Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA/United Kingdom, 2013. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, Scott Free Productions, Dayday Films, Ingenious Media. Screenplay by Wentworth Miller. Cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung. Produced by Michael Costigan, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott. Music by Clint Mansell. Production Design by Therese DePrez. Costume Design by Kurt and Bart. Film Editing by Nicolas De Toth.
Mia Wasikowska is devastated when her father dies on her eighteenth birthday in a freak car accident, but thankfully her handsome young uncle (Matthew Goode), about whom she previously knew nothing, is on the scene to comfort her and her grieving (but so glamorous) mother (Nicole Kidman). It is not long before he begins to raise a Shadow of a Doubt in her quietly observant mind: relatives begin to go missing (including nosy aunt Jacki Weaver) and mother starts to enjoy his company a little too much. Thankfully, her years of hunting with her father, along with a defiantly take-no-prisoners personality, have prepared her for both the menace he possibly presents as well as the nasty bullies at school who would have their way with her. This incredibly fun film by Park Chan-wook, making his English-language debut after a series of delightfully twisted films in his native Korea, gets high points for atmosphere and tension, but then relies on them longer than it should before a short-shrifted payoff. Strangely, for a director whose films have often been a brilliantly improvisational combination of genres, this one picks a flavor and sticks to it monastically throughout: the visuals are hyperstylized to the point of kitsch, and how much you like the film will depend on how well that works for you. Possibly what works least in its favour, however, are characters who are too broadly written; it’s the sort of thing that would achieve cult status except that the personalities being played by superbly grounded actors don’t have much spark to them. Kidman’s speech to her daughter about her theories of parenthood, delivered with magnificent gusto in a massive close-up, are one of the few times when we get a clear glimpse at anyone’s inner life. She ends up being the most enjoyably savoured performance of the film, a woman so masterful at her craft that you can give her extended scenes with a camera right up in her face, her features blown up as high as a skyscraper, and the woman can just handle it. Wasikowska, coming off as a bewitching young Isabelle Huppert, is no slouch herself, and one never gets tired of the endless glimpses of her still but conflicted expressions.