Review: In Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, the near-future world is depicted as a real horror show, especially for women. A theocratic totalitarian government of Gilead rises from the ashes of what once known as the United States—which has perished in aftermath of a civil war leading to environment contamination and financial crisis. In this dystopian world, stability is built upon sacrifices; but the sacrifice is too tremendous: women’s position in the society.
Gilead—a fascist regime, which lays its foundation upon Biblical inspiration, diabolically confiscates women’s right and subjugates them to the outer realm of society. Those women—who mostly become infertile due to the war—are considered low and no longer allowed to work, even read. Those who are lucky enough to still be fertile aren’t actually lucky. They are enslaved as Handmaids to be legally raped in a ceremony to conceive children for the bourgeois.
Our protagonist is a handmaid (Elisabeth Moss). She was once named June before Gilead; but now, she is called Offred, after his master, Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes). As a handmaid, she must conceive and bear a child for the Commander and his pious wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). From Offred’s eyes—presented like a memoir with occasional series of flashback, we learn about the most harrowing picture of how a misogynistic totalitarian government can corrupt everyone and still get away with that.
The Handmaid’s Tale never explicitly displays the ruthlessness of the new world. The horror picture show is instead portrayed with exhibitions of visual panaches and exquisite Victorian design juxtaposing with modernism. However, the show has effectively exploited the visual language to deliver the eerie feeling of how if a corrupted and misogynistic system is given a stage. And, if you can’t figure out how harrowing this situation might be from Elizabeth Moss’ stunning performance, you can begin to Google things out and find out how close our society to this dystopian world in real life.
While perfect timing is one factor that makes this adaptation more relevant than ever, how Hulu adapts the story is a masterclass. The Handmaid’s Tale brings the nightmare closer to our society in a more convincing way than you can imagine. It complexly nudges recent social and politic issues while delivering Offred’s story in a way we could hardly predict. With Atwood herself producing the show, we could be assured that the show might grow larger than the book, involving more real time references, which will open your eyes on how agonizing the theme they depict.
Despite its myriads of one-perfect-shot materials, which mostly exhibit symmetrical shots and lighting depth as well as the relevant theme, The Handmaid’s Tale really excels because of the ensemble of casts. Elizabeth Moss is a top-tier Emmy contender with her portrayal of the titular handmaid. Behind her, Samira Wiley (Orange Is The New Black) also transcends as Moira, Offred’s comrade before Gilead. Meanwhile, Yvonne Strahovski (Dexter, 24: Live Another Day) gives a profound insight as ‘the opposite party’—woman of Gilead, who stands beside her pivotal husband portrayed as a cunning persona of Joseph Fiennes. In another light, Ann Down also displays her terrific prowess as Aunt Lydia – the middle ground between Gilead’s powerhouse and the woeful women.
Timely as ever, the story of gender-restriction and freedom-suppression in The Handmaid’s Tale is beautifully crafted visually and exceptionally acted to serve as a real-life caution for the viewers. If you’re not moved by this, something might be wrong with your conscience.