The Handmaiden

the handmaiden

(spoiler free)

Renowned film director Park Chan-wook’s latest project sees him adapt Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel ‘Fingersmith’. Chan-wook is well known for the brutality of his work so the explicit nature of this narrative would appear to suit him perfectly. ‘The Handmaiden’ has gone on to receive critical acclaim since it’s release but could this dark tale become accessible to audiences as a means of entertainment?

‘The Handmaiden’ is an erotic thriller told in three parts and it’s the expert storytelling which is the definite highlight. Up to a point the film continually gets better the more you watch it. The narrative is wonderfully mysterious and the content is always enthralling. The developments in the story come thick and fast throughout the film. Some I liked more than others. Whilst some really elevated the parts of the film that had come before I thought others slightly undid some of the impact created by these developments. It’s hard to discuss this without mentioning spoilers but while there will be certain plot points you favour there’s no denying that the narrative as a whole is told in a masterful way. It’s no surprise that the content of this film is very explicit and extreme. This works well in adding gravitas and tension to the proceedings. Although, it could be argued that some scenes go a little too far. However, it is clear that the director wants to include these moments in order to make this film an intense experience for audiences. In doing so he has crafted a film that won’t easily be forgotten and one that boasts countless scenes of wonderment.

The cast deserve a lot of praise for their involvement here. All of the roles present are daring to say the least. The challenging nature of their actions demand impressive performances from all involved. The film simply wouldn’t have worked with half-hearted performances. Thankfully each member of the cast performs admirably and in doing so bring this brilliantly twisted story to life. It might not have been expected in such a twisted tale but there is also room for some humour amongst everything else. The cast should again be the recipients of much praise for this being able to juggle such a delicate tone effortlessly with their work. Of course the writing deserves credit for this element too, it’s wonderful to see so many brilliant elements combining together to make such an irresistible film. Another noteworthy addition to ‘The Handmaiden’ was the score by South Korean composer, ‘Jo Yeong-wook. His work here reminded me somewhat of the music present in period television drama ‘Downtown Abbey’. This seemed appropriate for a number of narrative reasons preset both in the original novel and this film adaptation. It was able to stir up a range of emotions simultaneously, capturing the onscreen drama perfectly.       

‘The Handmaiden’ is dark storytelling at its finest. You’ll become so wrapped up in it’s narrative so quickly and you’ll be more than happy to stick with if for the long running time. The performances, style and sound of the film offer up a deliciously sinister experience that might well be too much for some viewers. However, given the right audience ‘The Handmaiden’ will be a riotous success and a much loved classic for years to come.

Rating – 8/10

Question: What is your favourite Park Chan-wook film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)


Thanks for reading this review and please let me know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.


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2 thoughts on “The Handmaiden

  1. Thanks Rob, definitely one worth seeking out right!? You’ve nailed it there, the story telling was irresistible. To the extent that although I didn’t always like the content I was hooked on what would happen consistently.

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