From Park Chan-wook, the South Korean mastermind behind Oldboy and Stoker, comes the best film about a handmaiden since The Phantom Menace.
Ostensibly the story of a pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri) sent to con a Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) out of her fortune, The Handmaiden blossoms into a romance, as dark and twisted as Chan-wook’s other movies and his mind. Told in 3 acts, the film moves elegantly from a fairly traditional Shakespearean drama, into something much more violent and sexualised. The first half you could probably watch with your gran; the second… not so much.
It looks beautiful throughout, thanks to Chung Chung-hoon’s majestic cinematography and the eye-popping production design, not to mention the performers themselves. The two leads enchantingly carry the warped feminist drama, while Chan-wook’s direction is as tender as it is tense. This is another immaculate realisation of his passion for plot twists, octopi and taboo sexuality that would make Freud himself spit out his penis. I mean his cigar.
Twisty and beautiful in equal measure, The Handmaiden is a masterfully told love story with a sting in its tail. All eight of them. It’s like Shakespeare and Brian De Palma going to Korea together, just to mess with people’s heads.