Dir: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode
Courtesy of Empire’s five-star review, I was itching to see Stoker. While hype surrounding it centres on the fact that it is South Korean director Chan-wook’s first English language film, I was more interested by the trio of actors heading it up. So far in her (comparatively) short career I haven’t been disappointed by Wasikowska, and Kidman is another who rarely disappoints. Goode too has an impressive track record, with star turns in Watchmen, Match Point and A Single Man.
So, last Friday night, my boyfriend and I joined the handful of other people who were watching Stoker on its opening night. At first there were only five of us in the theatre, though eventually that number did creep up to 11. With a film like Stoker, that added intimacy caused by the rows of empty seats definitely adds to the atmosphere.
As the lights dimmed and the stylised credits started rolling, I started wondering just how scary it was going to be. I knew it wasn’t going to be jump-out-of-your-seat type of scary or blood’n’guts either, but the classification screen at the start that said ‘sexual violence’ had me thinking…
Kidman is a very beautiful woman, but as the credits dissolved into the opening scene I couldn’t help thinking about how smooth her face was. I started questioning whether that would affect her performance, but I shouldn’t have worried. As Empire said in its review, Wentworth Miller’s script is so tight that it never wastes a word when a look will do, and my can Kidman do ‘a look’.
Emotionally unstable due to a variety of reasons, not least her strained relationship with her daughter, Kidman’s fragile widow Evie is The Mistress of The Look, always with a strange, disturbed glint in her eye. You never quite know how she is going to react to something, and even when she knows something isn’t quite right, she carries down the path regardless.
The estranged daughter, Wasikowska’s India, appears to be a Victorian woman trapped in a young girl’s body, with her personality and mannerisms not quite fitting the present day. Lacking friends and more interested in hunting than any other more feminine pastimes, she is definitely the sort of person you wouldn’t want to be in close proximity to for a long period of time.
Rounding off the Stoker family is the mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), India’s father’s younger brother, who is both charming and menacing. His handsome and unnerving presence puts a spin on the family dynamic, and like India the audience is left wondering who exactly the man is. Goode portrays Uncle Charlie perfectly, maintaining a glossy exterior that hides a mind that is working overtime.
On leaving the cinema and thinking about it, that 18 rating may have been excessive, in my opinion. There aren’t that many explicit scenes, indeed my boyfriend and I weren’t sure what represented the ‘sexual violence’. Perhaps it received its 18 rating due to its dark and frightening themes instead; maybe the depths into went into sexuality, murder, jealousy and incest were too extreme for a 15.
The way it explores those themes is done in a very careful, calculated manner. With his script Miller, and Chan-wook in his direction, prefers the subtle to the explicit. When you watch Stoker for yourself, you’ll realise that you wouldn’t want it any other way, and it leaves you captivated till the very end.