Stoker (2013) – Chan-wook Park

The next title on the What Else to Watch list in DK Canada’s highly enjoyable The Movie book, following my screening of Oldboy is another Park film featuring Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska, and Nicole Kidman.

If I hadn’t already immersed myself in some of Park’s films, as well as some of the other darker films of the same genre, this one may have been more shocking. But honestly, compared to some of Park’s other works, especially those I’ve watched for the blog, Stoker is a tame film, while still embracing its darkness.

Wasikowska is India Stoker, a quiet, slightly odd girl who is reeling from the accidental death of her beloved father (Dermot Mulroney). Her mother, Evelyn (Kidman) is disconnected and unstable in her own way. It’s an empty household, beautiful, austere, but barren of emotion.

Things get complicated for the pair when the little spoken of Uncle Charles (Goode) arrives. There’s something off about him.

Taking its cues from Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, there are few surprises as the story unfolds, but it’s fascinating to watch as darkness is revealed, and to see India’s reaction to it.

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Park’s visual style serves the story well, giving it a slow-burn as the characters react and evolve, and the cast is up to the task. I have to wonder if this is the story Park wanted to tell though, if there was supposed to be something darker or troubling running throughout the tale.

I feel like Park held himself back a little to make a North American film, even the moments of violence are barely glimpsed, they are inferred from a distance, or just offscreen – and while that works as a nod to Hitchcock, it doesn’t always feel true to the way Park tells his stories.

The flashback sequences that fill out the story, and character arcs are unsettling as the histories of Charles and India play out, and Goode tends to be very charming on screen, making it easy to see why India is drawn to her uncle. I’ve never been able to get a read on Wasikowska, but she seems well suited to the role as a darkness roils around the teen innocence she permeates.

As a psychological drama the film works very well, and could serve as a good introduction to Park’s films to the uninitiated, but to those who have followed Park’s career, this one may come off as a bit of a letdown from some of his bolder work.

That being said, it’s a solid film, if predictable, and the cast brings the story to life with ease.

More of a drama then a thriller this is another solid entry in DK Books’ The Movie Book, but if this isn’t your thing, pick up a copy and find a new to you classic to watch tonight.

STK-7222.NEF

 

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