When it comes to shows that capture your attention immediately, this one is a sure shot. Then comes the fact that this is inspired by Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. If that is not enough to catch the attention seeking streaming buff, then the brilliant portrayals of the actors will surely grip you. The story, its setting and the issues it brings to the fore resonate with history buffs, and rivet general watchers. The story is many faceted, of life in the dystopian world of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States. If you read history and know enough about eugenics, the stories will leave you startled, even terrified. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, the town, ruled by a twisted fundamentalism in a military “return to traditional values,” sees women at the brunt of archaic laws. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander’s household. Which essentially means that she is coerced into sexual servitude. To make the world populous again. Terrifying as such a society sounds, the story follows Offred walk tenterhooks between Commanders, cruel wives, servants, and her other fellow Handmaids.
This show is hard to digest in terms of its explicit content, which is apt considering the gruesome truths revealed. Some scenes are quite brutal. The essence of the angst these women have to undergo is accentuated by the style of cinematography and musical score. Absolutely stunning. Gripping.
As a regular streaming buff, this was one of the shows I clicked onto with the hope of nothing other than mere entertainment. I was flummoxed. While most shows need time to seep in; to grab you by the scruff of your neck, using subliminal imagery and a clever storytelling angle, this one riveted from get go.
June, the lead female actor, is torn apart from her husband and child only to be taken into the camps to be trained into obedience. She is tortured and raped. So is every woman in the camp. Each has their own “commander”. The man who’s offspring they must bear.
Apart from a few cheesy lines thrown in by way of June’s inner dialogue, this provocative experience gets you into each scene effortlessly as you witness a gruesome yet human tale of the handmaid. Sublime.
June herself faces several dilemmas and has to battle her inner sexual urges in this surreal show that tranfixes one. All the handmaids face similar hardships, but are not really depicted to show any resistance. Save for a few, the others soon display apathy towards their situation.
The screenplay is designed in such a way that the crux of the concept (the reason why female infertility became such an issue in a very short time) slowly unfolds in bits and pieces of interspersed flashbacks and back story revelations.
Elizabeth Moss (June) is the co-creator and shines as both, an A grade actor and a masterful yarn spinner of cinematic fabric. Joseph Fiennes is brilliant, and the cast is like they were meant to take this angst-filled journey together.
It’s also a stretch of the imagination, with its 5+ seasons where one encounters new characters that add to the complexity of the story, telling their own tales of anguish. Watch it for its content, its acting and its surreal reality, that in an instant render you incapable of moving away... till the end. Yes, it’s that good.
The Handmaid’s Tale
STAR RATING: 4.5/5
— The writer is a coffee roaster, vaping enthusiast, cinema buff and seeker of