Starring Nicole Kidman as Mrs Stoker whose husband Richard has just died (played by Dermot Mulroney). Her daughter is India (Mia Wasikowska). Charlie (Matthew Goode) turns up. He has sexual designs on the Stoker mother and daughter. India flirts and Charlie teaches her to kill. Charlie has a psychiatric history. He kills his brother Richard. Who else will he kill?
Made by Park Chan Wook (who made Oldboy in 2003). This is such a sensually loaded film it makes you feel you’re being stroked. The images are lush in a sort of Elvira Madigan trance of an idyllic summer. One scene goes from the combing of hair to wheat waving in the wind. Blood sprays white flowers. It’s like Terence Mallick’s visual style mixed with a Hitchcock plot (indeed it derives from Shadow of a Doubt). Nicole Kidman looks poised to aim neurosis or worse at whoever is in her sights Sexual jealousy from mother to daughter is highly charged. Emotions swarm beneath chilly elegance and it later electrifies the atmosphere. Charlie. is a smirking con man, we know he is dangerous but we’ve seen more convincing specimens of his type: like Laurence Olivier in Rebecca, Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains. Charlie is not given any memorable lines but he is a suave killer. This film lacks any originality of plot so it compensates by its density of image. India says arty things about the photographs catching us out in unusual angles. She is not exactly a killer in the style of Hitchcock’s Rope, more a lethal primitive pretending to sophistication. Her voice-over reminds us of the amoral naivety of Sissy Spacek in Badlands. It does not have the mesmeric music of that film although Summer Wine is a pleasant record sound track. She sleeps on a bed with several pairs of identical shoes in a circle round her. She may be rich and beautiful but she is ultimately a mundane assassin. This is the Southern US and of course stereotypically it has to be loaded with a potential for evil, so it wouldn’t work if it were set in Akron Ohio would it?
Nicole Kidman is left with little to do in this film. We are left to wonder if she is entirely guiltless of her husband’s death, and who is in more danger from Charlie, daughter or mother, and since they’re both unlikeable from the start we wouldn’t mind seeing their comeuppence. Like a snooze in a wheat field.