28 March 2018



Oh wow. This film is a freakin' masterpiece. It blew me away. And, out of all the dystopian future movies that I've watched lately, this is the one that most made me wonder, could this actually happen? The shocking thing is that it could, it could quite easily, or something like it.

I've had the book by Margaret Atwood in my to-read pile for a while now, but after seeing this shocker of a movie, you can bet your ass that it's getting bumped up the pecking order immediately. Let's have a look at what happens in the film, if you're not too squeamish about so-called 'womens' things,' that is. Oh, you are squeamish? Well, we'll catch up with you at the end, so... 

The late Natasha Richardson plays Kate, the protagonist. It's America in the not-too-distant future but a lot of things have changed. It's known as The Republic Of Gilead now, and it's a totalitarian state with a new flag (a perpetually watching eye, like The Eye Of Sauron in THE LORD OF THE RINGS) and a hell of a lot of disturbing new rules.

After watching her husband die at the hands of ruthless border police and her small daughter disappear off into the frozen wilderness, Kate is then captured by these police. She is hauled off to a place of detention, where she is checked over by a high-tech machine and proclaimed 'fertile.'

Let me explain. In this horrible new world of disease and infection that the government of Gilead are attempting to 'purify' (that's a terrifying word in this context, implying as it does the process of so-called ethnic 'cleansing') by war-like means, only very few women remain who can conceive and bear children. Kate's check-over reveals her to be one of the 'lucky ones.' Do you feel lucky, Kate, because from where we're standing...

The non-fertile women at the detention centre are hauled off to somewhere indescribably dreadful known as 'the Colonies,' where the survival rate wouldn't inspire you with a whole lot of confidence. Some of them may even be killed at once. They are now, after all, 'useless eaters,' a phrase once dear to the heart of a certain Adolf Hitler...

Kate and all the other fertile women are taken to a building known as the 'Red Centre,' where they'll live like prisoners under the eagle eye of their housemother Aunt Lydia, marvellously played by Victoria Tennant. How many other housemothers do you know who carry a taser and employ torture as a means of subjugating the women under their command...?

The captive women wear electronic bracelets on their wrists. They dress in shapeless red smocks and red head coverings and are known as 'handmaids' from now on. Their only function- you guessed it- is to breed. They are treated exactly like brood mares. 'Blessed be the fruit...'

They are farmed out individually to married couples in Gilead who haven't been able to conceive a child of their own. The wives of these couples are all rich bitches who wear electric blue, to distinguish them from the lowly but nonetheless important handmaids. The housemothers at the Red Centre all wear brown. In this new society, everyone must be instantly identifiable. The colour you wear defines who and what you are.

Kate is given a new name and sent off to the house of a wealthy woman who's ironically called Serena Joy. Faye Dunaway (BONNIE AND CLYDE, MOMMIE DEAREST) was absolutely the perfect choice for this role.

She plays a cold, hard woman, whose desperate longing for a child of her own to love wouldn't prevent her from tearing Kate limb from limb if she, Serena, thought that Kate had designs on Serena's husband, the Commander, played by Robert Duvall.

Kate has to have sex with the Commander on her fertile days. These so-called 'ceremonies' are a grotesque mockery of a loving, consensual sexual relationship. They'll turn your
stomach, as they did mine. Kate only has a certain amount of time to conceive, or she'll be packed back off to the Red Centre in disgrace or, even worse, to the Colonies.

Time passes but the Commander's swimmers don't seem to be hitting the mark. Is the Commander infertile? Maybe, but his handsome chauffeur Nick, played by a ridiculously young-looking Aidan Quinn, almost certainly isn't, and there's already a spark between Nick and Kate that just might ignite into something powerful...

There are several nightmarish acts of barbaric violence in the film that will terrify you. And the thought that it's women who are carrying them out is just sickening. Though the Republic is wholly controlled by men like the Commander, who thinks that he's winning his precious war against all those who resist him (yes, there's a Resistance, thank God), the women in charge of the handmaids have the power of life and death also.

They don't hesitate to wield this awful power, and in the name of God as well, although God seems to be strangely absent in this cold, frightening place where the rape of a woman is seen as a man 'doing God's work,' if the aim of the intercourse is to get the woman pregnant.

We see one scene of a birth which is greeted with much celebration from the wives, but the birth mother is virtually ignored, not even knowing what sex her own child is, while the baby itself is being feted. The anonymous handmaid, this womb-for-rent, can die as far as the wives are concerned, now that she's 'delivered' the goods, in both senses of the word.

We see crooked, corrupt doctors offering to have sex with handmaids who are having trouble conceiving. We also see what happens when these terrified women are then accused of 'fornicating' with these mucky medics...

Gilead is a place I would never care to visit in reality. It's only safe for a woman to go there by watching this film. THE HANDMAID'S TALE is out now from FABULOUS FILMS/FREMANTLE ENTERPRISES.

And yes, I'm aware that there's now an award-winning drama series of THE HANDMAID'S TALE on Channel Four (starring Elizabeth Moss- BEST ACTRESS- and Ann Dowd- Best Supporting Actress), but I haven't seen it. I'm sure I will at some stage but for now, this film will do me nicely. Not that there's anything nice about Gilead...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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