By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

Office colleagues Jung Ji-Woo and Jung Ji-Hoo have confusingly similar names, so when one of them mistakenly receives a personal parcel containing a bondage item, it sets the ball rolling for an interesting relationship between the two. And the story is far more amusing than ’50 Shades of Grey’ can ever be.

Directed and written by Hyeon-jin Park, the 2022 Korean romantic-comedy ‘Love & Leashes’ brings ‘cute’ to the kinky genre of BDSM. Joon Young-Lee plays Jung Ji-Hoo, a good-looking popular guy at work, who is assertive in office, but submissive in bed. His sexual preferences are exposed when his poker-face colleague Jung Ji-Woo (Seohyun) receives his purchase of a dog collar. Instead of outing him as a ‘pervert’, Ji-Woo gets curious about his life and the two begin a S&M relationship, complete with a contract.

Even though the film has a 18+ rating, the erotic scenes are shot in a manner that’s not sleazy or titillating. Hyeon-jin Park gives viewers a basic lowdown of how S&M relationships work, emphasizing on consent and respect. A big theme of the story is an attempt to de-stigmatize BDSM and sensitize viewers towards practitioners as regular individuals who just prefer to express or receive love differently.

Actor Joon Young-Lee is charming as the vulnerable Ji-hoo, he hilariously and convincingly portrays the different shades of his character. Seohyum with her fierce eyes, slips in the role of the dominant Ji-Woo with ease and the two explore unique forms of play that will keep viewers amused. She has an admirably mature, calm, assertive yet kind nature. The two might not burn the screen, but make a interesting pair, indulging in a lot of ‘play’, some of which is quite hilarious. One wishes they were more communicative.

Despite its super-popular androgynous pop-star culture, South-Korea is known to be a fairly conservative society, and this is displayed subtly through a few scenes in the film. We are shown how those considered ‘deviant’ are undeservedly bullied, shamed and abused, both physically and verbally, and often their perpetrators are someone known to them. It’s laudable how the makers slip in these messages in a romantic-comedy.

Overall, “Love & Leashes” is quite entertaining, with serious scenes interspersed throughout, so that the characters aren’t reduced to exaggerated caricatures. It’s well-paced for most part, even though the climax gets a little shaky and melodramatic. A major twist that brings conflict into the lead pair’s life felt forced and unimaginative. So after some awkward climactic events, we get a happy enough ending.

It’s a 6.5/10 from me.

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