Wednesday, November 2, 2016


The Handmaiden is the latest film from acclaimed Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook. The film stars Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, and Ha Jung-woo. This is a film you should really see without knowing anything about so all I will say with respect to the plot is that it is a period piece set in Japanese occupied Korea where there is a plot to get money in some way involving a handmaiden. This film is really excellent so the lack of information going in will serve you well.

This was my first experience with a Park Chan-wook film and what struck me immediately (and throughout the film) was the sheer beauty of the shot design and style presented throughout the film. This was a gorgeous film to look at and the way everything was shot was really clever and he moved the camera around really interestingly to capture a lot of intimate emotion as well as clever things that happen throughout the story. I also thought that the vision shown to make a film like this is immense and he’s very clever in the way he pieced all the elements of this story together to make a single whole.

The performances in this film are also stellar all around. Particular standouts were the two female leads (Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri) as they had a lot of great material to chew on and brought out such brilliant subtlety in their performances that make this film really work. This film has a lot of sex and other intimate moments in it and the way those scenes are played by actors across the board was incredibly compelling and made this movie really worth watching. The only other positive I would talk about requires spoiling the film so I won’t go there besides saying that the writing is extremely clever and made for a wonderful cinematic experience.

As with all good films, negatives are hard to come by in The Handmaiden. For me it perhaps was a little overlong and had trouble coming to a conclusion. I also thought it did introduce a few ideas here and there that weren’t addressed later and left me hanging wondering what those were all about. I also immediately recognize this film isn’t for everyone. It floats around between a number of different situations which are made great by small moments and some bigger moments that may not be comfortable for all viewers. For me, these things work and it made me really love this film but I wouldn’t be surprised if you showed this to a general audience and got a slightly less warm reception.

Overall I think The Handmaiden is great. It’s one of the best of the year and a really cool story that has some entertaining twists and turns that engage you in the film on a deeper level. Park Chan-wook brilliantly directs this film and, on a personal note, the fact I haven’t seen any of his films prior to this now makes me feel slightly ashamed. Go see it!

Ryan’s Score: 9/10

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