We open in an expansive villa in Spain. We see a young woman known as Vera (Elena Anaya) stretching and doing yoga poses in a skin tight body suit. She is apparently locked in the room she is in at all times.
A maid, downstairs in the kitchen, prepares her food and slips a pill in her drink. She takes it to the dumbwaiter and sends it up along with another body suit.
Vera speaks on an intercom to the woman, Marilla (Marisa Paredes), requesting another suit and double sided tape. Marilla says she can't get it till tomorrow. Vera also asks for a needle, thread, and scissors. "You're joking right?" Marilla says. "Yes." Vera replies.
We see Vera use a nail file to cut clothing.
We cut to a medical conference where Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is holding a conference on face transplants. Robert is a highly skilled plastic surgeon. Robert concludes that a person's face is their identity, and everyone, especially burn victims will need one. Robert was part of 3 of only 9 face transplants in the world, and he found them to be very moving experiences.
We see Robert in a parking lot of a maternity hospital. He hands a man an envelope and the man hands him a bag.
Robert goes home to his villa and goes into one of the buildings which he uses as his clinic. The package he received had a bag of blood in it. He runs some tests.
Robert goes inside his house into his bedroom. He has placed security cameras that feed him Vera's room everywhere. He has a large flat screen in his room showing her sleep. He watches her naked body. He grabs for a box (opium) and heads to her room. When he gets in, he sees she slit her wrists. He rushes her to the clinic.
Robert saves her life and treats her skin, noting it is softer than he imagined. Vera asks why he won't let her die. Robert scoffs at her suicide attempt saying if she really wanted to die she should of cut the jugular and just bleed out quick. He notes again how soft her skin is.
The next morning, Marilla gives Robert a vat of animal blood "taken while the animal was still alive." Robert runs more tests then pulls out some skin he has grown. He morphs it to a dummy he has set up in his office.
Robert tries to burn Vera's skin with a blowtorch, but it doesn't burn. He also tries to get a mosquito to bite her. It refuses to.
At another conference, Robert reveals his findings on the GAL skin (named after his wife), that does not burn and is resistant to bug bites that could spread malaria, for example. It worked well on mice, and in theory could work with humans. There are murmurs in the crowd.
At the post party, Robert talks to a man and explains he named the skin after his dead wife, who was severely burned in a car crash. Robert is pulled aside by a colleague who presses him on how he made the GAL skin. Robert admits he crossed it with pig cells, which made the skin stronger. The colleague is aghast as that falls under transgenics and is illegal in the biomedical community. Robert is defiant, talking about all the diseases they could cure due to research. The colleague agrees but that is their field's one rule and orders him to stop. Robert calms his fears, saying he did the work to honor his wife and is not planning to go further. The man warns him that any further action could cause his license to be revoked.
Robert goes home and watches Vera again. He goes into her room with opium with the intention to smoke with her. Vera asks since their experiments are over, what will happen next. Robert doesn't want to talk about it, but Vera presses the issue. Robert begins to leave in a huff, but Vera stops him at the door and attempts to seduce him, saying she knows he watches her and wants her. Robert almost gives in, but quickly leaves.
Marilla talks to Robert the next morning. She tells him to kill Vera or there will be trouble. Robert stalls on the issue, and tells Marilla to fire the servants and do not hire anyone else.
Later in the day as the servants leave, a man in a tiger costume comes to the gate intercom and buzzes. Marilla sees him and orders him away. However, when he shows a birthmark, she realizes it is her son Zeca. Zeca asks to come see her, and Marilla agrees, but he can't stay long. Zeca comes in and says hello, trying to enter the house. Marilla tries to stop him, but Zeca presses in, claiming he is hungry.
While eating dinner, they watch the news. We see the real reason he went to locate his mother. He was caught on tape during a jewelery heist and needs a place to hide. Marilla tells him that he will have to leave, but Zeca wants Robert to do work on his face. "He will give you a lethal injection after what you've done!" Marilla screams. Zeca sees Vera's security feed, and says "it's her." Zeca asks his mom who it is, but Marilla tries to tell him its nothing. It does little good.
Zeca ties up and gags his mother, looking to get at Vera. Finding her upstairs, he learns the door is locked. He interrogates his mother for the location of the key. Realizing something is wrong, Vera waits in the corner for the door to open, and busts through when Zeca tries to enter. Zeca is able to grab her and begins to kiss her hard, ripping at her body suit. Vera plays along for the moment, in order to stay alive. Eventually, Zeca grabs Vera and slings her over his shoulder and takes her back to her bed and proceeds to rape her.
Marilla stays tied up in the kitchen forced to watch the entire thing happen. Robert comes home and realizes what is going on. He reaches for a gun.
Back upstairs, Zeca is furiously raping Vera. Vera tells him that it hurts. Zeca says she "used to like it". Vera continues to play along, hoping he will finish soon. He does and passes out on top of her. Robert walks in slowly. He raises the pistol. Marilla watches the feed, begging him to kill them both. Vera shakes her head no. Robert fires twice, killing Zeca. Robert picks Vera up and hugs her.
