Film Review: Stoker

Stoker is a film directed by Chan-Wook Park, and is his first English language film. I watched this as I’ve really liked his previous films and I’ve been intrigued by the contrasting reviews I’ve read. Seems to be a love it or hate it movie.

In terms of the story, the film centres around a girl and her emotionally unstable mum who have just lost their dad and husband respectively. A mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) appears who begins to seduce the mother (Nicole Kidman), and worry the daughter (Mia Wasikowska). This is how it begins and naturally there are a few twists on the journey through the film.

One of the most common things I’ve seen stated about this film in the negative reviews is that it uses style over substance, and to be honest I can see where they’re coming from although I don’t entirely agree. The film is a highly visual experience, with a strong emphasis on symbolism, especially on the subject of the loss of innocence, and sometimes it’s so beautiful to watch that the narrative almost becomes supplemental at times. It really is visually stunning with some excellent and clever direction, great photography and cinematography, and wonderful use of colour. It’s like watching art.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t any substance to the film. The heavy symbolism in the movie doesn’t replace the substance, it adds to it. It doesn’t become too much, it all has meaning and it all fits in nicely to the overall theme of the film. The story itself is quite good. Nothing brilliant but also nowhere near as bad as some of the negative reviews have made out. Admittedly, under different stewardship, it could quite easily have been nothing special. But Chan-Wooks creative and visual flair has turned an OK story into something beautiful, deep, visceral, and visually captivating. It’s a thought provoking, haunting, and very enjoyable piece of work.

And finally, a special mention for the performances of the main actors in the film. Matthew Goode played the ultimate creepy yet charming uncle, Nicole Kidman was perfectly cast as the emotionally frail mother, and Mia Wasikowska was a good choice as the morbid, unhappy, and emotionally confused girl. I felt reluctant to say that last bit as I thought Mia was awful when I watched Alice in Wonderland however I guess that she didn’t really fit that role quite as well.

In summary – It’s a slow burner for sure but the atmosphere is well sustained throughout and all the creative elements are combined superbly in what can only be described as a spellbinding visual feast. I enjoyed it very much – 9/10


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