Josef (Pascal Arquimedes) agrees to a date with John (Donal Brophy), a handsome stranger he hooked up with once but can barely recall. After arriving at John’s flat, Josef gets nervous and he takes some drugs of John’s that he finds. As the drugs kick in, things start to get a bit surreal and shocking incident sees Josef arrested. Trapped in an interrogation room with two prying detectives, Josef tries to get himself out of trouble and figure out what on earth is going on.
The Skin of the Teeth is the feature film debut of writer/director Matthew Wollin. Initially the film looks as if it’s going to play off the fear of having a bad Grindr hook-up and it lures you into a false sense of security. The first half is actually pretty strong and like Josef, you start hearing alarm bells pretty soon after he enters John’s apartment. From discovering that John has an agreement with a neighbour to play voyeur during each other’s sexcapades to taking an unknown drug to relieve his nerves, everything starts to feel like a dangerous and dodgy situation.
I was with the film up to that point but then it takes a random and sharp turn that left me underwhelmed. Removing Donal Brophy from the second half of the film was a mistake as his performance was once of the most intriguing things about the events that led up to the curveball. What follows is an attempt at David Lynch-type weirdness that doesn’t really work. Josef is questioned about the incident that happens by two detectives with a penchant for being unprofessional and invasive, one of whom intermittently wears a cat mask.
I understand that Wollin is attempting to disconcert the viewer. He tries to take your expectations and turn them on their head but for me there was no pay off. Instead I found the second half quite trying with very little in the way of a reward. Pascal Arquimedes does his best to carry the disjointed and bizarre material but his performance can’t rescue the nosedive that the film takes.
While I appreciate that The Skin of the Teeth was attempting to do something a little different, I felt it squandered all of its potential once Josef was arrested. I can do weird but this didn’t really feel cohesive or necessary. Up until that point It was actually a good film and I was intrigued to see where the cat-and-mouse dynamic between Josef and John was going to go. Some films can get away with being super weird but unfortunately this isn’t one of them.
Cast: Pascal Arquimedes, Donal Brophy, Tom Rizzuto, Chuja Seo Director: Matthew Wollin Writer: Matthew Wollin Certificate: 18 Duration: 80 mins Released by: TLA Releasing Release date: 13th May 2019 Buy The Skin of the Teeth