• Guy Jeffries

The Handmaiden Review


Director: Park Chan-wook

Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Jo Jin-woong, Moon So-ri, Kim Hae-suk.

Oldboy director, yes the brilliant Korean original, Park Chan-Wook gets inspired by the novel Fingersmith, written by Sarah Waters about a Handmaiden employed to corrupt a Japanese Heiress in a plot to gain her incredible fortunes and estate but ends up ultimately seducing her.

The original story was set in London during the 1930s, but Park decided to move the story to Japanese occupied Korea. He sent the script upon completion to Waters, who, whilst liking the adaption, she called more of an inspiration from her novel as oppose to an adaptation.

A small band of low-key yet ambitious criminals see an opportunity and devise a plot to marry into wealth. Jung-woo plays a fake yet convincing and handsome count Fujiwara, who has already managed to befriend the mark, Lady Hideko (Min-hee) who lives with her rich uncle. But his charms isn't enough to win over the somewhat naive and reclusive Hideko.

Fujiwara employs Sook-Hee (Tae-ri) to act as Handmaiden to Lady Hideko, to get close and help convince her to marry the gold-digger, promising her a generous cut of the fortunes. However, she gets too close becoming more than just friends, which spins what might ordinarily be a simple story into an intriguing mystery. Just when you think you know what's going on, you're jerked from your seat, and the twists don't stop there.

The performances of all are superb, powerful even when supposedly being crushed, weak and playing the victim, their portrayals are doubly good purely because each character is actually playing two very different egos of themselves, almost polar opposites.

If you're fans of the original Oldboy, you might expect this to be oddly sexual, and yes, it is strangely sensual and erotic; and like Oldboy, it isn't overly done so to distract from the core of the story. It's a bold and daring vision from Park, exploring people's sexuality and how one might use someone's for exploitation.

What I always find pleasing to the eye with Chan-Wook's films is his use and understand of tone and setting the atmosphere. The film starts progressively grey and gloomy, and is in perfect harmony with the production and costume design.

It's not going to be for everyone tastes and while it's unpredictable, which makes it compelling to watch through, some may find it boring. Even with the concluding reveal, some might feel underwhelmed by the whole story, but what you cannot deny is Park's elegant style and vision but might only be appreciated by hardcore film lovers.

Running Time: 7

The Cast: 8

Performance: 9

Direction: 9

Story: 8

Script: 7

Creativity: 9

Soundtrack: 6

Job Description: 6

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Doubtful.

69% 7/10

#ParkChanwook #MinheeKim #TaeriKim #JungwooHa #JinwoongJo #SoriMoon #HaesukKim