NOTE: This review for “Beneath The Skin” was written for and published on my former site, using my old rating scale. I have kept this review as was initially published.

“Beneath The Skin” is a 2015 movie that appears to be the first undertaking by Aaron Ellis as not just the writer and co-director, but he then stars in the film as Joshua. He co-directed the movie with Michael McKinnley (who also stars in this movie as Zac.) I will note that this film was nominated for a few awards, even winning 4 of those. At present, the IMDB user rating is a 5.3/10. Personally, I gave it a 4.

The story in “Beneath The Skin” is part of the reason it has a lower score, it was hard to believe at some times. The basic premise is that Joshua, a British student who just lost his mother, is forced to move to Nova Scotia to live with his estranged father. Meanwhile, we meet Jay (Hunter Page), living in Alabama, who is in the throws of making love on the living room sofa when his parent’s walk in, kick him a few times, then kick him out for good. Jay happens to meet a random stranger passing through who offers to let Jay be his roommate in Canada. While adjusting to his new life and school in Canada, Joshua ends up getting attacked by a few of his classmates outside of a Tattoo parlor where he is protected and saved by one of the workers – return of Jay. Very quickly, and with a shower confusion issue, they realize there is a connection between the two and romance blossoms. However, it’s very short lived as the same classmates decide to try and ruin Joshua’s life by breaking into Jay’s place and destroying his art, resulting in Joshua punching one kid in the face and thus subsequently expelled from the school. Then, his mother’s solicitor informed him that as the situation in Canada did not pan out, he is being forced to return back to England and go to boarding school until he’s 18. Despite this tragic chain of events tearing up the newly formed relationship, a happy ending is in sight as on Joshua’s 18th birthday, Jay miraculously shows up in England to surprise Joshua with his birthday present – himself in a necktie with only a bottle of champagne. We can only hope they lived on in bliss. Oi.

Now, to the nitty gritty story issues! We barely get wind that his mother died suddenly, except for some remarks between Joshua and his half-brother (who stays in England, btw.) We also never meet his estranged father in Nova Scotia. Apparently that detail seems to have slipped the writer’s minds or thought to be irrelevant, despite later on when the solicitor says that it’s not working in Nova Scotia and Joshua has to return. The school he attends appears to be rather small – one single classroom of his senior grade with just the main teacher and a principal. Tying in with the school, the teachers witness only the punch Joshua lays on the fellow student but not the name-calling just prior. This school of course, has a zero tolerance policy for violence – thus the expulsion, especially as Joshua refuses to admit what led up to the incident, saying the principal wouldn’t understand.

The tattoo parlor that Jay and his friend work, happens to have a live-in suite with shower in the back. The same shower that causes the initial issues. Joshua somehow gets dirtied in the initial attack, so Jay offers him to shower at the store, except Elijah (Jamie Knox) is naked in the shower. So instead, Jay offers to let Joshua shower back at his place – remember, they’re both strangers still. (And technically, Joshua is a minor – though we do not know the actual age of Jay, but he appears to be similarly aged at 18-21). After the shower then, Joshua needs to wash his pants, so he lounges around with Jay in his underwear – which gets Jay going to the point he tries to escape to the bathroom to relieve the issue only to be caught by Joshua. Perhaps it’s common in Nova Scotia to let random strange minors into your flat to shower after being attacked, but that part of the story felt like a stretch. And since it’s the point the two lovers meet, speaks poorly for the rest of the film. Sadly, the story line does not improve, rather adding more confusing complications, such as the fact that the whole entire story happens over only a couple days.

One reviewer noted the random sex and nudity didn’t flow with the story in “Beneath The Skin”. Frankly, I thought there wasn’t enough in some spots and the little we get in others did little to help the story. A great example is in the bathroom as Jay is trying to relieve himself – we view the moment Joshua opens the bathroom door from Jay’s perspective, and then have a sudden black out without showing what actually is happening. Next scene has the two of them back on the sofa beside themselves in awkward silence. But later on, we get a random naked dick shot. Not saying that every gay themed movie needs sex scenes or dick shots to make viewers happy, but be consistent with them if you’re going to show it all.

The other major reason “Beneath The Skin” gets such a low score from me is the actually post-editing and filming quality. Most of the picture is clear, but the sound is horrible. There are times where it’s hard to hear what the actors are even saying – as if the mic booms weren’t in the same room when they filmed. There are a few random and sudden blackouts that are confusing and barely move the story along. The overall flow of the movie is quite slow, and sadly, never picks up. There are some nice moments regarding camera angles, but nothing to gush over.

At best, I would call this a good effort – for a film student’s final product. Trying to label “Beneath The Skin” as more would be a disservice. Even with that, I’ve seen film student’s work that leaves this film miles behind others. Hopefully we see more from this directing duo – including more skill!