• Review Date: February 7, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 107 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Intense family drama about race, identity during apartheid.
  • Review Date: February 7, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 107 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie offers the powerful message that strength can be found from within. But it also suggests that while parents may be well-meaning, they don’t always do the right thing and are sometimes too weak to fight an entrenched, unjust society.

Positive role models

Sandra is strong and hopeful despite setbacks. She clearly knows who she is, which sees her through good times and bad. Her parents are more complicated figures, whose decisions are sometimes based on fear.


Several disturbing scenes of bigotry. A teacher uses corporal punishment in the classroom. A man arms himself with a gun to protect his family. A child rubs bleach all over herself in an attempt to make her skin whiter. A mother slaps her daughter. A man fires a gun at another man, who is later beaten by cops. A ritual involves cutting a baby’s skin. A man breaks a car window and menacingly touches his wife. Cops ransack and raze a village. A man beats his wife.


A half-dressed man caresses a fully clothed woman. Lovers are shown lounging in bed under covers, their shoulders bare.


A man calls a woman a “bitch” after she resists his unwanted advances.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A man drinks beer at home.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Skin is a complicated drama about racial politics and family relationships that follows a girl born to white parents but who has a dark complexion and black features. Set in South Africa during apartheid, the film deals with heavy and complicated themes that younger children may not quite grasp. But teens will appreciate the message -- that identity is much more than just skin deep. Expect scenes of explicit bigotry and some racially motivated violence.

User reviews

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

A white family in 1950s South Africa, unfamiliar with their own mixed-race ancestry, is shocked when their dark-complexioned daughter is "re-classified" as a black person at a time when apartheid was the law, only to have that decision reversed once more. But as a teenager, Sandra (Sophie Okonedo) grows tired of the bigotry and challenges the system once more when she falls for, and elopes with, a black man. Much to her dismay, her father (Sam Neill), who harbors prejudices of his own, reports them to the police, who arrest them. Finding herself at a juncture, Sandra makes a decision that estranges her from her family. But her fight to define herself beyond the color of her skin, whether considered black or white, continues long after.

Is it any good?


If a film’s ability to perturb audiences is an indication of how good it is, then SKIN is superb, indeed. It’s told with alarming straightforwardness, which only serves to heighten the horror of the bigotry that unfolds onscreen. But what makes it even better is how it anchors the politics and history with human emotions, allowing viewers to feel just what it’s like to walk in Sandra’s shoes -- how enraging it must have been to be discriminated against; how confusing it must have been to discover that the those who have always protected you, your parents, can harbor such tragically limited ideas about race; and how isolating it must be to hear the man you love condemn a group of people with whom you also identify, and worse.

The film does have its problems, including slack pacing and uninspired storytelling that sometimes robs it of suspense and drama. But neither one is critical enough to scar.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about apartheid. What do you think about this policy of institutionalized racism? How does it compare to periods of U.S. history?

  • How does Sandra's story illustrate the complicated definition of race? What kinds of questions does her story bring up?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 30, 2009
DVD release date:February 1, 2011
Cast:Alice Krige, Sam Neill, Sophie Okonedo
Director:Anthony Fabian
Studio:Entertainment One
Run time:107 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic material, some violence and sexuality

This review of Skin was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

Write a user reviewThere aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass