The Handmaid’s Tale is the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s novel, which I remember seeing on the big screen in the 1990 movie, starring Natasha Richardson and Faye Dunaway while I was at Keele University.
I remember not particularly liking it because it wasn’t quite the sort of thing I’d be into when I was 18, but tastes change with age. I haven’t seen the film again since, but I’d never thought of. Trying the story again, the brilliant Elisabeth Moss (Queen of Earth) takes the lead as June, now known as Offred.
This is a dystopian future where fertility in women is rare, so if you’re lucky to be able to bear a child, you’ll soon be unlucky enough to be locked up in what looks like an abode where modern technology is completely absent and it’s like the world has stepped back in time 100 years, including in society in general when people are being hung for their beliefs or professions.
So, since she wants to escape, it’s basically, the Amish version of Prison Break!
If you only complain about the treatment a bit, then you’ll be subjected to electrocution instead of death, plus a fate worse than death, which you’ll discover around 20 minutes in.
Before long, we know Offred has been there for two months and is starting to adapt, but only in a style of pretence as we see when she’s talking in the way she’s expected to, but then we hear what she’s really thinking, including how she’d rather scream and “grab the nearest machine gun” from the armed guards, so rather like what I’d want to do when playing Hitman and you know want to cause a ruckus, for a change. Naturally, she never get out of her head how she was separated from her daughter, Hannah (Jordana Blake) and husband, Luke (The Interceptor‘s O-T Fagbenle).
At times, The Handmaid’s Tale is exceptionally disturbing, but quite often, it’s moving incredibly slowly. Okay, so it’s telling the story over ten episodes, and a second season has already been commissioned, so I do want it to get a move on, even though I have a feel it won’t because it has longer than two hours to tell the tale. The first episode also delves into the backstory, in flashback, so that could help break things up and provide more interest.
However, based on the trailer and all the hype, with great leads from Ms Moss, plus Dexter‘s Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy, who’s second in charge to Joseph Fiennes as The Commander, who’s on hand to impregnant the ladies.
I was expecting to feel far more drawn into it than I was. I *want* to enjoy it more, but I’ve still got that feeling as if you’re outside a house looking at a party inside where everyone’s 100% engaged, and somehow I just can’t quite break through into that.
The Handmaid’s Tale begins tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm, and then later on All4. The series isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, though.
Episode 1 Score: 5/10
Director: Reed Morano
Producers: Joseph Boccia and Elisabeth Moss
Screenplay: Bruce Miller (Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood)
Music: Adam Taylor
Offred: Elisabeth Moss
Serena Joy: Yvonne Strahovski
The Commander: Joseph Fiennes
Ofglen: Alexis Bledel
Janine: Madeline Brewer
Aunt Lydia: Ann Dowd
Luke: O-T Fagbenle
Nick: Max Minghella
Moira: Samira Wiley
Rita: Amanda Brugel
Hannah: Jordana Blake
Oferic: Bahia Watson
Ofsamuel: Jenessa Grant
Alma: Nina Kiri
Woman with Moira: Shruti Kothari
Aunt: Margaret Atwood
Guardian Prisoner: Adam Winlove-Smith
Guardian: Jason Boyd
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.