Following the death of her father, 18-year-old India and her mother are visited by her previously unknown uncle, a man full of charm and mystery. As he settles into the role left by India’s father in their lavish countryside mansion, India’s suspicion of his merges with her curiosity, and inspires strange feelings inside.
Who’s in It?
Mia Wasikowska plays India Stoker with subtlety and purpose, while Nicole Kidman is her lazy, careless mother, more interested in drinking and shopping. Matthew Good is Uncle Charlie, dapper, tempered and constantly surrounded by an aura of eeriness.
As anticipated, Chan-wook Park’s first North American film enchants you with sights and sounds, and takes you wherever it wants, whether you like it or not. A meticulous and creative director, Park’s uncanny ability to grip you is both a gift and a curse, especially if you don’t get what you think you deserve. Unconventionally framing, the fusion of images and sound, and palpable tension defines the unnerving cinematic experience.
Charlie is bizarre right from the start, calm, very cool, and way too collected. A credit to both Park and Goode, Charlie seems instantly and always about to snap, his tempered moves and cold, calculative stare hiding something sinister. Told through India’s perspective, he certainly has ulterior motive, but the extent to which is unclear. At least, that’s according to India, a teenage girl who wears Victorian clothes, and spent the days of her youth not with her mother, but hunting with her father. She may not be the most trusted source, responding with equal parts fear and enchantment.
You can’t trust Park either. A wonderfully inventive cinematic experience, Stoker demonstrates a brilliant way to tell a story, though it’s not necessarily one that isn’t filled with a few holes along the way, so to speak. Still, Park can create a reveal like few others. The moments when you know exactly what the shot will reveal are more powerful than you can imagine, and when you don’t know what is about to happen, which isn’t as frequent as some of his past movies, he doesn’t instantly surprise you so much as leave you in a prolonged state of shock.
Which is exactly where Park wants you to be as you sit through an eerie mystery that is effectively unsettling, well-made and well-acted, but leaves you wanting just a little bit more and wondering if there was any at all restraint exercised for North American audiences.
Should You See It?
Yes, and don’t take your eyes off the screen.
“Sometimes you have to do something bad, to keep yourself from doing something worse.”