While India (Mia Wasikowska) is hunting for her present on her 18th birthday around her home, her father (Dermot Mulroney) is killed in a car accident. Just as her mother (Nicole Kidman) begins to lose herself to alcohol and put-upon grief, her father's brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) shows up at their home. Having been missing from the family for years as he travelled around the world, Charlie's arrival into their lives stirs something in the women of the house, something neither of them can fully comprehend. The more India tries to repel him, the more he wants to get closer to her; but does Uncle Charlie have ulterior motives in mind?
The English-language debut from Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Sympathy For Lady Vengence), with a script written by Wentworth Miller (the lead guy from Prison Break), Stoker had the potential to be an outright mess. Instead, it is one of the most entrancing, delirious and beautiful films of the last few years. Park has precision-engineered every camera move, every edit, every sound to knock you off-balance, to embrace you in the movie's woozy atmosphere. Tension fills practically every scene - be it sexual or violent - like an itch you can't quite scratch, leaving you feeling uneasy until the revelation of Uncle Charlie's intent.
Unfortunately, it's the revelation that lets the movie down. Almost too plain to be obvious, the underwhelming denouement simply isn't good enough to cap off all that has gone before it. Thankfully we still have the fantastic performances from the three leads, with Masikowska a perfect mix of naïve youth and blossoming woman in the lead role. Kidman is fantastic as the brittle, bitter woman who doesn't quite know how to love properly, and Goode is very, very good(e) as an insidiously dark man hiding behind a veneer of preposterously good looks.
But the real reason to watch Stoker is to see director Park find beauty in the mundane or horror of everyday life. It is a truly lush, gorgeously made movie that demands your constant attention. It may be a case of style over substance, but in this case, that absolutely works to its advantage.