Written by James Reilly – Student Pages Entertainment Journalist/Film Critic
The Handmaiden (2017) is directed by Korean film amateur , Park Chan-Wook the critically acclaimed director of Oldboy (2003), had a lot of live up to. The aforementioned Oldboy is one of my favorite contemporary films and the reviews for this film fresh off the festival circuit where nothing short of incredible. Having first heard about this film in 2015 and itching to see it in 2016 only then having to wait a year for it to finally come out in Western cinemas was nothing short of painful. This wasn’t just a short term desire to see this film, oh no, this was two years in the making. So did It live up to the hype?
In short, yes. The film is a masterpiece of genre thrills. Where Raw (2017) was enjoyable and executed almost flawlessly, The Handmaiden elevates itself above the genre and creates one of easily the best films of the year.
The film itself is split into three parts, told from three varying perspectives. The first from the pickpocket-turned-handmaiden, Sook-Hee played subtly and effortlessly by relative newcomer Tae-ri Kim. She is hired to be the new handmaiden to a Japanese heiress played equally as stupendously by Min-hee Kim. However, Sook-Hee is working with a swindler posing as a Japanese Count, played by Jung-woo Ha, to defraud the heiress and take her fortune. However if you are aware of Park Chan-Wook’s previous work, you know nothing can be this easy. Cue a twist heavy plot that is exhilarating to keep up with and you’ve crafted one of the best films of the year.
Its a beautiful looking film which is no surprise as Park Chan-Wook re-teams with his Oldboy cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung. The films gorgeous set and surroundings are shown off beautifully which makes the film a joy to watch, the score is subtle but is handled well with it laying dormant throughout most of the film, only to suddenly build to epic crescendos and emotional pitfalls.
The directing, acting and writing here are all superb with there being not one faltering aspect in this masterpiece display from the time weathered filmmaker who shows no sign of slowing down or hindering. Its very difficult to truly sum up and praise this film without giving much away, the film prides itself on its sudden and shocking twists and I’d hate if I was to ruin any here.
The film is effortless. Its an effortlessly crafted, sexy, thrilling masterpiece which seems almost too perfect to of been made. It hits every note that you’d expect the film to hit perfectly with it taking you on an adventure you’d never see coming and making you thankful for the surprises you’re given. In this day and age with spoilers so easily accessible, and films so easily ruined, its rare for a film to surprise me and genuinely shock me with its twists, and to this I say to Park Chan-Wook, thank you.
Follow James at @JamesisGinger