“We Can’t change the person that we’re meant to be” says India in the first line of Stoker. This pretty much sums up the overall theme of the movie. Park Chan-wook who is famous for Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance and most known for Oldboy makes his English language debut with Stoker. Upon hearing about the movie, I knew the plot, but watching the movie was an entirely different experience. I can’t give much away in terms of plot because this is the kind of movie that by knowing very little, you’ll have a better time. The overall plot involves India (played flawlessly by Mia Wasikowska from Alice in Wonderland) whose father has just died. Upon his death, her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to visit. The thing is that throughout her life, she never knew she had an uncle. Her grieving mother (Nicole Kidman) starts to get close to uncle Charlie and even though India should be repulsed, she is so infatuated with him. Charlie gets physical and emotional with both of them. Stoker provides a bizarre love triangle between the three main characters. The thing with Stoker is that things aren’t always as they seem.
We’re told that India is different from others by way of her hearing. She can hear things people can’t and if they can hear these things, India can hear them from a greater distance. This is an aspect in which the movie shines. Park Chan-wook is a terrific director and his skills are shown all throughout this movie. At one point during the movie, I thought that others in the audience were talking. It was getting me upset until I realized that he made it so we can hear everything that India hears. This technique was very well done because in other movies we would see people talking in the distance and wonder what they were saying, but in Stoker none of that is left to the imagination. Actually, by doing this, the audience is subjected to more questions than answers which isn’t a bad thing. Stoker plays like classic Hitchcock movies that are filled with twists and turns. This is the kind of movie that you really can’t miss a single second of or you may be lost. Visually speaking, the movie also excels. From the flickering lights and the shadow effects during the basement scenes to the beautiful and sometimes bloody outdoor shots, Park Chan-wook really makes his audience feel like they are with India.
The pacing of the movie isn’t great at first, but once it picks up, the movie doesn’t let go. The first 10 minutes of the movie just dragged on and I wondered whether or not I would enjoy Stoker, but once Charlie shows up, Stoker kicks into gear. I have to let you all know just in case it’s not obvious from the trailer that Stoker is a psychological horror/thriller. Everyone has a secret and no one is who they seem are themes that Stoker really tries to sell. India is a troubled girl from the start of the movie and as she gets closer to Charlie, we start to realize the type of person India really is. Is she normal, scared, strong, loving, carefree, hateful or something else? Stoker doesn’t want to just give us answers but instead, it invites the viewers to really think about it. The joy of Stoker is that it really holds on to you and never lets go. It’s an absolute blast to try to figure out just where the story is going to go next. Stoker’s final scenes and the payoff to the story is well worth the wait.
Park Chan-wook’s directing makes the movie what it is, but what really makes the movie stand out from other movies is the acting. Mia Wasikowska has basically become one of my favorite actresses after Stoker. From India mourning the loss of her father to her transition to a more outgoing character. She is unwilling to let people touch her, but as the movie progresses her feelings towards many things including touch change. There’s a lot of symbolism in many of the scenes, but you have to look out for these instances. Matthew Goode was perfectly cast as uncle Charlie. We never know whether he’s supposed to be good or evil and because of that, Matthew Goode was very convincing. I was trying to figure out his motives for the 90 minute runtime and with every line that Matthew Goode had, I kept changing my opinion on where the story would go. Nicole Kidman was a main, but I felt that she was actually in the background of the movie. The movie was more about India and her interest in Charlie. For the scenes that Nicole Kidman were in, she did what she had to do. She wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t necessarily great. Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode deserve awards for their acting, but since the movie came out so early in the year, they’ll likely be forgotten during awards season.