We live in an age where trailers are increasingly a condensed version of the most important, funny, or scary aspects of the feature length film, making the trailer for Stoker, which relies on its looks, as it really gives very little away, a source of huge intrigue. I went into the cinema without a clue what I was about to see, other than what looked to be a stylish and dark thriller.
In the last decade Hollywood has become a laborious and uninspiring round of franchises and adaptations, re-imaginings and reboots. Even director Park Chan-wook’s seminal Oldboy is itself currently undergoing the US remake treatment (although I must admit I was somewhat pacified by the replacement of Will Smith with Josh Brolin). With an original screenplay by Wentworth Miller, from the very second it begins it is clear that Stoker is something quite special. The opening credit sequence immediately sets out its stall as an impeccably stylish and tight piece of work. And while it still gives so little away, at this point, you’re hooked.
It feels unfair to give too much of the plot away, given the successful shrouding of mystery, but the story goes that India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) have just lost Richard, respectively father and husband in a car accident. The mysterious and enchanting Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to stay following the funeral, and as the strained relationship between mother and daughter becomes increasingly apparent, both women find themselves yearning for him.
Matthew Goode is obscenely cool and dangerously gorgeous as Uncle Charlie and the sets and cinematography are just beautiful. Stoker drags gothic erotica all the way out of the 1800’s and does more than just update it, with elegant and sophisticated mise-en-scene that is nothing short of wonderful.
The movie contains a piano duet so sexually charged it would fluster the calmest of composures, achieving effortlessly in one scene what the millions of readers of 50 Shades of Grey doubtless won’t have found across three books. The score in itself is another hugely impressive piece of work from Clint Mansell.
The plot ticks along as steadily, and is incredibly well paced, not losing you or your interest in how events are unfolding at any point. Unfolding really is the best way to describe how the film pans out, as flash-forwards and montages gradually reveal dark secrets and tensions. What Drive could be accused of in having style and limited substance, Stoker is absolutely not guilty of.
Stoker is a genuinely beautiful, innovative and striking picture, one which deserves a great deal of credit to all of those involved, from writing and direction through to the performances. Every facet comes together to form something spellbinding, reinvigorating a literary genre for the screen. Those looking for another exceptional turn from Park Chan-wook post-Oldboy won’t be disappointed.
Rating: * * * * *
Review by Fiona Gales.