Friday, 15 December 2017

TV68: The Handmaid's Tale

I first read Margaret Atwood’s novel back in the 80’s, not long after it was published. Dystopian fiction was my favourite genre in those days (Nineteen Eighty-Four is my all-time favourite novel) and I guess I’m still a big fan of the genre, though I’m not always comfortable with the direction it has taken in some Young Adult fiction. I recently read The Handmaid’s Tale for the third time, in anticipation of watching the highly-acclaimed cable TV series (Hulu). 

My expectations were way too high, but this deliciously slow-moving, atmospheric television series has not disappointed me at all. Gorgeously filmed, with an excellent score, an intelligent and brilliantly-structured screenplay and acting as good as any you’ll find on TV, The Handmaid’s Tale is another example of the finest TV serials can offer. What’s most extraordinary (and scary) about the series, though, is that it remains every bit as relevant and timely in 2017 as it was in 1985.

In the not-so-distant future, humanity is suddenly faced with a dramatic decline in births as women find themselves unable to reproduce. In Gilead, a future version of the U.S., those few women still capable of giving birth are kidnapped, trained, and forced to bear children for childless government officials. Elisabeth Moss plays Offred (formerly June Osborne), one of those women, expected to produce a child for Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski). As Offred faces the horrors of living in a world where every person she meets may be a spy and virtually everyone is forced to hide who they really are, we see flashbacks of her former life, which included her partner, Luke (O-T Bankole) and her young daughter, and her days in training.

Suspenseful, shocking and mesmerizing, The Handmaid’s Tale is perfectly-paced, with each episode telling its own little story in exquisite detail and forming a whole that feels way too real and possible. The cinematography and writing would be enough to make the show work, but Moss’s performance is off-the-charts, making you feel every nuance of her experiences, past and present. 

The Handmaid’s Tale, which was created by Bruce Miller, gets an easy **** and a place in or near the top ten of my all-time favourite TV serials.  My mug is up. Not to be missed.

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