Love and Leashes is a Netflix original film that is based on a Webtoon comic and was part of their Valentine’s Day promotions. Do not let the title fool you, this is not an erotic film or the Korean version of 50 Shades of Gray.
Believe it or not, Love and Leashes is surprisingly wholesome and, at times, downright cute. The film explores the world of BDSM through the eyes of two novices, as the characters use it to explore different power dynamics that they normally do not experience in their everyday life. As they venture into this world together, they get to know each other romantically in an unconventional way. The film is a different kind of romantic comedy that will surely be a fun watch for anyone interested in that genre.
The film takes place in an office setting with Jung Ji-woo (Seohyun) being introduced to her newest coworker, Lee Jung Ji-hoo (Jun-young). Immediately, the audience gets a sense of the issues the female main lead has to deal with at work. Her supervisor (Seo Hyun-woo) speaks to her in a condescending matter and dismisses her concerns. The supervisor, however, responds to Ji-hoo more positively insinuating his prejudices against the female gender. The main characters’ experiences are what prompts them to want to switch these roles when it comes to the incorporation of the lifestyle known as BDSM.
The exploration into BDSM is broken down for the viewers as Ji-woo does her research into this lifestyle. In doing so, she reveals that the concept is not always about sex but rather power dynamics. Ji-woo does not get the chance to take charge and to be taken seriously in her everyday life. In her roleplay, she is in charge and the “master” of Ji-hoo’s actions. With this roleplay, Ji-woo is able to work on her confidence and gets the opportunity to feel like she is the boss. This comes to play later on when she is able to use that newly founded self-esteem to stand up to her employers.
Conversely, Ji-hoo gets the chance to feel weak and degraded, something he says he does not get to experience. The lines get blurry as we see he is consistently harassed by his ex-girlfriend who took issue with his secretive interest. However, in the case of his ex, he is not consenting to the humiliation which is one of the more important aspects of BDSM. Due to his shame regarding his preference, he is initially closed off from having any sort of romantic relationship again and refuses to include any sort of intimacy when it comes to his roleplays.
The two stumble about awkwardly and comically as they both learn how to interact with these new roles between them. Throughout the experience, they have a completely platonic relationship and, for the most part, keep it separate from their jobs. However, through this lifestyle, they start to get to know each other. Ji-hoo, in particular, likes that Ji-woo is so open to trying out the concept even if it is something she was never interested in before. She also had her own idea of what it was, but took the time to research and learn about it from online forums, and approach it in a studious matter.
One of the greater twists of the films is finding out which side characters had their own secrets to hide. Ji-woo used liking dogs as an example to explain to her best friend Hye Mi (Lee El) to explain her current situation but not tip her off about the BDSM. However, the audience discovers that Hye Mi has her own interests with an even deeper understanding of BDSM than Ji-woo knew about. In addition, it is funny to see that the characters use the internet to talk to others secretively about their lifestyle, but are unaware of the people around them who also have the same interests. This goes to show that everyone is just trying to connect with other people without feeling embarrassed.
Love and Leashes show viewers the often unseen side of BDSM that is more about submissive and platonic acts rather than intimacy. Within the context of the film, the lifestyle is used as a tool to help two characters let down their walls, and be able to fall in love. For Ji-woo, it gives her a chance to take charge, as well as gives her the courage to go for something she wants. While for Ji-hoo, it gives him the chance to be vulnerable and helps him fall in love again. Watching the two get to know each other through unusual matters gives the rom-com genre a breath of fresh air. Love and Leashes is definitely a film to watch.
(Youtube. Images via Netflix.)