STARRING: Natasha Richardson, Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Victoria Tennant

1990, 109 Minutes, Directed by: Volker Schlondorff

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Set in a time when a buildup of toxic chemicals has made most people sterile, Volker Schlondorff's film offers a disturbing view of a society under martial law in which fertile women are captured and made into handmaids to bear children for rich and infertile matrons. The film unfolds from the eyes of newly converted handmaid Kate (Natasha Richardson). She is trapped in this misogynistic society which both deifies these fertile women as prized possessions and condemns them as whores. Throughout the story Kate has to cope with the jealousy of the woman she serves (Faye Dunaway), the advances of her sleazy military husband (the Commander, played by Robert Duvall), and the loss of her daughter, who has been shuttled off to a similarly aristocratic setting. She also falls in love with one of the Commander's security guards (Aidan Quinn), who sympathizes with her plight and potentially offers her a way out.

Based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist allegory set in a future society in which environmental pollution and toxic waste have reduced fertility to a minimum and healthy babies are at a premium. A powerful totalitarian regime isolates fertile young women and doles them out as breeders for the ruling elite. Despite a slow-moving pace, The Handmaid's Tale features some fine performances and enough of a storyline to sustain the viewer's interest. Strange stuff indeed . . .


Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick: Cautionary feminist parable. This, er, tale set in a future patriarchal dystopia in which women serves as nothing else than breeders may be slow moving, but is suitably interesting.



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