In Her Skin

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
Ruth Bradley
Sam Neill
Studio Liberty Films International
Screen Australia
Distributed by Goldcrest Films (international)
Release date(s)
Running time 107 minutes
Country 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. Rachel was viciously murdered by a former neighbor of the family, Caroline Reed Robertson, who had a couple of times babysat some of the Barber children when she was a teenager.[3] In Her Skin is inspired by the book Perfect Victim by Elizabeth Southall (Rachel's mother) and Megan Norris (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 an explanation for the motive of the murderer, Caroline Reed Robertson.


Rachel Barber (Kate Bell) is a much lauded dancer in her neighbourhood. She is a confident and gifted girl who follows her passion of dancing and is loved unconditionally by her moderately liberal parents and her caring boyfriend. The film begins on an unusual night when the 15-year-old girl, Rachel Barber (Australian actress, Kate Bell) misses her train home leading her parents, Elizabeth (Miranda Otto) and Mike Barber (Guy Pearce) who begin a frantic search for her.

Rachel goes missing with her backpack leading police to believe her disappearance was merely the act of a run-away. Everybody in Rachel's circle 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 disturbed bullied-teenager who has struggled all her life with an elevated state of depression due to inferiority complex and parental rejection. Caroline is over weight, epileptic and extreme self-loathing. She is very self conscious about her weight and remains constantly apprehensive about going to school. She tries to seek comfort in her estranged father, David Reid (Sam Neil), 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 rich and successful father by putting her flaws on the table so he can comfort her. However, David's indifference towards Caroline grows with time and 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. 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. Caroline takes Rachel to her apartment, gets her to meditate as a part of the study then brutally strangles her to death from behind.

Rachel is shown to be enjoying time with her boyfriend, Manni (Emmanuel Carella) before the murder. Rachel mentions to him her confidential high-paying job while oogling a pair of expensive shoes. He gets worried about the nature of the job. 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 all him all about it later. When Rachel goes missing, Manni eventually reveals to her mother, 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 coax the local police to investigate further. Within a few days, Rachel's special case gets media attention 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 no attempt to flee. 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. Caroline devises a plan to flee but her father gives her up to the police as an easy escape from dealing with his disappointment in his daughter forever.

The police uncover the truth and inform the unsuspecting Barbers about the fate of their child and the film ends with everybody mourning Rachel's misfortune and death.

Partial Cast List (in order of "Cast" listing)

  • Guy Pearce as Mike Barber – Rachel's father
  • Miranda Otto as Elizabeth Barber – Rachel's mother
  • Ruth Bradley as Caroline Reid Robertson – Rachel's former neighbour and sitter. Bradley won a Best Actress award at the Milan International Film Festival 2010 for her performance.
  • Sam Neill as David Reid – Caroline's father
  • 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
  • Jack Finsterer as Neil Patterson - Homicide Squad detective
  • Rebecca Gibney as Gail – Caroline's mother
  • Claude Minisini as Stephen Waddell - Missing Persons Boss
  • Tori Forrest as Heather Barber (9 years old)
  • Justine Clarke as Irene-Caroline's Boss
  • Eugene Gilfedder as DePyle - Policeman
  • Jack Finsterer as Patterson - Policeman
  • 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 - Elizabeths friend
  • Paul Bishop as Doctor
  • Damien Garvey as Policeman
  • Paul Denny as Ambulance man


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 has an 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.

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

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 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 Relaint refused to repay the Screen Queensland $2.3 million loan which was the Reliant Distribution Guarantee. 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]


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

"Dawning" "Dying Swan" performed by Mark Seymour & Cameron McKenzie

Score Music arranged and conducted by Nico Muhly, 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.[9]

See also


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • at the Internet Movie Database
  • Movieweb News
  • Comingsoon Net
  • Bombippy
  • at
  • Elizabeth Southall at Penguin Books
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