From Park Chan-wook, the director of Oldboy, comes a new and incredibly disturbing piece of film-making. Stoker follows a young woman's relationship with her uncle after the death of her father, but it's not as benign a plot as it sounds.
The opening scene admittedly had me rolling my eyes - it looked and sounded like the start of an annoyingly whimsical hipster movie - but it is revisited at the end of the film, and context gives everything an entirely different (and much better) meaning. India (Mia Wasikowska) has just become an adult, but she is not like other women her age.
After her father dies in a car accident, Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) is invited to stay by India's mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). Uncle Charlie is polite, impeccably dressed, an accomplished cook, and an excellent pianist - but India doesn't trust him from the beginning, and as it turns out, for good reason. Matthew Goode puts in a sterling performance here as he effortlessly conjures an incredibly creepy yet intriguing aura.
It's not just Goode's acting. The way the film is shot and the sound is structured is precise and often disturbing in odd ways, with several re-occurring motifs that take on more and more significance as the film continues (particular attention is paid to belts and India's shoes, for reasons that become clear). Sometimes it's thoroughly beautiful, sometimes horrific, and sometimes both.
There are definitely points where it is difficult to keep watching: this is a slow burning film that builds suspense to almost intolerable levels, and then releases the tension in a horrible rush. It certainly earns its 18 certificate.
Mia Wasikowska herself adds to the atmosphere of the film with a brilliantly inscrutable performance as India. This is going to be one of those characters where you can't imagine anyone else playing it. In some ways, this is a coming-of-age film - India turns 18 on the day of her father's death, and her development as a person is hastened by the enigmatic Uncle Charlie in more ways than one.
Stoker takes its time to build up characters, plot points, and imagery, resulting in a psychological thriller truly worthy of the name. 9/10
This film has a content warning for sexual violence, emotional/psychological abuse and graphic death scenes.
Watch the trailer here:
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