in Movies

“Stoker” Review: Gut-Wrenching, Emotionally Draining

stoker

“I wear my father’s belt tied around my mother’s blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me.”

Park Chan-wook’s Stoker has been out for a few months now. Even though I wanted to watch it ever since I saw the trailer, I kept putting it off because I suspected it would be one of those films that are so emotionally exhausting I wouldn’t know what to do with myself afterwards. And I was right. I was so, so right.

The main character, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), is a strange girl who begins the film struggling to cope with grief after her father’s death.

With a distant mother named Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), and almost no friends to speak of, the death of Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney) meant India lost both a father and a best friend. At Richard’s funeral, India is introduced to her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), a mysterious man who announces he will be staying with the Stokers for awhile.

Stoker is gorgeously directed (as to be expected from Park Chan-wook, who is responsible for the much-lauded Vengeance Trilogy) with oftentimes unnerving, almost claustrophobic shots. There were times I found myself flinching back from the screen even though nothing in particular was happening – it was just the scene’s general aura that disconcerted me.

The acting showcased by Mia Wasikowska was also fantastic. Her interactions with both Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman played out well, and her quiet brand of intensity blended in with the film’s Southern gothic overtones.

Though Matthew Goode generally pulled off his character, there was one specific scene where I couldn’t take him seriously. His acting in that scene didn’t quite manage to be believable – in my opinion, he’s better with mere suggestions of creepiness than he is at being terrifying.

One of the best moments in the film for me has to be Evelyn’s monologue. I’d seen the clip prior to Stoker’s theatrical release, and as I’ve said before, watching that speech was a large part of what made me want to view the full film. In context, the clip is ten times more chilling, and Nicole Kidman does an excellent job of imbuing her words with venom and insecurity in turns.

My main issue with Stoker is that the first two thirds of the film were very slow and draggy (I found myself filled more with apathy than anticipation). Still, when the final act came along, even though I could guess what was about to occur, it was a gut-wrenching thing to witness. If I could separate the movie into sections I would give the first 60-some minutes three stars, and the last half hour five stars – but alas, that’s not how reviews work, so I’ll just average it out to four and call it a day.

A gut-wrenching, horrid, emotionally draining day.

four stars

  • Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney
  • Directed by: Park Chan-wook
  • Running Time: 99 minutes
  • Genre: Thriller, Drama