Film review: Stoker

editorial image

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is a girl like few others, she’s introverted, perceptive and a killer hunter.

When her father, Richard (Dermot Mulroney) dies, her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) reappears after many years of being absent and India’s home life starts to become uncomfortable. Stoker follows India’s progression into adulthood and all the consequences this can bring.

Park Chan-Wook’s English language debut displays the same visual inventiveness and flair that he displayed in his Korean successes, Oldboy, Thirst and Lady Vengeance. Chan-Wook has once again crafted a stellar cast, from the Oscar nominated Jacki Weaver to Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska. Chan-Wook utilises some of his more regular collaborators and new artists for this change in direction. This is the first film Clint Mansell and Chan-Wook have worked on together and on the evidence on this soundtrack, the two could form a relationship like Mansell and Darren Aronofsky. The editor on Stoker, Nicolas De Toth has more experience editing action films and that experience can be seen on screen.

Chung-Hoon Chung’s cinematography is incredibly vibrant, the use of distinct, bright colours bookmarks each chapter of the narrative. Chung has a knack for making incredibly violent and deranged action look beautiful and Stoker is no exception to this. Though Stoker is nothing close to being as physically violent or as gory as Chan-Wook’s previous works, the violence comes in smaller doses and is more effective because of it. The intensity remains, but the nature of the film ensures that the violence has to be in concentrated doses rather than extravagant set pieces.

Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode’s performances are delightfully deranged. It becomes remarkably clear that India and Charlie are cut from the same cloth due to the performances. Wasikowska and Goode utilise the same visual ticks and body mannerisms. Goode’s performance in particular is standout, bringing the malevolent Charlie to life using just his eyes and permanent smile. The relationship between Charlie and India can be interpreted different ways, and without the allusive performances from both Goode and Wasikowska the same discussions might not exist. Nicole Kidman’s role as India’s mother, Evie, is another one of the fantastic supporting roles Kidman has taken recently alongside her performance in The Paperboy.

Stoker is an intense visual treat of a movie, shot using the luscious eye that fans of Park Chan-Wook’s work have become accustomed. With great performances from Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman and the intense script, Stoker is certainly a taught thriller that aims to be as beautiful as it is electrifying. It’s not clear if Chan-Wook will continue to direct in the English language, but Stoker makes one hell of an argument that he needs to continue his work.

4 out of 5