Love and Leashes (2022)
Director (and writer): Hyeon-jin Park
Cast: Seohyun, Jun-young Lee, EL, Hyun-woo Seo, Han-na Kim, Seoung-kyun An, Suk-hyeong Lee, Bo-ra Kim
Love never hurt so good for two co-workers who enter a contractual relationship as partners in consensual play, pleasure and pain. – IMDB
Based on the webtoon Moral Sense by Gyeoul, Love and Leashes is a new Netflix South Korean romantic comedy that takes its on a journey where an office girl Ji-woo (Seohyun) is approached by her newly transferred colleague, Ji-hoo (Jun-young Lee) when he misunderstands her for being interested in his own tendencies towards dominant-subdominant relationships and BDSM. BDSM has no doubt been a rather hot topic the last few years, probably thanks to the Twilight fanfiction, Fifty Shades of Grey which is some erotic literature (if you haven’t read about it). Its been appearing more in TV series as its central plots and even documentaries talking about Japanese bondage in 2020’s Bound (review).
Love and Leashes takes on a fun approach to the whole subject while building up the relationship between Ji-hoo and Ji-woo as they connect through their 3 month contract for these different plays. For those looking for something steamy, this movie will probably disappoint in that department as their relationship builds up as the film itself almost is like an introduction to the BDSM and DS. It takes that element and contrasts it to the romance itself towards the power dynamics between men and women in the society to this DS relationship versus an actual romantic relationship.
There’s so much to love about Love and Leashes and it has to do with the angle that it takes being so fun. The narrator that talks about all the steps and process of learning as Ji-woo learns about these different elements and intensifies the experience more and more every play has its own sexy moments even if there isn’t actual sex happening. The film strikes a balance of using it to also build up on the two main leads’ connection from their experiences, especially in terms of Ji-hoo and his past relationship and feelings towards how he had to keep his preferences hidden. There’s a deeper exploration of his character in the actual dialogue where Ji-woo’s character development is more in her actions as she gradually becomes more and more comfortable in the dominant role and giving orders where her normal work situation doesn’t allow.
As the story builds, it doesn’t just revolve around them but also adds in supporting characters who either are willing to learn more about this type of relationship but also others who don’t seem to understand it and it delivers both sides of society for their opinions towards it. Basically, the film’s narrative dials it all down to the basics of relationships in terms of “finding someone accepting the person behind the mask”. It all adds a little more substance to the film with their many angles instead of making it into a sexy/steamy angle, which some of their plays because of the music and the cinematography actual does achieve that.
The foundation of the film for this being a first time experience for both is what makes it rather fun to watch both from the level of surprise and comfort that they both achieve in the process which creates a nice chemistry between them, even through the little accidents and the build-up to accepting this whole contract. The two main leads Ji-woo and Ji-hoo played respectively by Seohyun and Jun-young Lee also fit the roles pretty nicely and adds a good chemistry between them, making the most of the romantic connection that gradually builds between them but also having some fun comedic moments, mostly in the first act when the story sets up for this special contractual relationship. Feel-good and fun: Love and Leashes is really quite entertaining as a romantic comedy.