By Adam Ray Palmer
Jennifer Reeder debuted her new movie Knives and Skin at the Berlin Film Festival this fine Saturday evening. This is her second feature film she has directed, after 2017’s Signature Move, but her first as a writer.
Knives and Skin stars an ensemble cast including: Marika Engelhardt, Kate Arrington, James Vincent Meredith, Tim Hopper, Ty Olwin and Ireon Roach. There’s one core narrative, but many lives entwine…
Knives and Skin follows the investigation of a young girl’s disappearance in a stylized version of a rural Midwest town that hovers just above reality, led by an inexperienced local sheriff. The small-town residents are distressed by the news, with the ripple of suspicion destroying some relationships, whilst strengthening the birth of others.
There’s so much to digest in the 1 hour 47 minutes run time, but very little is left to be desired. The talented Jennifer Reeder, may I state again her first written feature, nails the write amount of characters, secrets and trauma; thus, creating tension, emotion and the allure of wanting more.
Knives and Skin is a mystical teen noir that delves into the difficult underbelly of coming of age, but also the difficulty of being a failing parent. The movie effectively states that life is all about coming of age. The adults in this film are more ‘messed up’ than the kids, and Reeder perfectly frames how being an independent, innocent adult can be just as challenging as working your way through college as a wallflower.
There’re rich themes of adultery, loss, grief, sexuality – all dealt with in similar ways. They are all looked at through an innocent magnifying glass, but everything falls apart in emotional carnage. The film pulls no punches, literally, just like life does. It’s strange how mystical this movie is, comparable at times to like you have just dropped some LSD, but also feeling so authentic.
On the directing side, it’s packed with gorgeous shots and vibrant colours. It’s a disco for your eyes. The intense close up camerawork is unforgiving on the talented cast, who must use their expressions to convey their thoughts and feelings in poignant moments. There’s a handful of performances that are impressive, none more so than the female trifecta of Marika Engelhardt, Kate Arrington and Ireon Roach. All three have different stories to tell, but the trio anchor Knives and Skin expertly.
On the whole, Knives and Skin is a great debut writing gig for Jennifer Reeder. She skilfully crafts a compelling story, beautifully delivered by clever camerawork and visuals. Reeder gets the best out of her cast who repay her with capable performances that deserve to be seen by a large audience. Make sure you try and catch this teen noir whenever you can, people.
Cineroom’s rating: 4 stars
Knives and Skin screened at the Berlinale. It is yet to be picked up by UK distributors.