Review: Stoker ★★★★★

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Stoker is a film lover’s chocolate. It’s covered in gloss, blood, Hitchcockian-homage, terrific acting, wonderful music and an atmosphere to die for. It’s probably the most delicious film cinema will see this year.

Directed by Park Can-wook, director of Oldboy, and scripted by (believe it or not) Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, this is a shamelessly ridiculous, gorgeously mounted thriller set within a suffocating American family. The father has died, and widow Evelyn Stoker (Nicole Kidman) has just discovered her husband had a brother. Her eighteen year old daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) becomes intrigued by this mysterious figure (creepily, yet sexily, played by Matthew Goode) that’s just walked into their lives.

It quickly becomes clear that both females are competing for the attention of enigmatic Uncle Charlie. And Uncle Charlie isn’t one to let simmering passion go unnoticed. In fact, he has dark desires of his own which he carries out with flare and a disturbing sense of sadism.

Some people will dismiss this film as hysterical, but part of the fun of it comes from having everything pumped up to eye and ear-splitting levels. The colours are amazing, the sounds are fantastically crisp, the violence is bloody and the menace is palpable. Kidman and Goode offer career-top performances. Wasikowska, who has the capacity to be awful (Alice in Wonderland, anyone?) is also weirdly hypnotic in the lead. Her intensity and brittle determination in the film is hard not to like, and she now has the privilege of knowing she’s filmed one of the best masturbation scenes in recent cinema history.

Her sexual chemistry with Uncle Charlie (yes, it does go to there) is electric. One of the best scenes in the film occurs when they sit down at the piano together and play a sumptuous, fast-moving piece by Philip Glass. It’s piano-sex, with the music coursing between them like a penetrative connection.

The closing final moments are brilliant and devastating. Chan-wook, and his cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, shoot this final scene with a bloody relish and eye for detail that some may find repulsive. Those who can stand the violence will be entranced. This is as captivating as serious adult cinema gets. Though clearly inspired by other works (the most obvious being Alfred Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt), it’s so confident in its tone and style it feels like a breath of fresh air. Watch it a marvel.

 

Stoker (2013), directed by Park Chan-Wook, is released in the UK by Twentieth Century Fox, Certificate 18.  Some viewers may wish to read more about the content of this film at www.bbfc.co.uk before watching. 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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