Love and Leashes Plot Synopsis
Korean office rom-com Love and Leashes (Netflix) launches just in time for Valentine’s Day. It centres its premise on sexual preferences outside the norm – ‘it’s not wrong, it’s different.’
With a BDSM predilection, Jung Jihoo tries to find a partner to fulfil his fantasies. But speaking to someone about it means opening himself to ridicule, ostracization and possibly even job loss. At work he meets Jung Jiwoo a straight-faced detail jockey on his team. When she mistakenly opens a package with ‘toys’ meant for him, she doesn’t seem flustered. Perhaps she could be the one?
From Jiwoo’s perspective, he’s a cute guy with dating potential. Her colleague’s advice is to brighten her look and then seduce him by crossing the line. You see where this is going, right? He asks, she accepts and then does copious research to understand her role as a good Dominatrix… While still thinking in the back of her mind that it’s a chance to get to know him.
So, with two consenting, curious adults who seem to have the right personalities for the task, what could go wrong? As any BDSMer will tell you, it’s tough to mix vertical fantasy Dom/Sub roles with a ‘real’ equal-partner relationship.
How do Jihoo and Jiwoo begin?
Once Jiwoo accepts the role of Master, the game has begun. But rather than feeling her way or having Jihoo explain, she protects herself through fact finding and drawing up a contract, so everything is crystal clear. Even if it’s not the exact relationship she wants, it becomes the rules.
For Jihoo, this comes as a surprise so early in the involvement. But it’s also a reassurance that he’s in good hands. He can rely on her and trust her with his darkest feelings.
Why does Jiwoo research BDSM?
Jiwoo does things right and to the best of her ability and expects the same of others. Her annoyance with her boss is because he tends to let things slide, rather than taking the extra time to do things properly.
When she decides to try at being a Domme, she investigates her responsibilities. And immediately draws up the contract as per web recommendations. For Jiwoo, there’s a layer of comfort and assurance in following the rules in any situation.
Does Jihoo want a relationship or just a contract?
When Jiwoo gets up the courage to assert that she likes him and wants to date, Jihoo sticks to his guns on the DS-only relationship, even going so far as to say he doesn’t date. He uses his romantic history to prove his interests wouldn’t be acceptable in an equal loving partnership. In his Hana-induced PTSD, he’s given up on real relationships, choosing the safety of a limited contract or no relationship rather than risk his love-beaten heart.
Do Jihoo and Jiwoo Give a Real Relationship a Go?
The contract is for 3-month-only encounter. On their last day of play, Jiwoo prepares for the ultimate DS act – bondage. Jihoo creates a lovely romantic atmosphere that feels very much like a date. But before Jiwoo arrives, a poison-fueled Hana drops by, effectively killing Jihoo’s confidence by reminding him of their failure.
Jiwoo witnesses Hana exiting Jihoo’s apartment, thinking they may have rekindled. Even though Jihoo denies any relationship with Hana, it triggers some jealousy, prompting her to make a final move.
When play begins, Jiwoo offers an open invitation for an ‘anything goes’ last encounter. Even fully clothed, it’s easily the steamiest scene in the movie. With a kiss – not part of the agreement – Jihoo finally reaches for something more. Hands folded in resignation, that kiss signifies a change, a different desire to what he insists he wants. But when she pushes him away in confusion, he isn’t quite willing to declare it in words.
And Jiwoo needs things to be clear to she knows where she stands. When Jihoo cops out with talk of fear of burning up, she’s not left with much choice. The 3 months is up. Walking away is the only thing Jiwoo can do.
How does it end between them?
It’s a crisis at work that brings the two back together. Han, intending to warn Jiwoo, accidently group emails an audio clip of Jihoo and Jiwoo’s play in the office. Here comes the disciplinary action Jihoo feared.
As expected, the hearing is humiliating. But it’s also degrading and insulting as the leaders press for juicy details. Pushed to the brink, Jihoo finally explodes, defending Jiwoo and claiming all responsibility. In the process, he also confesses his heart and demands respect for their relationship.
This may seem like the end, but clever Jiwoo manages to find recordings of other inappropriate doings in the office and shares those around anonymously, completely changing the game. Again it’s Han – his recorder pen – that captured more than just Jiwoo and Jihoo that day. An affair between consenting adults isn’t nearly as inappropriate as some of the other conversations recorded.
The confession, meanwhile, serves as an opportunity for the two to be honest with each other and take a risk. Against the odds, they begin to date with play as a comfort zone as they get to know each other. Somehow the two have found a middle ground – and some fun too.
Read More: Love and Leashes Movie Review
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