

paul sandberg
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

The best moments of "Skin" occur in the background depiction of the country itself. South Africa fairly shimmers beneath a sun-tinted lens, brimming from the tips of a wheat stalk to a scarlet patch on a headscarf with rich culture and change. If the rest of film were handled with such subtlety and attention, "Skin" would surely serve the purpose it was meant for, bringing attention to an imperative social issue. But subtle it is not. Sandra's father, Abraham Laing (Sam Neill, "Jurassic Park"), is an angry, racist maniac whose hate for his daughter and everything she represents is painfully transparent. His obsession with getting his daughter reclassified as white as a young child quickly escalates to insanity - banging things on the wall, screaming nonsensical obscenities and gesticulating wildly to his skin. Okonedo's portrayal of Sandra is no better. To whatever extent Neill overacts, Okonedo seems to withdraw from the screen with equal degree, with hunched back and morose looks. Fledgling director Anthony Fabian doesn't leave the film room to breathe for itself, and instead resorts to cheap tricks to hound sentimentality, when the story alone could have survived without manipulation. These exaggerated character polarizations scream their purpose loud and clear - racism is bad, bad, bad. "Skin" is a film that can raise a lot of good questions about race and skin color, at least on the premise of the true story that it was based on. The source material is rich with intricacies and brings attention to the poignant horrors of segregation and human rights abuse of the era. With its clunky, overwrought handling of apartheid, however, "Skin" is just one of the worst possible films that could've been made from it.

Jennifer Xu
Jennifer Xu

Super Reviewer

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