Director Chan-wook Park is known for creating scenes filled with stark images that are in direct contrast with the stories that fall more into a film noir sensibility. Stoker is a tale of revenge filled with so many twists and turns, you may not realize who's out to get who until its too late.
Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver, and Matthew Goode star in one of the stranger movies you will see this year.
India Stoker (Wasikowska) has the unfortunate task of dealing with her father's accidental death on the same day as her 18th birthday. When her uncle Charlie (Goode), a relative she never knew she had, shows up the day of the funeral, the young girl's already troubled mind goes in to a tailspin as her mother Evelyn (Kidman) agrees to let him stay at their stately mansion. Unsure of who he is, or what he might want, India is immediately skeptical of this new addition to the family home.
While Charlie settles in by helping with yard work, cooking, and other household chores, Evelyn makes it apparent that she may be looking to fill the void left by a husband who had already grown distant some time ago. As each member of the family ramps up the intrigue, the tension builds, secrets begin to come out, and India soon becomes aware that everyone may be acting under their own secret agenda.
When I walked out of the theater, the one thing that was really striking to me about this movie is how visually precise every single frame of film was put together for maximum effect. Every shadow, color, fluttering leaf, or rain splattered window is placed in an exact spot to give each moment a purpose in the story. This level of detail in film making is what takes an ordinary movie and turns it into something special.
By no means am I saying that Stoker is an ordinary movie. The characters are all very interesting almost reaching the tipping point of being overly stylized yet still grounded in the dark quality that punctuates the overall feel of the movie. Each actor is also perfectly cast in their role and, for Wasikowska, this could end up being a role that takes the already rising star to another level of respectability. She is at times so quiet and reserved you can barely tell she is breathing and, at other times, she brings an intensity that almost bursts right out of the screen.
Stoker is a movie that will not fade from your memory any time soon. This is the type of story that sticks with you and makes you want to get together with a few friends to discuss how insanely absurd, yet beautifully awesome it is. With standout performances from the entire cast and a director pulling out all the stops for his American debut, this should be a movie that will be talked about for a long time.