2021 Oscar Reviews: The Man Who Sold His Skin

For the past several years, I’ve attempted to watch as many Oscar-nominated films as possible, and for the past two years I have written reviews of each film and posted them to this blog. Alas, I always run out of time and cannot see everything. This year’ ceremony has been delayed, and I started reviewing before nominations were announced, giving me a decent chance at wide coverage. Today we cover…

The Man Who Sold His Skin

[one nomination for Best International Feature]

The Man who Sold His Skin is easily, far-and-away the most original story of all this year’s nominees in any category (Soul is the only other one to come close.) Take this super clever story, execute it beautifully, bring up plenty of complex questions and themes, and finish it off with a twists-and-turns ending, and you’ve got a legitimately enticing film.

Skin is the tale of Sam Ali, a Syrian man who has to flee to Lebanon to avoid incarceration. Almost immediately afterwards war erupts in Syria, his girlfriend back home marries a diplomat as a way to escape to Europe, and both of them are trapped. When a world-famous artist tattoos Ali’s back, it gives him the opportunity to travel as a piece of artwork. Now if this sounds problematic, that’s because it is! Is Ali being exploited? Is this human trafficking? Are people really more interested in moving commodities rather than refugees? How fine is the line between dehumanization and self-sufficiency? How far could we, or should we go, to survive?

Oddly enough, though I feel that this film had more to say than most others, I’m catching myself having very little else to say during this review. Part of the issue is that I don’t have any major complaints. Another is that the film is so plot-heavy that I don’t want to give anything away. That being said, the film’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not for everyone. Maybe you think the premise is too convoluted, in which case the rest of the film probably won’t be to your liking, either. And both this film and its competitor Better Days feature twisty-turny endings that, in both cases, could be considered a bit much. I personally was all about the twists here, though admit I kinda rolled my eyes at one or two of them.

Another highly-recommended film, and one I’m glad I managed to get to (it was low on the list due to it not being included in any of my free streaming services).


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