Helmed by Korean director Park which is also his debut movie in English, the movie introduces India Stoker as she loses her beloved father and best friend Richard (played by Dermot Mulroney) in an unexplained car mishap on her 18th birthday. Upon her father’s demise, India’s life is suddenly shattered in their very secluded estate. Left with her unstable mother Evie (Kidman) and Uncle Charlie (Goode), her father’s brother who mysteriously showed up during her father’s funeral, India experiences an unraveling of herself that surprises and frees her at the same time.
Exquisitely sensitive, India has since exhibited an impassive demeanor which masks the deep feelings and heightened senses that only her father understood. While she initially finds herself mistrusting her uncle, he fascinates her as well and she begins to realize how much they have in common. As Charlie reveals himself to her little by little, India becomes increasingly infatuated with her charismatic relative and comes to realize that his arrival is no coincidence. With her uncle to guide her, she is about to fulfill her unusual destiny.
“She is an introverted girl confined in a suffocating house, unable to mix with anyone outside,” says director Park. “She is very rebellious as she bears the pains of adolescence. Her father’s death, her uncle’s arrival, as well as the conflict with her mother and her peers, bring her to a realization about her true identity.”
Finding an actress who could embody the contradictions of the character while making India’s transition to womanhood graceful and natural was critical to the film’s success. Park selected Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, whose delicate beauty and solemn serenity had already won the 22-year-old leading roles in films including Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” and Cary Fukanaga’s “Jane Eyre.”
“Mia has the natural liveliness of a young woman,” he notes. “But she is also composed and has internal maturity. To portray a girl who is neither a woman nor a child, but at an awkward in-between stage, Mia was the most suitable actor. She has a level of restraint surprising for someone her age. She is almost completely still when she is acting. But when you watch her on film, you realize that all the necessary emotion is there. She is very subtle and skillful in a way that I expect only from older actors.”
For her part, the actress says she found much to like about the project. “It is such a strong piece of writing. Director Park and the creative team are brilliant. The story is something I have never seen before. The dynamic between the characters is quite mysterious. India is a really complex young woman. Without her father, she is completely disconnected from the world. She’s an outsider by nature, closed off from the rest of the world. She is still a young girl, but she’s becoming a woman with dreams and fantasies, although they’re of a different nature than other girls’ dreams.”
“It’s completely confusing and really intriguing,” Wasikowska further says. “She’s trying to figure out what role he has in her life and it’s far bigger than she ever imagined. She’s not sure what he wants from her at first, and as she slowly finds out how much alike they are, it’s both terrifying and appealing. There’s a definite sexual tension between Charlie and Evie, as well as Charlie and India, so it’s up in the air as to who and what he’s really there for. You are never really sure—until you are.”
Working with Park was a constantly evolving, and always stimulating experience for the actress. “Even on weekends, we would meet for lunch and continue discussing the character and the story,” Wasikowska says. “Ideas would snowball, becoming more and more complex and interesting. During shooting, he let us sit for long moments in silence where seemingly not much was happening, but there was always strong underlying tension. That approach was perfect for this material.”
“Stoker” opens in cinemas March 1 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.