In Her Skin

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In Her Skin
Directed by Simone North
Produced by Tony Cavanagh
Maureen Barron
Catriona Hughes
Jason Moody
John Keating
Leesa Kahn
Written by Simone North
Based on Perfect Victim by Elizabeth Southall
Megan Norris
Starring Guy Pearce
Miranda Otto
Kate Bell
Khan Chittenden
Sam Neill
Rebecca Gibney
Ruth Bradley
Jack Finsterer
Robert Braiden
Jerome Velinsky
Paul Bishop
Screen Australia
Liberty Films International
Distributed by Goldcrest Films (international)
Release date
  • 2009 (2009)

2013 (Australian pay TV premiere)
Running time
107 minutes
Country Australia Australia
Language English
Budget $7.5 million[1]

In Her Skin (also known as I Am You from the working title How to Change in 9 Weeks) is a 2009 Australian drama movie written and directed by Simone North.[2] The film is based on the true story of the brutal murder of 15-year-old Rachel Barber, who went missing on 1 March 1999. It was later discovered that Rachel was murdered by a former neighbor and family babysitter, Caroline Reed Robertson.[3]

In Her Skin is inspired by the book Perfect Victim by Elizabeth Southall (Rachel's mother) and Megan Norris (an Investigative reporter).

The film's story is told from alternating points of view; the victim, the victim's parents, and the murderer. Flashbacks reveal details about all of the characters, including the motive of the murderer.


The film begins when 15-year-old Rachel Barber (Kate Bell) misses her train home one night to meet with her father, Mike (Guy Pearce). Mike relays this unusual action to his wife and Rachel's mother; Elizabeth (Miranda Otto). Initially only moderately concerned; hours drag on and the Barber family begin a frantic search for her.

It is established Rachel is a well lauded dancer in her neighbourhood; a confident and gifted girl who follows her passion of dancing and is loved unconditionally by her moderately liberal parents and her caring boyfriend - Emmanuel Carella "Manni".

The next day, the Barbers report the incident to the police (despite an original attempt the same night of her disappearance - which was advised against by the officer Elizabeth was speaking to as it had only been a short time since her absence, and a missing persons investigation normally requires more time for certainty). The officer in charge quickly shows he is indifferent to the idea of yet another teenage runaway case: Rachel had gone missing with her backpack, with several of her most favorite possessions, making it look like she was leaving. As a result, the support he and his colleagues give is minor and distant. Everybody in Rachel's circle of friends and extended family is astounded by this story as she was believed to be very content in her life. Despite the pleas of the Barber family, the police take the case lightly and refuse an extensive search for their daughter.

The film then focuses on the life of Caroline Reed Robertson (Ruth Bradley); a former neighbor and babysitter of Rachel and the Barber family. Caroline is a disturbed teenager, who has struggled all her life with an elevated state of depression due to inferiority complex and parental rejection. Caroline is overweight, epileptic and has extreme self-loathing. She is very self-conscious about her weight and remains constantly apprehensive about going to school, where she is bullied.

She tries to seek comfort in her rich and successful but estranged father, David Reid (Sam Neill), by writing him endearing letters informing him about her day-to-day troubles and anxieties. After David divorces Caroline's mother, Gail (Rebecca Gibney), she seeks comfort in her sympathetic neighbour, Elizabeth Barber. Distraught Caroline follows her mother to the neighbor's house and sees the happy household of the Barbers. There she notices their daughter, Rachel, a much younger and beautiful girl in a great outfit practicing a beautiful dance. She immediately sees her as an embodiment of the perfect person she wants to be. She develops an obsession to study her and be like her. At her home, she continually practices how to be best friends with Rachel but fails to confront her in reality. Caroline distances herself from her depressed mother and tries to be closer to her father by putting her flaws on the table so he can comfort her. However, David's indifference towards Caroline grows with time; he sees her only as a liability, and minimizes her anger and tantrums.

