The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi) (2016) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi)2016

The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi) (2016)

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Critic Consensus: The Handmaiden uses a Victorian crime novel as the loose inspiration for another visually sumptuous and absorbingly idiosyncratic outing from director Park Chan-wook.

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Movie Info

From PARK Chan-wook, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE, THIRST and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama inspired by the novel 'FINGERSMITH' by British author Sarah Waters. Having transposed the story to 1930s-era colonial Korea and Japan, Park presents a gripping and sensual tale of a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but who is secretly involved in a conman's plot to defraud her of her large inheritance. Powered by remarkable performances from KIM Min-hee (RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN) as Lady Hideko, HA Jung-woo (THE CHASER) as the conman who calls himself the Count and sensational debut actress KIM Tae-ri as the maid Sookee, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook's singular vision and energy to create an unforgettable viewing experience.

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Cast

Kim Min-hee
as Lady Hideko
Ha Jung-woo
as The Count
Kim Hae-suk
as Mrs. Sasaki
Min-Hee Kim
as Fräulein Izumi Hideko
Kim Tae-ri
as Sook-hee
Cho Jin-woong
as Onkel Kouzuki
Moon So-ri
as Hidekos Tante
Yong-nyeo Lee
as Bok-soon
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Critic Reviews for The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi)

All Critics (221) | Top Critics (59)

The drama combines the sumptuous art direction and black humor of Park's past work with a warmth and compassion that feeds the soul.

February 11, 2021 | Full Review…

Once again Park finds himself immersed in a world of woman-driven intrigue, and like Stoker before it The Handmaiden is concerned with the power dynamics between women in what are contextually configured as sexually transgressive scenarios.

August 25, 2018 | Full Review…

The Handmaiden is exemplary proof of Park's mastery, a high point from a director known for his purposeful aesthetic care, even in matters of overwrought sexual melodrama.

August 10, 2017 | Full Review…

The tricksy plot streamlines and improves the final messy section of the source novel, to tease and mislead even the most astute viewer.

April 26, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

There are giddy pleasures to be found in this rip-roaringly ripe erotic thriller/melodrama from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook.

April 17, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The result is a lush, silken, erotic, disturbing, beautifully photographed drama of betrayal and passion.

April 14, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi)

½

Beautiful, Lurid, and unpredictable. A directorial powerhouse from Park.

Michael S
Michael S

Super Reviewer

Near faultless film, beautifully acted and photographed, not to mention fantastically edited, and as an adaptation of The Fingersmith it is truly inspired. Though it threatens to cross over into parody during some of the sex scenes it just manages to keep suspension of disbelief thanks to the humour in the script and performances. A dazzling treat; already I can see this being in my top 10 at years' end.

Daniel Parsons
Daniel Parsons

Super Reviewer

½

I'm glad there's still a filmmaker at the talent level of director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) dedicated to making genuine Gothic romance with style and reverence. The Handmaiden is a ravishing, enrapturing, and momentously engaging movie with dark delights, startling depths, palpable romance, simmering tension, and high-wire twists and turns that keep redefining the story. The absurdly talented filmmaker takes a novel set in Victorian England and adapts the setting to 1930s Korea during the time of Japanese occupation, a fascinating and little-known time period for a Western audience. A poor orphan Sook-Hee (Tae-ri Kim) is pressured into a scheme to trick the wealthy Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim) into being admitted to an insane asylum, her family riches sold. From the opening minutes, The Handmaiden produces immersive drama that pushes the central characters into consistent conflict to achieve their varying goals. They're constantly at odds with one another and themselves. There's even tension between those who hold onto their Korean culture and those who adopt the culture of their oppressors, namely Lady Hideko's perverse and treacherous uncle. Sook-Hee grows an unexpected affection for her mistress, and this includes a burgeoning attraction that the movie communicates with serious sensuality. The passionate lesbian sex scenes are, if anything, a tad restrained from what I was expecting from Chan-wook, and they're definitely far more restrained and absent the male gaze than the still excellent Blue is the Warmest Color. I felt the same carnal desire the characters were discovering, a feat worth celebrating for still staying true tonally without veering into tawdry exploitation. More than the sex or the top-notch technical aspects, it was the characters that hooked me and refuse to relinquish. The deepening relationships and the subtle shifts of loyalty, perception, and desire make what is essentially a twisty and twisted chamber-play into world-class drama. You think it's one kind of movie, and then it flips the script, and then it does it again, each time opening wider this mysterious, dangerous, and invigorating world. My one quibble is that the final twenty minutes feels unnecessary and self-indulgent, Chan-wook finally scratching a few violent tendencies he had been keeping as veiled up to that point. The Handmaiden is a ridiculously entertaining movie that is handsomely mounted, wonderfully acted by its leading ladies, and a romance worth losing your self over. Plus, there's also the sex. Nate's Grade: A-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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