In an unprecedented posting two of our contributors from Canada remark on a show exclusive to HBO CANADA.
Eleonora Iafano – HBO Canada recently released a series called “Sensitive Skin.” Three of Canada’s most prominent actors star in it: Kim Cattrall, Don McKellar and Colm Feore. This is a series about a couple who have been married for over 30 years, and the challenges of downsizing and trying to adapt to a new lifestyle.
Kim Cattrall portrays a 50 something woman named Davina Jackson. Davina has recently sold her house and downsized to a trendy loft style condo. Davina is also taking hormone replacement therapy, because it makes her feel better about herself, physically (although there are many health risks associated with prolonged use). A little more background information is needed about Davina: she has been married to Al Jackson for over 30 years, she has one son named Orlando (who is quite blunt in his own right) and she works in an art gallery. She used to be a model. She has a very selfish sister and status driven brother in law. She also thinks about her appearance, her lifestyle and her life choices.
The first warning bell is when she states “I’ve been married to Al for over 30 years. We have a vintage jag. I can’t leave that.” So, you wouldn’t leave your husband because the amount of years with him and the fact that you have a luxury car. That does not sound like a barrel full of wedded bliss to me.
Jason Godfrey: After 30 years of marriage, it is apparent that Al is desperately seeking attention from his wife who is slowly checking out of the relationship because she’s lost in her mid-life crisis and even escapes reality to a delusion in each episode. He always keeps her up-to-date with his career from why he’s listening to Anne Murray to his brushes with fame on Mary’s talk show or the project that Robert Ringwald has him on. This all happens while Davina feigns interest. She doesn’t listen to his interview on the talk show, but instead listens to him explain how it went. He takes part in her gallery events and even makes an attempt to cheer her up after the death of her mother by having a wall painted to liven things up. While, that effort may have been sexually motivated (doctor’s orders, of course) it was more effort than Davina has made the entire season.
EI: The series also examines the idea of dealing with sexual temptation when you’re a woman over 50. Davina has her share of chances: a successful author hits on her, a piano teacher does more than flirt with her and then most shockingly, her uptight brother in law professes his love for her. While Davina is a very attractive woman and puts herself together very stylishly, the fact is that two out of three times, she was clearly attracted to the men that hit on her. She seemed to be very repelled by her brother in law. I don’t blame her in that regard.
But what is going on in her head? Why isn’t she attracted to her husband anymore? Why is she feeling unfulfilled and why does she feel the need to avoid her husband, get high as a replacement and give into temptation? All the trips to the hairdresser, the hormone replacement therapy and so called piano lessons spell out denial. She also has these little delusions, in which she talks to herself about what her life has become, with the only characters who listen and respond are dead people. Not good. Davina is bored with her life, doesn’t want to be married to Al anymore and feels stuck in a rut. Eventually, she leaves Al. When a relationship ends after so many years, there’s bound to be emotional carnage.
JG: If seeing Davina with another man wasn’t enough for his heart to handle, the reality of their break-up setting in among the stress of the rest of the last episode led to his cardiac arrest. In the hospital, he finally got Davina’s full attention. They hit a bump in the road, but she still showed she still cared. He lightened the mood by saying that he now has something relatable to write about. Despite the doctor’s opinion that Al was going to be completely fine, the final scene has Davina running out of Al’s room as his heartbeat monitor lets out a long flat-line beep.
EI: As a woman in her 30s watching this series, I feel that Davina is lost. Here is a woman who has a husband who dotes on her and he has a successful career and has a son who is healthy. I would have thought that selling a large house and moving into a trendy loft condo would have been good, both financially and socially. At that stage in her life, I thought that Davina should have been out in the world, trying new things with her husband and also on her own. It’s always good to try new experiences and never stop learning. Marriage is the hardest thing that anyone has to go through (parenthood is probably harder, but I have yet to experience that). With marriage, not only do you end up in a partnership, you have to start thinking of the other person’s needs and wishes before your own. You have to keep things interesting. You have to appreciate your spouse. Believe me, there are days where it can be tough, especially when you have an argument. Then, there are days when your spouse is the best thing that ever happened to you. You have to love unconditionally, accept the good times and the bad. But before things get so bad, there’s always a point where both people need to reach out to each other and try. Try to mend fences. Try to compromise. The point is, to try. For Davina, after managing to mend the fence, it was too late. Al dies and it leaves her shattered and heartbroken.
JG: This series is a good blend of drama – dealing with issues of a marriage running stale, death, image and life changes – and comedy. Kim Cattrall has said that when she approached Don McKeller about Sensitive Skin that she believed that he would be perfect for the part of Al. I couldn’t agree more. His role was expertly played because he brought both dignity and respect to a character that could easily be played as a tool for comedic relief instead of the crucial piece of the puzzle. Each of the episodes were directed by Don McKeller as well and even though I felt awkward by his choice of camera placement for the opening scene, I do understand the intention was to make Davina look small as she asks for hormones from the pharmacist. She seemed more child-like the way this was shot, but judging by her decisions later in the season, it probably wasn’t as inaccurate as it first seemed.
EI: After watching the entire series, I feel a mixture of pity and empathy for Davina. I feel pity because she is a woman who is lost and searching, but for what I know not. I also feel empathy for her because I have seen and known people like her who have gone through separation and divorce. Life has its’ shares of ups and downs. The best of times and the worst of times should make you want to hold on to that love, because that’s what helps us humans get through life. This series was funny and poignant at the same time, because it examines love, long after the bloom is off the rose.