As Caroline grows up to be independent in her ever-disturbed state of mind, she secludes herself in a dingy apartment and ignores everyone who actually cares about her; her mother and her sympathetic friends at work. She focuses on two people whom she admires and wants affection from; her callous father, and the unaware Rachel. While the Barbers forget about Caroline as her family moves away, Caroline continually observes Rachel and keeps making notes in order to emulate her in every way. She keeps failing, and as a result suffers ever more self-loathing. Caroline gets frustrated one day and devises a plan to murder Rachel and steal her identity - effectively "replacing" the girl she wants to be with herself.

She gathers herself and in her private, insecure state of mind puts on a confident public face. Very convincingly, she lures Rachel into her trap by asking her to take part in a confidential research study that would award Rachel with $500 and lots of beautiful clothing to take away. Young and naive Rachel is attracted to the offer and readily agrees to Caroline's seemingly harmless offer. In the meantime, Rachel enjoys time with Manni; she mentions to him her confidential high-paying job while ogling a pair of expensive shoes. Despite his concern, she refuses to divulge to him the nature of the job. She plans to execute the job, earn enough money to buy the shoes and tell him all about it later.

Caroline takes Rachel to her apartment, gets her to relax, casually socialize over drinks, and then meditate as a part of the study. And then Caroline brutally strangles her to death.

When Rachel goes missing, Manni eventually reveals to Elizabeth about the mysterious job. Upon learning this, the Barbers strongly believe their daughter's disappearance to be a kidnapping by a local brothel and attempt to coax the local police to investigate further. Once again, the effort fails due to the police's indifference. A few days later, an analyst with the police's Missing Persons department; Max DePyle, notices the missing persons posters of Rachel all over Melbourne (placed painstakingly by her family over very full and long hours of effort on the street). DePyle himself is a devoted father, and dedicates himself to aiding the Barbers as much as he can, as he senses something is wrong with Rachel's case.

DePyle calls in a favor with a friend at Australia's Most Wanted - he is able to get special attention from the media, and more people come forward to comfort and help the Barber family in pursuit of their missing daughter.

Caroline dumps Rachel's body at David's farm and feels liberated from the self-imposed pressure to be like Rachel. She believes her plan to be flawless and makes preparations to flee under Rachel's name. While still being moderately insecure, her depression begins to ebb and she feels smug to be in control. She calls the Barber's residence, showing her fake concern to gather knowledge about their search. She is taken aback when one of the witnesses comes forward describing Rachel's last contact with someone who looked like Caroline. Caroline's mother gets suspicious and informs her ex-husband and Caroline's father about her fears and her concern for Caroline. The police also figure out Caroline's possible involvement, and Detective Neil Paterson and DePyle come with a squad to apprehend Caroline for questioning. Caroline succumbs to the immeasurable pressure, collapses and is hospitalized. Her father, already disturbed by what Caroline may have done, kindly asks her to admit the truth to the police, saying that if she does she will be the daughter he always wanted (in truth, however, he wants to give her up to the police as an easy escape from dealing with his disappointment in his daughter forever). Moved to tears by this, Caroline confesses to Paterson she killed Rachel. Paterson arrests Caroline and charges her with Rachel's murder.

In a tense and quiet scene; a solemn Patterson and DePyle come to the Barber household and reveal Rachel is dead, and her body recovered, and Caroline is in custody.

The film ends with Caroline in prison awaiting trial, and Rachel's funeral being attended by her family, boyfriend, friends and many others, mourning Rachel's misfortune and death.


