Park Chan-Wook’s first English language film was bound to generate interest, known for his stylistic aesthetics; expectations were of course relatively high. Luckily, his first foray into the world of English language film does not falter, demonstrating wonderful visuals, a twisted subject matter deftly balancing the line between good and poor taste, along with well-pitched filmic references (particularly referencing the work of Hitchcock).
After the sudden, unexplained death of her father, India Stoker (the sublime Mia Wasikowska) – a self-possessed, displaced eighteen-year-old – struggles to contend with the rapid appearance of a hitherto unknown uncle. Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) quickly assimilates himself within the Stoker household, charming India’s mother Evelyn (a suitably icy Nicole Kidman). India, explaining that she has always found herself attuned to the world around her to a greater extent than everyone else, hearing things no one else hears, finds Charlie’s appearance disquieting. Initially unable to reconcile her previous lack of awareness of his existence to his all-too-real presence, India quickly finds herself utterly fascinated by this unknown relative.
Being a devoted fan of Wasikowska’s since her superb turn in Jane Eyre, any film that she opts for immediately captures my interest, and I am glad to say I am not disappointed in her performance here. She is mesmerising as the young India, utterly captivating in her inscrutability. Special mention must of course go to both Kidman (who manages to combine coldness with raw, desperate sexuality), and Goode, whose often outright dangerous charm fascinates, and importantly makes it easy to see why those around him find him so enthralling.
Certainly Stoker will not be for all, some may hold it up as an example of aesthetics over substance, but make no mistake, you are unlikely to see anything quite like Stoker: allow it to captivate you.