Stoker Review: A Solid Movie with Moments of Greatness
director Park Chan-Wook has come stateside to make his first American feature, and Stoker
is a visually stunning, eerie movie.
India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is an unusual teenager. She has a knack for the arts, hates being touched, and dresses in a very old-fashioned way. Her relationship with her mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), is tense, and she often finds herself being sexually harassed by the jocks in her high school. On her 18th
birthday, her father dies in a horrific car accident, and during his funnel she meets a man she did not know existed, her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). India does not trust this new man but slowly India and Evelyn are drawn to him, for different reasons.
Park is known for being a fantastic director in his native South Korea and many of his movies are deservedly cult classics in the West. He moves to America by playing to his strengths, making a small character driven movie, filled with sexual tension and a creepy atmosphere. Every shot and camera movement was meticulously crafted, soaking you into the atmosphere. The camera moves with precision as we follow the action on the screen, and editor Nicolas De Toth did a brilliant job blending simultaneous events and flashbacks to the present.
there is a visual style that has similarities to Stanley Kubrick whilst employing the dark surrealism of David Lynch’s work. There is a dreamlike quality throughout. One of the best moments that highlights this is when India and Charlie are up playing the piano together where no dialogue is needed, and it is left up to the audience to decide if the event was real or imaginarily.
there are fantastic sequences with plenty of flair. Stoker
is also a movie with substance, playing like a dark coming of age tale as India changes to be a more open and sexual person but also releases her inner demons. There are wider themes of nature versus nurture, asking which factor is more important in changing India’s character. Most of the movie is seen through India’s eye, she is often present in some form, and there only a few scenes in which India is not around. The movies progresses from India wanting to avoid her uncle to finally being brought into world of her mother and uncle, emphasizing the change she goes through.
The acting had a deliberately cool and distant quality to it. The characters are cold and repressed and show little emotion. It worked installing the distance tone and visuals that Park employs but it will leave audiences divided, with people either loving or hating the approach as it can seem occasionally stilted.
Charlie act as different form of villainy, someone who is on the surface a smart and sophisticated man who enjoys opera, foreign languages and classic cars but harbors a dark secret. He is willing acts in his own self-interest and does whatever he can to cover his tracks. Charlie makes for more interesting villain, someone who does evil things but on the surface a seemingly charming man, making him a more compelling figure then someone who feels him needs to act out violently as often as possible. But Goode’s performance is on the stiff side.
is a very solid movie that has moments of greatness. There are some truly excellent scenes and sequences in a movie that showcases Park’s known skills behind the camera. Stoker
may not be able to match some of Park’s other works but it a movie that will still please his many fans.