REVIEW: ‘Love and Leashes’ is a Wholesome Kinky Love Story

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Love and Leashes - But Why Tho

I love a good webtoon adaptation, especially when the live-action adds to the story. Netflix’s latest original film based on a webtoon is the sometimes spicy and always sweet Love and Leashes. Directed and written by , the film is based on a webtoon Moral Sense by Gyeoul and stars Joon-Young Lee and Seohyun as Jung Ji-Hoo and Ji-woo, our romantic leads.

In Love and Leashes, Ji-hoo is a picture-perfect man with a unique sexual taste that he hides from everyone. Then there is Ji-woo, a stoic woman who doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve. When Ji-woo accidentally picks up Ji-hoo’s package and finds out his secret, their work relationship turns into a DS relationship and a three-month contract. Ji-Hoo wants to obey, and Ji-woo wants to command, setting up for a kinky relationship the two can explore and find love out of.

While Ji-woo isn’t aware of DS relationships or BDSM as a whole, it’s a world that she doesn’t only become engrossed in but starts to enjoy. And that’s the key to Love and Leashes. Ji-Hoo respects Ji-woo’s boundaries, letting her decide when and how to increase their play sessions. Instead of just being the female character pulled into BDSM to make a hot guy happy, Ji-woo also explores her own sexual preferences. While Ji-Hoo loves being a sub because of how in control he has to be in his daily life, Ji-woo enjoys being a dom because her stoicism is an asset, and it becomes an outlet for her to take out the frustration she feels when she can’t talk back to her sexist boss.

The two have a relationship that works because they clearly define boundaries, they communicate their expectations, and even when Ji-Hoo wants more, he gives Ji-woo an option to be as extreme or as light as she wants. In fact, Love and Leashes is an unassumingly wholesome look at discovering what you like, what you want, and of course, exploring kinks. Both characters are able to get what they need from the relationship. Ji-Hoo gets to be who he really is in front of another person, and Ji-woo starts to learn that she can assert herself without worrying about what someone thinks.

When it comes to kink in media, most representations feature some level of coercion, little discussion of what is involved in BDSM relationships, or clear establishment of boundaries. In Love and Leashes, though, we learn about BDSM as our leads do. Specifically, as Ji-woo explores and researches, the audience is given a narration that explains the situations. We get a clear distinction between DS and SM play – the former being about psychological and non-sexual relationships and the latter being the one that involves sexual intimacy. Additionally, we see the characters discuss safe words, and when they move to use more intense toys like a whip, we see the aftercare.

Additionally, DS play comes in a variety of experiences, and Love and Leashes show this to the audience. From whips, candle wax, and high heels to walking the park handcuffed to each other, there are sweet elements as much as there are sensual ones. But this isn’t all the film does, it also shows what happens when boundaries aren’t respected through a side character. In one line, “just because I’m a pervert doesn’t mean you can disrespect me” sums up one of the things I hope people unexposed to BDSM can take away.

As Ji-Hoo and Ji-woo continue their relationship, they begin to grow closer, which brings the film one of the most important parts of the narrative: Ji-woo deciding that she wants to move out of a DS relationship and into one that has sex and, of course, romance. Now, like any romantic comedy, there is a seminal miscommunication that causes tension between our leads when Ji-Hoo’s ex Hana comes into the picture. And when the two aren’t on the same page when it comes to dating, everything is resolved is not only relatable but open and honest handling of processing the way someone you love hurts you.

Now it should be said that like the webtoon, it’s based on, there aren’t many explicitly sexual scenes, but the film does use close up shots and atmospheric lighting to show how the two’s relationship becomes increasingly sensual even if they aren’t engaging in sex, they are sharing an intimacy. As the film progresses, the intimacy grows with the play as well. While kink is an important part of the film, the more important thing is how the characters grow to understand themselves and each other. Especially Ji-hoo, who is recovering from a previous relationship where he was belittled and made to feel like there was something wrong with him.

Love and Leashes is sweet and sensual. It’s a wholesome look at boundaries and love while also taking time to explore kink in a context that doesn’t treat it as something dangerous or abnormal. Ji-Hoo and Ji-woo care about each other deeply, and it’s that care that allows them to explore their boundaries. As one of the best representations of kink I’ve seen in a film, Love and Leashes is a film that anyone looking for romance can enjoy.

Love and Leashes is streaming exclusively on Netflix now.


Love and Leashes
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    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Love and Leashes is sweet and sensual. It’s a wholesome look at boundaries and love, while also taking time to explore kink in a context that doesn’t treat it as something dangerous or abnormal. Ji-Hoo and Ji-woo care about each other deeply, and it’s that care that allows them to explore their boundaries. As one of the best representations of kink I’ve seen in a film, Love and Leashes is a film that anyone looking for romance can enjoy.