While Hollywood has ventured into the realm of exploring BDSM relationships and the idea of sexual and non-sexual power play via films like Fifty Shades of Grey, Secretary and the like, Netflix’s Love and Leashes is the first-ever South Korean foray into the realm of sexual fetishes, kinks and limits.
Based on the popular webtoon, Moral Sense, the film stars Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun as the lead Jung-Jiwoo and former UNB member Lee Jun-young as Jung Ji-hoo, two office colleagues who get entangled in an unusual relationship.
BDSM has long been misconstrued and misrepresented. While most of the predecessors mainly focused on the moral ambiguity of BDSM and decided to glorify the imbalance of power, the film is a refreshing take. It focuses on consent and respect among the dominant and the submissive.
The project deconstructs the myths and stereotypes and focuses on correcting falsified information regarding various tropes that can often glorify harmful and predatory behaviour.
With remarkably similar names, the duo is working in a media company where an inevitable mix-up of parcels leads to Ji-woo chancing upon Ji-hoo’s sexual preference of being a submissive sexual partner who likes being controlled but is traumatised by his previous failed relationship where his preferences were made fun of. The film is a great and unabashed mode of educating one about individual kinks and priorities that should always be respected.
An educational tale of free sexual expression and self-acceptance, the film also emphasises the importance of understanding limits and consent, using the concept of fixed contracts, safe words and more.
While Ji-hoo is careful to not push Ji-woo into doing things that might cross her threshold or pressurise her, she, in turn, is careful enough to do thorough research and fulfil the needs of her submissive. While the film is pretty slow-paced and could have done without the unnecessary filler scenes, it is deft in weaving in an important aspect of sexual education in the web of K-Drama rom-com where, in the end, the duo fall in love with each other and stand up against the discrimination they face in the workplace due to their sexual dynamic.
Understandably, the duo has a palpable awkwardness between them which results from the intense and demanding dynamic between them. It is indeed nerve-wracking to bring to the fore such a debatable, and controversial dynamic with respect and knowledge, and the filmmaker is understanding enough to infuse bouts of humour to diffuse the tension.
Despite the few shortcomings, a welcome display of their mutual respect and understanding helps shatter the various prejudices against the BDSM community. Ji-hoo’s anxiety and frustration regarding the same reflect the various preconceived notions that often prove fatal and harmful. Directed by Hyeon-jin Park, the female gaze is in action that makes the film appear more sensitive and delicate.
An interesting and raunchy take on the contractual relationship between a dom and a sub that later evolves into love, albeit with an abundance of whips, collars, leashes, gags and more, Love and Leashes is educational, funny, seductive and an enjoyable watch!