The Handmaiden

1930s Korea, in the period of Japanese occupation, a new girl (Sookee) is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress (Hideko) who lives a secluded life on a large countryside estate with her domineering Uncle (Kouzuki). But the maid has a secret. She is a pickpocket recruited by a swindler posing as a Japanese Count to help him seduce the Lady to elope with him, rob her of her fortune, and lock her up in a madhouse. The plan seems to proceed according to plan until Sookee and Hideko discover some unexpected emotions.


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  • ★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    first reaction: Porn for people who love Park Chan-wook, PORN for people who don't.

    since then... i cannot stop thinking about this wonderful, pervy, three-tiered layer cake of bawdy sapphic brilliance. it has problems out the [trump voice] *everywhere,* but a greater bouquet of virtues than many were willing to recognize out of Cannes.

    one of the best films of the year. well, one of the *most* films of the year, anyway.

  • ★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd


    No Korean movie has ever won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that no Korean movie has ever been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In other words, Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” — which won a little gold man for Best Art Direction in 2010 — has more Oscars to its name than the entire country of Korea or anyone from it.

    That’s odd and rather damning given the self-evident strength of the country’s national cinema, which has been invaluable since long before Shin Sang-ok’s “My Mother and the Roomer” was chosen as their first Oscar submission in 1962. It’s become only more visible on the world stage thanks to the emotionally operatic, auteur-driven melodramas that have defined the Korean New Wave over the last 18 years.

    And it’s not as if the Korean Film Council hasn’t been trying to play the game. They’ve submitted wrenching tragedies Lee Chang-dong’s “Secret Sunshine” (an unassailable masterpiece), they’ve submitted accessible crowdpleasers like “Welcome to Dongmakgol,” and they’ve submitted eccentric delights like Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother.”

    None of these picks has made the final five. They haven’t been shortsighted so much as they’ve been snakebitten.

    But 2016 could’ve been different. 2016 could’ve been the year that Korea broke the curse, triumphed over the Academy’s broken system for recognizing foreign films, and brought an Oscar back to the streets of Seoul. 2016 could’ve been the year of “The Handmaiden.”


  • ★★★★★ review by Marian on Letterboxd

    shout out to this movie for inventing lesbians, cinematography, and me shitting myself in a movie theater

  • ★★★★½ review by brat pitt on Letterboxd

    me, a queer korean woman watching other queer korean women scam abusive men: Now That's What I Call Representation!

  • ★★★★½ review by isa on Letterboxd

    wild that most men's take on this movie is that it's "titilating" or "perverted" when the whole plot is literally about what happens when men underestimate the validity of lesbians ... boys, you played yourselves! scammed! all of you owe me $200

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