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The Handmaiden(아가씨)

1930s Korea, in the period of Japanese occupation, a young woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress who lives a secluded life on a large countryside estate with her domineering uncle. But, the maid has a secret: she is a pickpocket recruited by a swindler posing as a Japanese count to help him seduce the heiress 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 the women discover some unexpected emotions.
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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

80

The Guardian by Benjamin Lee

Given the nudity on show, some are already quick to criticise Park’s direction as gratuitous and to claim that his male gaze is affecting the depiction of lesbian romance. But the impotency of the male characters helps to counter this while the sex scenes themselves, as lovingly shot as they might be, feel vital to the narrative.
90

The Hollywood Reporter by Deborah Young

Expectations are fully met in Park Chan-wook’s exquisitely filmed The Handmaiden (Agassi), an amusingly kinky erotic thriller and love story that brims with delicious surprises, making its two-and-a-half hours fly by.
82

The Verge by Emily Yoshida

By replacing the class system of Victorian England with the dynamic of the occupier and occupied, Park has tapped into something uniquely complex about a chapter of history that is rarely explored. There is a deep, festering malady at the heart of The Handmaiden, exacerbated by idle fantasy, cultural projection and denial.
83

IndieWire by Eric Kohn

No matter its overarching ridiculousness, The Handmaiden remains a hugely enjoyable dose of grotesque escapism from a master of the form.
67

The Film Stage by Giovanni Marchini Camia

Those familiar with Park’s earlier work will know that he’s hardly the most subtle of filmmakers, and his approach to gender politics here is risible, even self-contradictory. His customary prowess as a stylist and knack for constructing and navigating intricate plots, on the other hand, is once again put to good use.
83

The Playlist by Jessica Kiang

An intensely pleasurable, lavishly shot dessert tray of utter hokum, The Handmaiden is a prime example of why we should be glad that there’s someone out there still invested in the overwrought Gothic melodrama, and that that person is Park Chan-wook.
80

CineVue by John Bleasdale

The film reveals its twists and turns with a delicate hand and always manages to stay one step ahead of the audience, even as most of those watching will surrender to the hypnotic erotic charge that runs through the film.
40

The Telegraph by Tim Robey

It’s hard to pinpoint the precise moment at which The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook’s deviously kinky period thriller, shifts from being a lascivious slice of art-house delirium to a gruelling, dislikable contraption which meretriciously sells out its source material. But that’s what happens.
80

Screen International by Wendy Ide

The film manages the tricky feat of both staying true to Waters breathless, page-turning prose, and creating a wholly persuasive new milieu for the story.

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