I remember reading the novel and finding it so realistic, bleak and depressing, really reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. But it was a good read because it was so realistic, bleak and depressing. I was taken with the story and writer Margaret Atwood, and have since read a few other of her novels. A theme throughout many of her novels has been oppression in its various forms.
The story here revolves around Kate (Natasha Richardson) who is captured trying to cross the border into Canada and sent to become a handmaiden. Due to the ongoing war and increased sterility in the population, a cult-like government has a sort of child-bearing conscription going on. After going through the program she is assigned to a household to bear the Commander’s (Robert Duvall) child. In the same house is the Commander’s wife (Faye Dunaway) and chauffeur Aidan Quinn).
There is quite a bit of forced exposition in the beginning, but it is needed to establish the setting of a near future which has a religious patriarchy. There is a scene that is incredibly uncomfortable about 30 minutes into the film – and it is supposed to be. The point of all of this is to explore the theme of freedom, of society, of family, and even of religion and how these all coincide to be abused.
Watching The Handmaid’s Tale makes me want to read the novel again. You get the story and the atmosphere, but the internal dialogue is missing. We get the events but at times they seem to come out of nowhere because there isn’t enough time to establish the characters, motivations and plot backgrounds. As a film it is a good social/political thriller, but not quite the examination of the human character that I remember the book to be.
By the way – I am probably only one of a handful of people that appreciates the use of Les Rita Mitsouku in the film.
There are no special features but does include both Blu-ray and DVD copies of the film.