Stoker (2013), an artistic psychological thriller directed by one of my favorite directors, Chan wook-Park, also director of the well renown Korean film, Old Boy. It has been a summer of not so amazing blockbusters and even though this was released in early Spring this year, I only just got a chance to see it. The tale is about a young girl, India Stoker (beautifully played by Mia Wasikowska) who just lost her father. Her emotionally distant mother (played by Nicole Kidman) is introduced to her estranged brother-in-law and India’s uncle Charlie (played by Matthew Goode). Strange events begin to take place as soon as he comes on to the scene which invokes something unsettling in India who now must choose between her darkest nature and desires and doing what is right.
So, the concept in general is quite simple: father dies, his brother moves in with his family, thrilling events ensue. However, what I was most amazed by is the direction of the film. A true auteur, Chan wook-Park is a master at his storytelling craft - he knows how to make a film twist and turn and surprise at the perfect moments. The theme is quite taboo, which if you have seen Old Boy, you will realize that the concept of intertwined and somewhat accidentally incestuous undertones is very prevalent. And because the topic is so unmentionable in society, it does take a good storyteller to tell it in a tasteful way. It’s the slight of hands, the quick glances that Park focuses on with this concept, instead of beating you over the head with such a heavy topic. The acting in it was fantastic as well. Anyone can play off the monotone nature of India’s character but underlining the themes of a young girl coming of age, Wasikowska plays the emotion beneath the eyes. She has a striking look which adds so much to the film, adding a gorgeous depth with every wince and smirk.
Beyond all of that, of course, I have to look at the editing. The way the shots intertwine between one another are very beautifully done. The flashbacks are nearly seamless yet just noticeable enough. The entire shower scene (yes, there is a shower scene…) is so beautifully climactic and perfectly stitched together. And the droning score adds that extra eerie layer to the films entirety. Park, as aforementioned does not beat you over the head with the fear and the mystery. Instead he knows when to give just enough of a whisper to let the audience feel the emotion he desires to express.
With all those elements wrapped into the film, Stoker had my heart pounding the entire time. A highly recommended watch for those who enjoy and can appreciate a stunningly crafted thriller.
UPDATE: Now I’m riding on the coattails a bit on current events. However, I really was shocked to realize that the screenwriter is none other than Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) who premiered his silverscreen penmanship with this film. It was as if the dark themes of Stoker were written for Park to direct. Who would’ve thought Miller had it in him? (in all respects)
And on a quick political note, I gained mad respect for Miller after discovering he declined invitation to a Russian film festival, using it as a means to stand his ground as a human rights activist and publicly announce his homosexuality.
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