The 1st London East Asia Film Festival: Stoker

Stoker is the first English language film by Korean director Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy). The film, which merges horror and family drama, follows confused teenager India Stoker and fragile alcoholic mother Evie during the days following the death of India’s father. After the arrival of her mysterious uncle Charlie, a series of strange and violent events occur which leads both characters to become more and more unstable. As the film progresses it is obvious that India is falling deeper under the spell of her charismatic and disturbed uncle, whose keen interest in her is clear from the start. Evie is also infatuated with Charlie, but this is clearly less important to him. India’s innocence, meanwhile, slowly dissolves the more her obsession with her uncle continues until, ultimately, she wants to become him. Stoker is magnificently led by its three leading actors: Mia Wasikowska (India), Matthew Goode (Uncle Charlie) and Nicole Kidman (India’s mother, Evie).

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There is no doubt that the acting in this film is phenomenal. The way in which each actor captivated their audience was impressive, the trio were able to fully absorb themselves in their characters and made them all the more life-like and threatening. Matthew Goode’s performance, in particular, left me speechless. His menacing stares and strange mannerisms made Uncle Charlie one of the most intriguing character’s I’ve seen. While Kidman’s Evie provides the most sympathy as her estrangement from India and infatuation with Charlie takes its toll on her. Mia Wasikowska, meanwhile, becomes more menacing as the film progresses, allowing her character to become the most intriguing because, in a way, we are watching the creation of a killer. Park Chan-Wook’s directing and Chung Chung-Hoon’s cinematography is done well. Their use of certain techniques of filming will provide many future film-makers with a learning tool.


The story itself, written by Wentworth Miller (Micahael Scofield in Prison Break), is very disturbing. Or at least, the change India goes through during the course of the film is difficult to swallow. While both Charlie and Evie have reasons for their madness, it is less obvious why India becomes the person she does. This, I felt, was the one problem with the film. It led me to believe that there was no cause for the violence committed by India, or the pleasure she got from certain events (the shower scene, especially, was one of the most discomforting scenes I’ve ever watched). Of course, this could link the film to the horror genre, which I have never been a big fan of. Clint Mansell’s soundtrack complimented the style, and mood, of the film.

Stoker is an intriguing film, however some of the very discomforting scenes made me rather uncomfortable and detracted from my enjoyment of the film. The acting in this film is definitely its strongest point as each actor holds the audiences attention as individuals as well as an ensemble. Stoker is an interesting look into the psychology of killers and the development into adulthood.

Written by Roxy Simons.

All photos © Fox Searchlight Pictures

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