Smoldering 'Skin' has blemishes

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Spanish actor Javier Bardem was a smoldering, intense presence in "Before Night Falls," for which he received an Oscar nomination last year. In the sudsy Spanish drama "Second Skin" (filmed before "Before Night Falls"), he's still smoldering — and is one of the few reasons to watch the film, which director Gerardo Vera has drenched in swoony music and fever-pitched melodrama.

Actually, the entire cast of "Second Skin" smolders, although not necessarily in a purposeful way. Jordi Mollá, who is lens-meltingly handsome, plays Alberto, a tortured young husband who embarks on an affair with a handsome surgeon (Bardem). Adriana Gil, an Audrey Hepburn-esque beauty with big, sad eyes, plays his wife, Elena, who takes care of their young son and wonders why Alberto doesn't want to have sex with her anymore.

And Bardem is alternately sweetly romantic and sadly confused as Diego, a brilliant doctor who nonetheless seems a tad dim. (It never occurs to him that Alberto, who uses all sorts of evasive strategies to maintain his double life, might be married?). He gets to cut loose for just a moment — late in the film, he dances to salsa music in his apartment. Grinning and swaying irresistibly, he's dreaming, perhaps, of better films in his future.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

"Second Skin"

with Javier Bardem, Jordi Moll, Ariadna Gil, Cecilia Roth. Directed by Gerardo Vera, from a screenplay by ngeles Gnzalez Sindre. 100 minutes. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences (contains nudity and sexual situations). In Spanish with English subtitles. Varsity, through Thursday.