  • Guy Pearce as Mike Barber – Rachel's father
  • Miranda Otto as Elizabeth Barber – Rachel's mother
  • Kate Bell as Rachel Elizabeth Barber – a 15-year-old Australian dance student who went missing in Melbourne in 1999[3]
  • Khan Chittenden as Manni Carella – Rachel's boyfriend
  • Sam Neill as David Reid – Caroline's father
  • Rebecca Gibney as Gail – Caroline's mother
  • Ruth Bradley as Caroline Reed Robertson – Rachel's former neighbour and sitter. Bradley won a Best Actress award at the Milan International Film Festival 2010 for her performance.
  • Jack Finsterer as Neil Patterson - Police Detective
  • Robert Braiden as a Detective
  • Eugene Gilfedder as Max DePyle - Police Detective
  • Claude Minisini as Stephen Waddell - Missing Persons Boss
  • Justine Clarke as Irene - Caroline's Boss
  • Jeremy Sims as McLean - Policeman
  • Steven Vidler as Drew - Elizabeth's brother
  • Graeme Blundell as Ivan - Elizabeth's father
  • Kelly Abbey as Zoe - Rachel's Dance Teacher and choreographer for the film
  • Diane Craig as Joy - Elizabeth's mother
  • Veronica Neave as Yvonne - Elizabeth's friend
  • Paul Bishop as Doctor
  • Damien Garvey as Policeman
  • Paul Denny as Ambulance man
  • Tori Forrest as Heather Barber (9 years old)
  • Amanda Dettrick as Diane - Rachel's family friend
  • Dan Purdey as Missing Persons Cop
  • John Wonnacott as Missing Persons Cop

Original book[edit]

In Her Skin is inspired by the book Perfect Victim by Elizabeth Southall and Megan Norris. Elizabeth Southall is the pen name of Elizabeth Barber, Rachel Barber's mother.[4] Megan Norris is an investigative reporter who as a court reporter followed the case of the murder of Rachel Barber.


The film was shot in 2008 in Brisbane and Melbourne under the title How to Change in 9 Weeks. It was the directorial debut for Simone North. She had worked extensively in the film and television industry as a Creative Producer and Writer. The Film Finance Corporation invested $3.02 million in the film. Screen Queensland cashflowed the Distribution Guarantee from Reliant Pictures the Distributor, which was to be repaid 12 months after delivery. Liberty Films cashflowed the Icon Distribution Guarantee which was to be repaid when the film was delivered. Both Reliant Pictures and Icon did not pay these guarantees.[5]

Legendary director Sidney Lumet mentored In Her Skin director Simone North prior to production.[3]

Post-Production Controversies[edit]

The film was re-cut by the international distributor, Reliant Pictures International, without informing the filmmakers. The film's producers objected to this, because it broke contractual obligations, to the Barbers. Also due to the story being true, the re-cut was defamatory.

Reliant Pictures, Thom Mount had to destroy the cut as the American and Australian Writers Guild and American and Australian Directors Guild, backed by contractual obligations found the cut to be illegal. Omnilab who was working with Reliant Pictures and were involved in the recut and part of the RFFF loan with Reliant refused to repay Screen Queensland the $2.3 million loan. It has never been paid. Screen Queensland attempted to recover its money through the courts suing both Omnilab Media and Mapp Group Holdings, who had underwritten Reliant’s distribution guarantee. The PFTC (which became Screen Queensland) eventually settled out of court with Omnilab.[5][6] Film Finances paid for and aided the re-cut with the American Producer.

Goldcrest Films was given the film by Tony Cavanaugh the Producer of the Film for international distribution and screened it at markets in 2011 under the title I Am You.[7] Icon films refused to release the film theatrically in Australia and ended the contract as the film remained as per the script, not the re-cut.[8]


The film screened at the Brisbane International Film Festival in 2012. It was screened on Foxtel in Australia on 2013.[9]


"Caroline", "What You Want" and "Ocean" were written and performed by John Butler Trio, Family Music Pty Ltd 3006, Jarrah Records.

"Dawning" and "Dying Swan" were performed by Mark Seymour and Cameron McKenzie.

Score music was arranged and conducted by Nico Muhly and performed by Amiina (Iceland).


Ruth Bradley won the Best Actress award at the Milan International Film Festival 2010 for her performance as Caroline Reed Robertson.[10]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]