Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence & sex scenes
Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker
Matthew Goode as Charlie Stoker
Nicole Kidman as Evelyn Stoker
Dermot Mulroney as Richard Stoker
Jacki Weaver as Aunt Gwendolyn “Gin” Stoker
Director: Park Chan-wook
After the untimely death of her father, India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) are left alone in their estate. Soon, the arrival of her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, is followed by unexpected developments.
I know of Stoker as Park Chan-wook film starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, and happened to be his English-language debut. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into it outside of the people involved. Having seen it, I wouldn’t say that this is one of his best movies, but almost all of Park’s movies I’ve seen are great, and this is too.
As it turns out, the screenplay was written by Wentworth Miller, and overall, I thought it was good. It is a very atmospheric, unsettling and mysterious movie, having elements of classic thrillers. The eerie atmosphere is helped by the mystical and mysterious characters in the forefront. It is essentially a gothic mystery drama which dabbles in multiple elements including coming of age, mystery, thriller and unconventional family drama to create a generally compelling story. The story is definitely dark in tone but tame as far as violence is concerned, at least compared to Park Chan-wook’s other movies like his Vengeance trilogy. Instead of relying on overt graphic scenes, it is the suggestion that works for the disturbing elements. The movie does take its time but initially gives you just enough information to have you intrigued. The plot is familiar, and the story can be a little thin and implausible at points. It does require patience as it takes a while to reveal its secrets but I was intrigued throughout. It is also a cold movie with its characters rather distant, but I think that works for the movie’s favour. The movie is 98 minutes long but with the slower pacing it feels closer to like 2 hours, but that’s not necessarily a criticism.
The performances are great and really make the story even more involving. Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman shine in the lead roles of their strange characters. Wasikowska’s performance in the lead role of India is nuanced and quiet with a lot of hidden emotion that creeps in over time. She’s very mysterious and keeps you guessing what role she plays in the whole story. She was a perfect fit for the role and so far this is the best performance I’ve seen from her. This is also probably the best performance I’ve seen from Matthew Goode as the mysterious uncle of Wasikowska’s character, effectively giving a creepy vibe and a feeling that something is off about him. Nicole Kidman works really well in the movie despite not having a huge amount of screentime, and effectively playing an archetype that has been seen many times before.
GThe direction from Park Chan-wook is stunning as always, and much of the style is the substance of the whole movie. The movie looks visually beautiful and perfectly shot. With the stylish sets and costumes, it made it difficult to place the film in a context, place or time, making it effectively timeless. The editing is tight and really well done, an example that stands out is one where it transitions from Nicole Kidman’s hair to grass. The transitions particularly stood out. One of the key technical elements is that of the sound editing and mixing, almost like the movie is constructed around them. Much of the movie focuses on the noise of specific objects, and these plays a big part in ramping up tension, in a horror movie like way. The score from Clint Mansell is also solid and works for the movie.
Stoker again isn’t one of Park Chan-wook’s best movies but it is nonetheless a solid gothic thriller, with an interesting enough story and definitely helped by the strong performances from Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode, and Park’s stylish direction. If you like slow-burn gothic thrillers with a dark and creepy atmosphere I think it’s worth checking out.