It’s been a week since I watched Pedro Almodovar’s latest film, The Skin I Live In, and I still haven’t completely made up my mind about how I feel about it.

I’m a huge fan of Pedro Almodovar’s work. It’s consistently surprising, zany, and visceral. Although many of his films have dark storylines or themes (the murder in Volver, the comas in Talk To Her), there’s enough whimsy to balance them out. But Almodovar’s latest film, The Skin I Live In, has officially crossed the line from graphic-yet-not-gross to just-kind-of-gross.

Starring Antonio Banderas (who got his big break in Almodovar’s Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) as a renowned plastic surgeon who lost his wife in a tragic accident, The Skin I Live In is a meditation on bodies, identities, and how we live in both of them. In typical Almodovar style, the movie is set up as a mystery – we spy on an attractive young woman who is alone in a room. She seems to be naked, but on closer inspection she is wearing a flesh-toned bodysuit. The bodysuit is a synthetic skin that Dr. Ledgard (Banderas) has been working on creating. Since his wife died from burns she suffered in a car accident, it’s clear that Ledgard’s scientific work has bloomed into full-on obsession. But we have no idea just how obsessed he is. The film flashes backward through earlier periods in Ledgard’s life, including the death of his wife and the almost-rape of his teenage daughter, which drives her to insanity. In order to get revenge, Ledgard seeks out the young man, Vicente, who had a physical encounter with his daughter. He arranges Vicente’s kidnapping and holds him prisoner in his mansion. Over time, Ledgard inflicts physical and psychological tortures on Vicente, who comes to develop a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Soon we will learn that the woman in the locked glass room is none other than Vicente himself.

Even at its most graphic, The Skin I Live In is still eminently watchable. Almodovar’s storytelling technique and camera work are still in flower, and Banderas has rarely been better. (Like Almodovar’s muse Penelope Cruz, I usually prefer Banderas in Spanish films.) Banderas is chilling and terrifying as we see flickers of life behind the doctor’s dead eyes. Elena Anaya, who plays Vera, the woman wearing the skin, does subtly deft work and keeps her character from being a caricature. But most of Almodovar’s musings on the nature of bodies and the impermanence of the lives we live are lost in a confusing and sometimes grotesque film. I kept getting hung up in the specifics of Vicente’s transformation into Vera or exactly how Ledgard was creating the synthetic skin, and it made me uncomfortable. Even as a diehard Almodovar fan, I had trouble getting past the unorthodox story and into the more philosophical parts of the movie. It’s certainly nowhere near the brilliance of All About My Mother or Talk To Her, and Almodovar has done gender/identity issues better in Broken Embraces. If you’re faint of heart – or queasy of stomach – I’d advise skipping this one and renting a classic Almodovar film instead.