As Robert goes to dispose of the body, Marilla reveals Robert and Zeca were half brother's though they never knew. Zeca's father was a servant of the Ledgard family, and Robert is her son, as well (Mrs. Ledgard was infertile). Robert had unknowingly killed his half brother. But he had good cause besides Vera's rape. Twelve years ago, he had committed a crime and seeked shelter with the family. Zeca seduced Robert's wife Gal, then they ran off, getting into a horrific car crash. Zeca ran away unscathed, but the car was engulfed in flames and Gal was severely burned (though that's why Zeca mistook Vera for Gal; Robert purposefully made her face like his dead wife).
Robert worked tirelessly to save her life, and she finally pulled through. They kept mirrors and the sun out of the house for months.
However, one day Gal heard her daughter Norma sing a song she taught her. She open the blinds and in the reflection of the window, saw her heavily burned body for the first time. She let out a primal screen and jumped out the window, landing dead right next to Norma, who screamed in turn. Marilla notes that years later, Norma "joined her mother."
Robert comes home and tells Marilla he buried Zeca well and said a prayer. He burns the blankets he carried the body in the trunk with. He asks Vera if she is ready to go inside. She says yes.
Cut to them, naked in bed, passionately kissing. Robert goes to initiate sex, but Vera grimaces in pain. Vera asks to wait till the next day as "the tiger" (Zeca) made her very sore. Robert is understanding, not wanting her to be uncomfortable, but asks to hold her. They hold one another as they fall asleep.
SIX YEARS AGO
An extended flashback occurs. We open at a wedding of a family friend. Robert talks to the bride about his daughter, saying she seems to readjusted well to social situations (after her mother's death). Norma sees a boy and blushes.
After awhile, Robert notices Norma is gone and goes to look for her. He sees a man on a motorcycle speed past him. He finds a group of girls and boys having sex out of the garden. Looking further, he finds Norma's shoes and sweater. He finds Norma unconscious and shakes her awake. She begins to scream, thinking her own father raped her.
We see the man Norma smiled at. His name was Vicente, a clothes designer. He worked out of his mother's shop with another coworker, Christina, who is a lesbian. Vicente tries to hit on Christina numerous times to no success. He shows her a dress and asks her to model it for him. Christina says it would look better on him. Vicente scoffs and mentions the wedding he is crashing with some friends.
The wedding. Vicente sweet talks Norma coming with him. They go to a secluded part of the garden. Norma pretends to be high as Vicente tries to kiss then have sex with her. However, Norma wants to stop and tries to struggle. She screams then bites his hand. Vicente slaps her and knocks her out. He repositions her clothes back on and gets the hell out of there.
The following day, Vicente is restless. He asks if he left, would Christina stay with his mother. Christina says sure. Vicente leaves to go for a drive, telling his mom he will be back for dinner. As he races off on his motorcycle, a van follows him.
The van knocks Vicente off his motorcycle and as he dust himself off he calls the driver an asshole. The man pulls a gun, and Vicente begs him not to shoot. The man shoots anyways. A dart hits Vicente. It was just a tranquilizer gun. The man pulls out a ramp from the van to collect Vicente and his bike.
Vicente comes to in a dungeon chained up like a dog with only a bucket of water to drink from. He screams for help, to no avail.
Vicente's mother goes to the police. They found his motorcycle near some cliffs by the sea. They think his body got swept out to sea. His mother refuses to believe he is dead, saying "My son is alive."
Robert goes to the psych ward to see his daughter. She is still frightened of him, thinking he was her rapist. She locks herself in a cupboard, and Robert is pulled away by her doctor who advises him to come by less, saying Norma is extremely fragile but she associates him with her attacker.
Vicente is in his dungeon when he hears someone come down. He yells to be free and sees the figure is Robert. Robert sprays him with a fire hose to clean him. Vicente pleads to be let go calling his captivity a mistake. "Everyone makes mistakes", says Robert. Robert gives him rice to eat the next day and Vicente apologizes for being mean the other day for he had been starved for human contact. Robert leaves him, despite his protests.
Cut to a cemetery. Norma is dead. She jumped out a window like her mother before her, unable to get over her trauma. Norma's doctor comes to give condolences, but Robert will have none of it. He blames the doctor for Norma's death and will be suing the hospital for negligent homicide. Robert talks to one of his surgeon colleagues telling him to prep the team; he wants to work tonight as it will keep his mind off things.
Robert shaves Vicente's face. Vicente asks him why. "Good question." Robert says. Robert chloroforms Vicente, then places him on the surgeon's table in his clinic.
