This dark psychological thriller scores highly on IMDB (7.9 at the time of writing), but I found it a perplexing and frustrating watch.
Directed by Korean director Chan-wook Park (previously best known in the West for the well-received Oldboy) the story, such as it is, revolves largely around India, a young girl, recently bereaved by the loss of her father. When her long lost Uncle returns, events in the family household take a sinister and mysterious turn (with more than a nod to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt).
There are themes of obsession, jealousy, sexual longing and hints of dark family secrets but the motivations for them are never explained or developed. All of the characters are cold, and emotionally closed, making caring for what happens to any of them difficult.
Jackie Weaver, one of my favourite supporting actresses, is wasted as Auntie Gwen, who has little more to do than turn up unannounced to a less than warm welcome, say a couple of lines of dialogue, before leaving for a shorter than expected stay in a local hotel.
Nicole Kidman, does pretty much what Nicole Kidman does best, mainly just hanging around looking beautiful, brittle but not really emoting much more than a cold, static detachment. To be fair, on this occasion she doesn’t really have much to work with, and her performance is in tune with the sombre, repressed tone of the film.
There are some things to enjoy, the cinematography is stunning, with some great outdoor location work in the woods and highways that surround the family house. There are several set pieces that are well conveyed, particularly when the Uncle and India play an emotionally charged piano duet.
Mia Wasikowska puts in the best performance here as India, conveying both inner emotional turmoil and later in the film, an emerging sexual awareness and yearning. She also is a dab hand with a pencil.
While interesting, ultimately, the lack of a coherent plot, or any desire to explain lose ends (the shoes, the key to the drawer), means it falls short of greatness.