Directed by South Korean native Park Chan-Wook in his American film debut, Stoker was actually written by Prison Break TV star Wentworth Miller. It was also produced by epic filmmaking brothers, Ridley Scott and the late Tony Scott. It tells the story of teenage girl India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), after they lose their wealthy father and husband Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a car accident. Soon, his charismatic, charming, and worldly brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) shows up unexpectedly, although India never knew he existed. Charlie begins living with India and Evelyn. While charming to Evelyn, India grows suspicious of her newfound Uncle, and why he suddenly appeared. Stoker becomes a whirlwind of secrets, temptation, violence and lies that unravel and piece together bit by bit, leaving you hanging until the very end.
Stoker was clearly a well thought-out and well executed psychological thriller. It didn’t just tell a story, but it made you think, listen, and question. It makes the audience get involved, sometimes leading you astray, only to shock you when the truth is revealed.
Charlie is inherently mischievous, but it’s not clear why. At one point, another family member comes to stay with them for a little bit, and she is clearly shaken by Charlie’s presence, but it’s not revealed why until later. India reveals little bits of information about herself that are sort of vague, like that she can see and hear things others cannot. She doesn’t like to be touched, and is very terse with her speech at first, gaining more confidence as the movie continues. In fact, all of the character development in this film is well done, which is very important in this script-heavy film.
You should definitely see this movie, so I really don’t want to give too much about the story away, but I can guarantee you’ll never see the twists coming. Stoker actually does a good job of making you question several different things about where the story is headed, which will keep you on the edge of your seat with your mouth wide open for most of the film.
Super props go to Mia Wasikowska, the Australian actress who is probably most famous for her role as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. But Mia is certainly no Alice here. At first, she kind of reminded me of Daria (from the late 90′s animated show, Daria), very sarcastic, blunt, and brief. But soon, she starts to figure a few things out, and becomes more talkative, and intriguing. As mentioned before, she clearly has some weird “powers” or something, and Mia does a great job of subtly revealing her unexplained nature. It’s hard to take your eyes off her.
Matthew Goode is also a show stopper. His character is obviously up to something, but it’s unclear what, and he does a great job of being charming, yet creepy. He goes back and forth from giving off sexual vibes to serial killer vibes to just regular nice normal guy vibes and it’s hard to pinpoint just who he is.
Even Nicole Kidman is pretty memorable in this film. From her apathy of her husband’s death, to her overzealous affection for Charlie, Nicole plays Evelyn with grace and wit. She is also an intriguing character, who’s actions often left me wondering about her true intentions as well.
All of these lead roles together helped deliver an already awesome story. Each of their unique, mysterious tendencies helped turn this dark thriller into one that will make you wonder if you really could ever know a person completely.
I really don’t want to give too much away here, but I often include “The Ending” category in “The Bad” section (as I’m often let down- wah), so I thought it important to point out that Stoker has a most excellent wrap up. Not only does it keep you semi-confused and hungering for more information, but the ending really throws some curve balls. Once all is revealed, the end of the film satisfies, and leaves you with a weird taste in your mouth that’s sure to linger long after the credits roll.
The Ok (for some people):
I didn’t think this movie had any major issues that completely took away from all the other awesomeness that I described, but there are a few things I could see other audience members being like, “ugh that was annoying, I can’t believe Jess didn’t mention that in her review.” Mostly towards the beginning, but the pace is slightly sluggish. For me personally, I thought the calm, easy-going, informative first third worked well with the spiraling out of control latter part, effectively heightening all the craziness.
It’s also very important to listen to nearly everything said in this film, which for some, may be tedious and tiresome. Although I think dialogue is a crucial element to film, there’s often a lot that can be said by showing instead of telling, and I think that’s why many people like movies so much. But for Stoker, although much is visually shown, most of the real suspense is created through speech.
Lastly, there’s some uncomfortable notions of incest. While an important part of the story, I could see some people being overly sensitive to the subject matter because of it’s taboo nature. But in all honesty, there’s more important things going on in Stoker than a few creepy vibes.
This is a must-see. Stoker will mess with your mind, give you some things to think about, and burn some images in your mind for quite a while. It’s intriguing, ambitious, and I’ve never seen anything done quite like it. It has all the elements of a good movie from a solid setting, conflict, climax and resolution, adding in flashbacks throughout to give you just barely enough information to make you unsure of exactly what’s going on. But as previously mentioned, this movie isn’t for everyone, it really requires you to actually watch it. This isn’t a film for the casual movie watcher but if you’re looking for a jaw-dropper movie that will force you want to keep watching, and make you want to see it again after you know the truth, then Stoker is for you.