WRITTEN BY: Wentworth Miller
DIRECTED BY: Chan-wook Park
STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver
RATING: 4 stars
I think I may be in the minority, but I really liked Stoker. Stylistically, it is one of the most beautiful films I have seen in a long time and yet it is essentially "just" a psychological thriller. Ahh, but it is so much more than that – from the mysterious screenplay to the exquisite cinematography, apt music and use of lighting, and convincing acting. Stoker is South Korean director Chan-wook Park's first English-language film. What a great introduction to this artist for those not interested in foreign films.
India's (Mia Wasikowska) father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) has died in a car accident and she is not taking the loss very well. She withdraws from the people around her more than ever and begins to act strangely. Her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) is also struggling to move on with her life. While Evelyn has a strained relationship with her daughter, she happily welcomes Richard's brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) into their lives. India feels uncomfortable with Charlie's arrival because she never knew her uncle existed until he came to live with them. India begins to investigate why her Uncle Charlie has entered their lives now and what he might want with her and her mother.
The film is a nod to Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, which also has a mysterious Uncle Charlie, and the title is perhaps also a nod to Bram Stoker, who wrote Dracula, as it has a similar tone to the classic tale. It is very cleverly done by screenwriter Wentworth Miller, who is better known as the lead actor in the popular television series Prison Break.
Stylistically, Park has done well to give his film a unique feeling. The transitions between scenes is artistic but not in your face and annoying. It seems effortless because Park is so good at it. The close-ups on the actors' faces are also used to great effect. Even the opening and ending credits are original in their style.
Kidman has been on quite a roll lately with some exceptional performances that have been underrated. This role is another compelling display of her abilities. Goode is also the perfect balance between charming and sinister. The film really belongs to Wasikowska though and she gives a great performance, especially in a rather disturbing shower scene. Mulroney has a pivotal small role and Jacki Weaver also appears as a suspicious aunty. The Stoker family dinner scene with her is appropriately awkward.
It is great to see a psychological thriller that relies more on cinematography and acting to tell a story, rather than cheap gimmicks. Stoker is worth a look.