The Handmaiden – Movie Review

Wow wow wow! Guys… I was not expecting this! Somehow my fate was intertwined to see this movie, I don’t even remember very well how it started… Me and my girlfriend were browsing YouTube before venturing into some series when we were compelled to see a trailer for the south Korean movie, The Handmaiden.

The trailer was intriguing to say the least. It showed a lot of seduction and bondage while aligned with the Asian culture during the 30’s. Since the movie was so well rated at IMDb, why not get a look at it to see how Fifty Shades should be if it was somewhat decent? Oh boy… I was not prepared for this film. The plot and the twists that bend it throughout the duration of the movie were more surprising and interesting than what I could expect. What a pleasant surprise this was!

From here on out, there are mild spoilers about the movie, although I don’t plan in going too far with the unveiling of the story.

The argument is set around the 1930’s, in a Korea occupied by the Japanese military. Poverty and hunger were present everywhere. A young woman called Sook-Hee did her best among other companions by taking care of babies to later sell them to the Japanese, pick-pocketing in the streets and forging fake pieces of jewelry and antiques so that they could later sell them to anyone with an untrained eye.

An opportunity soon arose for Sook-Hee to pose as a handmaiden for a rich girl where she would have to captivate her mistress to fall in love with the Fujiwara Count, a Korean man she already knew who was basically in the same line of work of hers, deceiving and stealing.

Lady Hideko and Sook-Hee

This female Japanese aristocrat was called Hideko and had an uncle named Kouzuki, who was in truth a Korean. He made a fortune with books of various arts and he would soon marry her niece once he came back from a programmed voyage to a mine of his. The Count had met Hideko in a reading session hosted in the immense Kouzuki mansion and was planning to marry her before his uncle could snatch her away. Although I don’t really understood how did the money could be transferred to him once the marriage had taken place.

Lady Hideko and Count Fujiwara

Sook-Hee was then taken to the mansion where she would serve as the handmaiden for Lady Hideko. The architecture of the mansion was divided between a house with British traits and another with Japanese traits. Beautiful gardens surrounded the place and about a dozen maids lived at the mansion to maintain the place in excellent shape. At first, Sook-Hee was clearly overwhelmed by the manners and attitudes of the people there, as well as the daily routine that she had go through. Taking care of Lady Hideko in dressing her, bathing her and escorting her throughout the mansion to her various classes, like painting and writing, as well as cleaning the house. Later on, we discover that the plot is not really what we thought it was and it twists twice or thrice, consequently surprising the viewers even more, as they delve deeper into this drama filled with deceit. I’d call it a romance as well, but it doesn’t seem to be classified as such.

Count Fujiwara / Sook-Hee / Lady Hideko / Uncle Kouzuki

Without sharing too much about the movie, we later discover that things are not what they seemed. Through the three acts of the film, we uncover different points of view from the three main characters, thus understanding a lot of what was going on previously. We also become aware that those reading lessons are so much more than what they were portrayed to be. There are some flashbacks that explain much of the actual plot and the reason of why things came to be. This comes as a twist, but also as a pleasant surprise because it leads the viewers to something that they did not expect.

The wardrobe, locations and acting all are phenomenal to watch. The perversions of sexual content arise more explicitly within the second half of the movie, and I must be honest, although I believe myself to be quite open minded, I think I wouldn’t feel comfortable watching those scenes at the theaters…

Nevertheless, I do recommend the movie, it was quite entertaining and it differs so much more from the average “Fifty Shades of Grey” which I had the displeasure of watching at release. This is truly a well placed argument with convincing characters, which either take advantage of the perversions or are harassed by those same acts.


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