Milez Das (Rohit Shivdas)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Beauty in its sensuality, wrapped in its mystique sense, a tale that starts with an elaborate plan just to escape a life that has been isolated within the four walls. Hideko gets torn between her plan to escape and her love for Sook-hee as she runs out to hang herself from the same tree her aunt hanged herself.
The Handmaiden looks like a painting came alive with every frame telling a story of its own. The slow breaths taken as feelings start to arouse between Hideko and Sook-hee, a plan that twists itself running away from its initial tale. Structured in three parts telling from perspectives of Hideko and Sook-hee, the scenes between them create a soft touch that shimmers slowly as Sook-hee slowly starts to unbotton Hideko's dress.
The most initial scene of the movie comes in when Sook-hee is massaging Hideko's feet and Hideko tells she can't marry Fujiwara as she is in love with someone else but when Sook-hee insists on Fujiwara, Hideko slaps her pushing Sook-hee out of the room as she breaks down with her torn feelings.
Directed by Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden is his most carefully crafted work. You can sense how each scene narrates its own structure carrying the story forward. Revenge is still one of his main dish to be served, but with love coming in stronger that it should. Park Chan-wook exceptionally blends them in together twisting it in its mystery and erotic tale.
Even there is a love scene, the development of love between Hideko and Sook-hee can be seen throughout the whole movie. The sense of touch, the holding of hands, stealing of kiss, getting red and angry when Fujiwara touches Hideko, the scene in the bath tub might be the most sensual and beautifully shot sequence.
Chung Chung-hoon's cinematography is nothing short excellence. The use of close ups between Hideko and Sook-hee create the tension and showing their feeling arousing for each other. The scene of them running for their freedom with the scene in the boat where the hold hands as Sook-hee dips her hand in the water moving. Another scene I loved was when Sook-hee runs ahead with the bags jumping through the small wall as Hideko waits there confused how to jump as Sook-hee returns and makes a stairwell from the suitcase so she can carefully climb than jump.
Hideko: My saviour who came to ruin my life. My Tamako, my Sookee.
Cho Young-wuk's score completes the movie as each symphony breaths in. I have listened to the score countless times now, it just brings in a soft touch of peace that binds you with love as each frame goes through your mind.
Another thing about The Handmaiden is how twisted it can become suddenly. It has its own shock value with humor. The scene in the basement with Fujiwara and Uncle Kouzuki is an excellent example of that.
Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri are equal partners in creating this magnificent tale of love. Their chemistry is the best thing about this movie. The way they look at each other and how well they have handled their characters. Jumping from speaking Japanese to Korean is simply fantastic. They both create a beautiful tension for the viewers, slowly developing their love for each other. Every sequence between them can be painted and sculpted to be honest. And they both are so beautiful to watch.
The Handmaiden is twisted in its mystery as you fall in its trap. It makes you feel the love between Hideko and Sook-hee. It never stops to amaze and shock you. It is excellent in its narrative structure with frames breathing in the beauty while the score beating the heart. With strong and exceptional performances from Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri , The Handmaiden becomes one of the best films you can ever see.
Park Chan-wook's eye for details and storytelling brings in his best feature film to date.
Also, I watched the Extended Edition of this movie which is an beauty of its own. South Korea should have sent this movie for Best Foreign Language Film for Oscars as it would have easily won.