Review: Stoker / Cert: 18 / Director: Park Chan-wook / Screenplay: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson / Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode / Release Date: March 1st
Keeping with his usual dark themes, South Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) makes an assured American debut with this stunning psycho thriller – a cruel, calculated coming of age story that glides elegantly through topics of sexual awakening and fractured family values. It pushes all the right buttons; paying homage to Hitchcock whilst having a distinct, chilling ambience all of its own.
India Stoker is cocooned in a hollow existence, flitting between the woods and a high school where she has no friends. Her only comfort is her close relationship with her father, so when he dies on her eighteenth birthday in a terrible accident, her world crumbles around her and she reacts in the most frightful of ways. India possesses the ability to hear what others cannot, something she has in common with her mysterious Uncle Charlie who comes a-calling after her father’s funeral. The similarities between the two don’t end there; both possess piercing eyes, attract unwanted attention and harbour sordid secrets.
As scripted by Prison Break's Wentworth Miller and contributing writer Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary), India's move into womanhood is shrouded in confusion and melodrama, with dark tendencies coiling up like poison ivy. She has a fondness for hunting and shies away from human contact, preferring the companionship of her natural surroundings. Wasikowska plays the beguiling leading lady perfectly, as does Kidman as India’s mother - a battered lush who wanders the corridors of her house craving sexual closeness, whilst Goode’s Charlie lurks in the background ready to pounce.
These pitch-perfect performances are complemented by Park’s ability to create a pulsating, tense atmosphere against a stunning backdrop. The eerie, empty house they all inhabit illuminates this family’s wicked web of incestuous desire, India shrinking into its giant furniture in the manner of Alice in Wonderland, its dark and muted décor contrasting beautifully with the balmy, sun-soaked greenery of the woods she prowls, an outward manifestation of her savage blooming. The characters’ silence speaks volumes whilst the chill of classical piano generates waves of intense emotion – loneliness, fear, rage and hysteria.
Park Chan-wook’s bold breakthrough into American cinema surpasses many others who have tried to tread similar territory – provocative, explicit and intense material expertly handled by a modern master.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10