Robert's team arrives. Robert shows them forged documents of Vicente's consent for the surgery. One of Robert's team notes Vicente looks like a boy. Robert dismisses it. "He's 27, and he knows what he wants." Vicente comes to. He asks Robert what he has done. "A vaginoplasty." Robert says (i.e a sex change). Vicente is horrified.
Vicente is locked away in a room. He looks at his genitals in the mirror when Robert comes in. He explains that his tissue down there is new and may stick together, so he has to stretch it in order to let it breathe. He shows Vicente a series of dildos to use on himself in order to take care of the problem.
Vicente is looked over by Robert. He had been using the dildos. Vicente asks Robert when he can go home. Robert says nothing. Vicente asks why he did this. Robert reveals he knows he raped Norma. Vicente says he was high, and he can't be sure if he actually did. "You can't be sure?" Robert asks, brimming with rage. Robert says they are not done.
Bit by bit, Robert turns Vicente into a woman. He fits him a face mask to reshape his jaw line, and some skin suits to help heal the skin. Vicente asks to be zipped up, and Robert complies only for Vicente to knee him in the groin and try to escape. Robert locks the door, leaving Vicente trapped. He grabs a knife and threatens Robert, who has a gun. Vicente threatens to slit his throat, which Robert thinks he won't do. Vicente does, however, and Robert has to rush him to the clinic. He is able to save him.
Several weeks later, Robert takes the mask off. Robert rechristens Vicente as Vera as he is now completely a she.
Now known as Vera, she sits in her room, staring at clothing Robert laid out for her. She rips the dresses to shreds then vacuums them all up.
Vera flips channels then sees one about Yoga, and how it can make you feel free. She requests yoga books and begins to train.
Marilla comes to live with Robert at his villa. He mentions Vera and that she is a patient living with him, and Marilla will have to watch over her. Later, Marilla notes Vera looks a lot like Gal and scolds Robert for making her too alike, blurring the lines of his reality.
Vera is sent up some makeup and books. She takes a few makeup pencils and sends the rest down. She begins to write on the wall, scribbling numerous dates and phrases like "I breathe, I know I breathe" and "Opium makes me forget."
BACK TO THE PRESENT
It is now morning. Vera is down in the kitchen with Marilla making breakfast. Marilla makes it clear she doesn't trust Vera, but Vera assures her that she has nothing to worry about. Vera wakes Robert up with breakfast. Robert asks if they did, in fact, make a promise to each other or did he dream it.
Vera said they did. Robert promised no more locked doors, and the freedom to move around as she pleased. Vera in turn, promised to never leave him.
Vera and Marilla are about to go shopping. Marilla objects to going out in public with Vera, claiming she could run away at any moment. Robert shoots those concerns down, as Vera promised. Marilla tells him that he is thinking like a child with his women like he always did. Nevertheless, they leave to go shopping, Vera waving goodbye to Robert.
One of Robert's colleagues comes by to ask if he will practice again, but Robert says he will be closing his clinic. The colleague offers to rent it for the team to use, but Robert says firmly that the clinic is closed.
The man follows Robert into his study and shows him a newspaper. It is a missing paper list with Vicente's picture. The man recognizes him as the man they operated on six years ago. He thinks Robert forged documents and operated on the unwilling man. Robert tries to dismiss the rumors then pulls out a gun, saying he doesn't like being threatened. Vera comes back in and tells the man she is here of her own free will and she is Vera. The man leaves and Vera thanks Robert, but he thanks her instead for covering for him and they passionately kiss.
Back in bed again, it looks like they are making another go at making love. But Vera still feels discomfort. Robert is mad, but Vera remembers she bought some lubrication cream that day. It is in her purse, so she excuses herself to the kitchen. It is here we realize Vera has been playing Robert. She never gave up trying to escape but rather has now tried to play on getting his trust; seducing him, making him remember his dead wife etc. She grabs the cream, and Robert's pistol from his desk. Vera sees herself in the paper as Vicente and kisses the photo.
Back in Robert's room, she throws him the bottle and pulls out the gun. Vera says she is going to kill him. Robert is stunned. "But you promised!" he says. "I lied." Vera responds and shoots him once, killing him.
Marilla hears the shot and goes to Robert's door with a revolver. Vera claims the noise was nothing and tells her to go back to bed. Marilla thinks better and opens the door to find her second son dead. She searches the room for Vera. A hand holding a gun peeks out underneath the bed. It fires a single shot, hitting Marilla. She falls to the ground. "I knew it," she says, and Marilla dies. Vera escapes into the night.
Vera/Vicente gets a taxi to his/her mother's shop. She goes inside and see Christina and tears up. She kept her promise to stay with her mother. Christina comes out and asks if she needs help. Vera reveals her true identity to a shell shocked Christina, explaining she was kidnapped, was given a sex change, and had to kill two people to escape. To prove her story, Vera mentions the dress she wanted Christina to model, a conversation nobody else heard. Vicente's mother comes to see what the problem between the two women and Vera looks at her mother and says "I'm Vicente."
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