September 29, 2015 by Liza Lou
I was unsure about this one from the off. With its flowery opening credits I feared that it would be style over substance but then I learned that the man behind the The Vengeance Trilogy, Chan-Wook Park was in the directors chair and I knew I had to persevere.
The film starts with the funeral of Richard Stoker who leaves behind his wife, played by Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge), and his daughter India. India, portrayed by Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska is a quiet girl with heightened senses, she was very close to her father and is bemused when his brother Charlie (who she has never met) decides to move in.
Matthew Goode (The Imitation Game – which is next on my list now) is perfect in the role of Charlie. He is overtly charismatic which is both warming and creepy at the same time. Within the first few moments of seeing him on-screen he gave me an uneasy feeling but it was one I quite liked. As the film progressed the connection between him and Wazikowska is undeniable which when put into plot context leaves a nasty taste – but of course that is exactly what the film wants it to do.
Wazikowska is breath-taking if a little odd. Her kookiness in this role was reminiscent of Alice but she played this darker. I honestly could not keep my eyes off her and as each scene unfolded I was drawn in by her strangeness and her almost blank stare that became deeper as time went on.
The direction is smart. There are lots of little quirks that build up the suspense but it never gives too much away. Usually with this type of film, I have started my guess-work within the first twenty minutes but with this I just watched. I was taken in by the beauty of it all although it wasn’t calm. There was always something not quite right about what I was seeing but I couldn’t put my finger on just what. There were also many intricate shots that show insight into India’s mind and her thinking. Sure, it could be considered ‘too arty’ by some but I think it’s pretty atmospheric and certainly helped to develop a character that stood alone throughout the whole film.
The atmospheric feel is echoed in the plot as Charlie mystery unravels, people start to go missing and all manner of weird things happen. The plot basically charts Charlie’s manipulation of the people around him and the reasoning behind him suddenly becoming part of India and her mother’s life. As India’s world is compromised by him she becomes obsessed by the enigma he seems to be.
What I really liked about this film is that as the film enters it’s second and third act the actions that ground India’s suspicions are played out in front of the viewers eyes. This is not a ‘whodunnit’ film by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, violence and depravity are shot in such a way that doesn’t scare but leaves a sinister air.
The one thing Stoker has in abundance is mood and at times it all gets very weird and I couldn’t help but thinking as I watched that this was definitely one of those films that you would either love or hate. The truth is that this film has a very strong viewpoint and I admire that. The conclusion could of had more punch but the one it has does work. That uneasy feeling I had at the beginning stayed with me the entire time and as the final credits rolled my head was reeling. Job done good.