Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Stoker (+trailer)

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When shopping his first screenplay around Hollywood, Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, concerned he wouldn't be taken seriously, used the alias Ted Foulke.

He need not have worried because his twisted psychological family drama was taken very seriously, notably by Cannes Jury Prize-winning director Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy).

Stoker, a reference to Dracula author Bram Stoker, is Korean Park Chan-Wook's English-language debut feature film. With its limited dialogue, complex characters and violent outbursts it's well-suited to Chan-Wook's sensibility.

He brings his trademark visual metaphors, a good dose of claustrophobic suspense and a highly stylised aesthetic, thanks largely to his collaboration with cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung.

The story takes place almost entirely at the Stoker family home over a couple of days. At the centre is India (Wasikowska), an exceptionally sensitive and introverted young woman whose father (Mulroney) dies in a car accident on her 18th birthday.

India is devastated to lose her father and best friend, especially as her relationship with her mother, Evie (Kidman), is far from convivial, but is distracted by the arrival of an uncle she didn't know she had.

Uncle Charlie, played by a tanned and preppy Matthew Goode, is a charming, yet cruel man. Charlie understands India just like her father did and she becomes fascinated by him. And her mother does her best to find solace in the arms of her brother-in-law.

Drenched in sexual tension, this slow burning coming-of-age story is unpredictable and comfortable pushing boundaries. The characters indulge their every whim with complete disregard for consequences. Wasikowska, Goode and Kidman are a compelling trio and, with appearances from Jacki Weaver, Phyllis Somerville and Mulroney, make for a surefooted cast who hold the dark and suspenseful story together.

Textures are a signature of Chan-Wook's films, close-ups of hair, fabrics, plants and insects make Stoker a tactile film with a heightened sense of reality.

While occasionally the result feels unreal and remote, it's impossible not to appreciate the attention to detail and the deliberateness of every camera angle and longing glance.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman.
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Running time: 98 mins
Rating: R16 (Contains violence & sex scenes)
Verdict: A slow-burning, stylish and sexy thriller.

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