Monday, March 23, 2009

Tuck Shop Talk

Sophie Okonedo absolutely steals the show in Skin. Based on the true story of Sandra Laing, the movie follows a woman whose genetic make-up left both she and her brothers looking black in a white apartheid South Africa though both her Afrikaner parents were white. Her never-bending father, played by Sam Neill, teaches his children to "never give up." So, we see young Sandra grow up with a foot in two worlds, where the whites don't like her because she looks black but her white designation doesn't allow her to be treated as black. 

There are threads that run through the whole movie. Her father has a tuck shop, her husband runs one and at the end of the movie we see that she has opened one too off of the side of her home. The battle between her father and mother, her battle with her father, her relationship with her mother all anchor the rest of story. 

The movie does a beautiful job of telling a tale of racism and sexism while Sandra is coming of age. She is forced to step outside the bubble her father has created for her and then when she marries, she is forced to step outside that bubble as well in order to stand on her own two feet. This isn't a movie to go to if you are looking for a romp. It brings up a lot of issues that are never resolved and makes you think while your heart is breaking for Sandra's plight. 


I read a book in undergrad called, Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane that this movie made me think of. Also a coming of age story in Apartheid-era South Africa, it is an autobiography that tells of the oppression Mark Mathabane faced and triumphed over by maintaining his head and spirit. Sandra Laing had to take that same journey after looking at the world through "white" eyes. So, I can't even imagine the scars it left on her, but somehow she also perseveres.

Go see it... it isn't a "hero" movie, like Hotel Rwanda, that Okonedo also stars in, but it is thought-provoking and touching and it is a smart movie that I definitely enjoyed and can recommend wholeheartedly.

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