Ryne Walley’s review published on Letterboxd:
This film is a masterpiece. Beyond being a proper comedy of manners combined with a super stylized erotic thriller, The Handmaiden is an enthralling tale of identity, love, and revenge. Every plot thread pays off and the narrative twists along, getting better with each passing reveal. Park Chan-wook expertly navigates the camera in a way unlike anything I have seen this year. Accompanying the superb direction and lavish cinematography from Chung Chung-hoon is a cast that pitch perfectly delivers the dark humor and drama of this tale centering around a woman who is hired as the titular handmaiden for an heiress named Lady Hideko. The ensuing story is so phenomenal that I will say no more so as to not reveal much of the plot and its many intricacies.
While The Handmaiden is undoubtedly an erotic thriller, its eroticism never feels distracting. What actually transpires in regards to the film’s sexual nature is a love story that blossoms into something quite beautiful and unexpected. Since it is a Park Chan-wook film though, this tender love is harshly contrasted with something incredibly savage and disturbed on a very deep level.
The Handmaiden is currently my favorite film of the year. Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece will surely be hard to top, but there are many upcoming releases for the remainder of this year that really look incredible. For the time being, this thriller is the best around.