★★★★ – The Irish Times
★★★★ – The Guardian
Opulent, erotic and replete with exquisite period detail and sly narrative trickery, The Handmaiden is everything we have come to expect from director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Thirst, Stoker) who has, with great flair, transposed Fingersmith, Sarah Waters’ Victorian England-set bestseller about a pickpocket turned servant and the heiress she conspires to swindle, to Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s.
Park utilizes the book’s three-part structure to tell the intricate story from three distinct perspectives, those of Japanese aristocrat Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), Korean thief Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), and arch con man Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo). Posing as a Count, Fujiwara has enlisted Sook-hee to play handmaiden to Lady Hideko whom he plans to marry for her inheritance, but Sook-hee is soon far more interested in her vulnerable, repressed mistress than she is in his nefarious schemes.
(Notes by David O’Mahony.)
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