Jonathan Gilligan’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Handmaiden (2016)
Dir: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo
I knew I was in a wild ride cuz of Park Chan-wook being the director.
So a couple months ago, I got The Handmaiden as a fuck up movie and my deadline was end of March. Well, the end of March is almost here and I finally made some time to check this movie out. Park Chan-wook made one of my favorite movies of all time with Oldboy and I heard nothing but fantastic things about this movie. And man... this was an experience but in a great way.
Part Period Piece and equal parts Erotic Thriller, within 145 minutes, The Handmaiden held my attention from beginning to end and by the end of the movie, I found myself rattled. The mind game Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) plays to swindle Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) out of her inheritance had me invested. And then when a relationship between Lady Hideko and Nam Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), that is when things start to unfold. Through all the mind games and erotic moments of the movie and with the long runtime, the time flew by for me.
The acting is fantastic here. How the relationship between Hideko and Sook-hee unfolds is the glue of this movie and that is in large part due to the performances both Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri give in this movie. The chemistry between the two is fantastic and I'll be honest, their sex scenes never really felt like it relied on the male gaze and never felt overtly sexualized, unlike another beloved LGBT movie set in French involving a blue-haired woman (If ya know, ya know ;)). Ha Jung-woo also plays the sliminess and gross nature of Count Fujihara really well. His character got what he fucking deserved.
Also loved the cinematography in this movie. When I saw that Chung Hoon-chung was the DoP of this movie, I knew I was in for a treat. Honestly one of my favorite DoP's working today. Homie went from Me and Earl and The Dying Girl to this movie! What a trip man! The setting and scenery of this movie is gorgeous and the visual look just makes this a beautiful looking and helmed movie altogether.
And Park Chan-wook directed the hell out of this movie. How he deals with the tone of the movie going from a drama, a thriller, a erotic romance, and it all comes together masterfully. He got the fantastic performances out of his cast and deals with the material way better than I was expecting.
I'll admit I wasn't fully invested (my fault on my end) cuz I was talking to some friends who have seen this movie while I was watching, and plus I paused it a couple of times to do some stuff around the house. So a flaw of this movie is on my own end, oh well.
Really dug this movie a lot. Whoever gave me this movie as a fuck up, thanks, cuz I thought The Handmaiden lived up to the hype of this movie.
On an off topic moment, Winne The Pooh and the gang has officially been ruined for me. If ya know, ya know ;).
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars.