Movie Talk: Love and Leashes/모럴 센스 (Moral Sense)

[Netflix recently unveiled the movie Love and Leashes (Korean title: 모럴 센스, lit. “Moral Sense“) on February 11th. Seohyun (Private Lives) and K-pop-idol-turned-actor Lee Jun-young (D.P.) star as co-workers who enter a curious contractual relationship (this was what was written on Netflix’s summary for the movie). I went into it without any expectation, only to find myself adoring the characters as well as the movie itself. I am so excited to see that my fellow friend Gia is also enjoying the movie, so…here we are, talking (or more like squealing?) together about the movie. Let’s go!] -Mimi

(NOTE: It’s a spoiler galore down there so consider yourself warned, and if you are below 18, do not proceed to read this post or watch the movie! Your mom will be mad at you!)

Mimi (M): Hello!

Gia (G): Hello there! This is my first time doing something like this so I am excited yet worried whether I’ll be doing a good job reviewing this unique movie. A bit of TMI, I’m now on my 7th day of quarantine and extremely bored, so when you asked me to do this I was glad because I could do something fun.

M: Awwww~I hope you are doing well in your quarantine. Gia Fighting!!

G: I am doing good. Well, same as you, I actually watch this movie to kill time, but I find myself enjoying the movie so much that I already watched it twice!

M: Wow, that’s amazing! I really loved watching the movie but I thought that I should do a proper watch for the second time! But first, I should write a proper review right here hehe! Oh right, what made you first check out the movie, Gia? 

G: I saw the promo on Twitter, and I liked Lee Junyoung’s performance on D.P., so I thought I should check this one out. How about you?

M: I was curious about the movie from the first time I heard about the casting, and I made a mental reminder to check it out after watching the trailer. I was actually planning to watch it over the weekend but I just happened to watch a little bit of the movie on the day it was released on Netflix…and the rest is history! I never imagined that I’d be here sitting and talking about this movie with you, but I guess we are destined to fall head over heels for this movie haha! What was your expectation before you started pressing play?

G: I also heard about the casting news last year and I already knew that Seohyun likes challenging roles. Her filmography is quite interesting, so I’m not surprised that she accepts the role, but the question is will she deliver. This is also my first time seeing Junyoung as a lead so, to be honest, I don’t expect anything. I was just curious about how Korean filmmakers will portray BDSM, and I have to say that they managed to make me – someone with zero interest and knowledge in that area – enjoyed this movie. The execution is not awkward at all for a topic so sensitive. That’s what I liked the most about this movie. What about you? What’s your favorite aspect of this movie?

M: After I watched the trailer, I saw a comment on Twitter pointing out that they paid special attention even towards the ribbon Jiwoo used to tie Jihoo; how it was tied in a way it wouldn’t hurt him. That made me anticipate how a Korean movie will approach a subject that is still considered taboo for public media; however, I was actually ready for it to be a letdown, considering how I was disappointed by Korean movies way too many times before this. Hence, I started the movie while bracing myself, only to find it surprisingly breezy and cute, at the same time addressing delicate issues without taking them lightly. Be it workplace issues or BDSM, I think that the movie hit two birds with a stone this time, and that is not an easy feat at all. I also find it interesting that I get to educate myself about the subject of BDSM through Jiwoo’s process of learning the ropes about it herself. Looks like I have lots of favourite things I can talk about when it comes to this movie. By the way, have you watched any of Seohyun and Lee Junyoung’s previous works before?

G: Wow the details about the ribbon! That’s impressive. And their approach to addressing gender bias in the workplace is also one of my favorite things. Misogyny in the working environment is an issue that is so close to us Asian ladies. This is better than Fifty Shades because they managed to be sexy without being obscene. One just needs to be open-minded to enjoy this movie. While the main theme is BDSM, it is fairly educational. I also like how the female is the dominant one. I don’t think I’d enjoy it this much if they make the male lead to be the dominant one because that’s what society expects on daily basis, no? That’s why (spoiler alert) Jiwoo also thinks the leash was for another person, not for Jihoo himself. I only watched Junyoung in D.P. and Seohyun in Private Lives (liked her chemistry with Go Kyungpyo but the writing is such a mess lol)

M: I agree with you about the misogyny issue. It is aggravating to see how Jiwoo is always being told off by her superior, Team Leader Hwang (Seo Hyun-woo, who is so good at playing annoying characters) when she speaks out her mind, but Jihoo is praised for doing the exact same thing. Love and Leashes is sexy and classy without the need of being tacky! The dom-malesub plot is truly a breath of fresh air from the expectation of society. I like how the movie also addresses the issue faced by femsub through the character of Hye-mi (Lee El) but she is also fierce and knows how to protect herself from predatory men. I love her character so much! lol I heard…not-so-nice review of Private Lives so I steered away from it despite looking forward to the drama before it aired. I watched Seohyun several times before, including Time – where she was amazing as someone who wanted to find the truth behind her sister’s death – and Moon Lovers aka Scarlet Heart: Ryeo. As for Junyoung, I first saw him in Avengers Social Club, where he portrayed a high school student but he was a force to be beckoned there, standing on par together with the more senior actors such as Lee Yo-won, Ra Mi-ran, and Myung Se-bin. His chemistry with Lee Yo-won was also memorable there. I totally missed the memo about him joining D.P. so I was surprised to see him there, playing one of the deserters. Back to the movie, I have neither watched Fifty Shades of Grey nor read the novel it was based on, but I do see people comparing Love and Leashes to it. What do you think about the comparison?

G: I only watched the first Fifty Shades movie because I was curious and disliked it enough to never watch any of the sequels. This movie is different from Fifty Shades, even though both are BDSM-themed. The depiction of BDSM in Fifty Shades is more blatant and there are some parts that are uncomfortable for a weak-hearted person like me to watch. Mr. Grey and Anna don’t even count as equals outside of their Dom-Sub relationship. Mr. Grey is a billionaire and Anna is a regular girl who applied to be an intern in his company, whereas Jihoo and Jiwoo have different positions in their work and personal life; that’s what makes it interesting. It is so much more than BDSM. It also tackles one of the most important things in a relationship: consent! I like how everything between Jihoo and Jiwoo is consensual. Love and Leashes managed to show humanistic qualities in people with BDSM preferences, and that there is nothing wrong with it, as long as it is consensual and not hurting anyone.

M: Yes, consent is something that is rarely depicted clearly in mass media, even in Korean dramas and movies. Oh, I also found out that consent is vital in BDSM, and failure to get one will risk the person being blacklisted from the community and labeled as a predator. It is such a great thing to see both Jiwoo and Jihoo respecting each other’s boundaries. Oh, while we don’t get to see how Jihoo’s family and close friends are, we are permitted to see how Jiwoo becomes who she is: her mother is such a loving and supportive figure in her life, plus she has reliable confidantes around her in the form of her senior at work, Kim Yuna (Kim Hanna) and her close friend Hye-mi (Lee El). We only heard about Jihoo’s environment from what he tells Jiwoo, but judging from how he could only turn to his online friends, maybe he did come from a family with high expectations of him. I can’t help but sympathize with him as a fellow human. 

G: I think so, too. That’s why he said that he likes everything crumbled and destroyed. Because when everything crumbles, he doesn’t need to pretend he is mature and good enough when he is a mess inside. I think that’s also why he liked Jiwoo so much. Because he never found someone who accepts him for who he is in real life, before.

M: I find his words about Jiwoo being his sun heartbreaking. At first, I thought that Jihoo was just assigning a metaphor for her existence in his life, but when he explained the reason why he was afraid of staying close to her – his one and only sun – during their final play, that made me tear up. I’m rewatching bits and pieces of the movie to refresh my mind as we talk, hence I can’t help but notice the technical details used by the director for the movie. Did you know that Love and Leashes is helmed by a female director? The director, Park Hyeon-jin, also wrote the screenplay for the movie together with Writer Lee Da-hye. 

G: As expected! Women are delicate (just like what San said lol). Three of my recent favorites are all directed by female directors. Nevertheless, The Red Sleeve, and now Love and Leashes. I think I particularly liked the so-called female gaze, for me, these female directors successfully captured the nuance female writers want to show to viewers. 

M: Haha! With the delicate touch and the female gaze taken into account, no wonder we get so many beautiful and mesmerizing projects from female directors recently. Be it a movie or a drama, some of them tend to be buried under too many background sounds and even soundtracks. One thing I really love about this movie is that they do not hesitate to make use of the natural sounds people produce when they are excited or enjoying pleasure, which contributes to the viewers’ immersion in the scenes. The movie does not have to rely on the characters stripping out just to portray the sensual ambiance in the scenes, but they make use of the sounds, colours, and the mood of the atmosphere the characters are in. Most of the play scenes of Jiwoo and Jihoo take place in hotels or playrooms, so the atmosphere varies from one play scene to another. The slight change in their work relationship and the tiny triggers are also portrayed subtly, but enough to show how the triggers and changes are also contributing as a ripple effect to their relationships at work and in their dom-sub contract. 

G: I agree! The breathing sounds *gasps*. I also want to applaud Seohyun for escaping her SNSD maknae image smoothly. She is elegantly sexy in Private Lives but more so in Love and Leashes. Even with minimal exposure, she adequately shows how an adult woman has their own desires. And man, Junyoung really compliments her performance. How can he be cute and sexy at the same time? He really looks like a Golden Retriever I want to reach my screen to pet him. For a 25-year-old, I sense a very bright future for him.

M: Seohyun is such a girl crush material here. I’ve seen her from the days when she was the baby maknae of the group among Girls’ Generation and it is delightful to see her improvement with each role she takes. Jiwoo is fated for her. As for Junyoung…sometimes I forget that he is a 97-er, but he is one promising actor indeed. Ah, the Golden Retriever parallel makes me chuckle, but he does look like one, with those round eyes and that build! Woof~ Kekekekeke Jokes aside, both of them have been very versatile in their choice of roles even before Love and Leashes, and I am glad they made the decision to join this project with a unique story. I have to say that they made a great choice, and they did great with their roles as Jiwoo and Jihoo, respectively. By the way, I just realized that the characters’ names are very similar when written in Korean (지우/지후), so it makes perfect sense for people to mix them up, be it while addressing them or even passing documents..or parcels.

G: I understand about the similarities in names, but I questioned Jihoo’s decision to use his office address for that package. Sending the package to his home would be a safer option. But I guess it’s needed to start the plot so, yeah.

M: Maybe he likes to live dangerously. Or could it be that he considers it safer for it to be delivered to his office – where he spends most of his time during the day – rather than risking the package being torn by curious hands at his apartment/condo? That might be even more dangerous. Do you have any particular scene which left a deep impression on you?

G: Definitely the cursing scene! Jiwoo got the chance to vent her suppressed anger and Jihoo seemed to have the best day of his life. I think that scene was a turning point in their relationship. Seohyun said in an interview that she practiced cursing in a soundproof room for 5 hours. I had to give it to her because she did a really good job. I also liked the scene where Jihoo expressed his disapproval of their boss’s decision then continued to give orders to Jiwoo. It really shows how they have different roles in work and personal life. How about you Mimi? Which scene do you like the most?

M: That is amazing to know about the practice! I really need to go through their interviews after this. My favourite scene is when they engage in the whipping session, because of that marvelous and spectacular camera work in front of those mirrors. I think I have rewatched that exact scene about five times by now? I just can’t get over everything about that scene: the wardrobe, the setting, the music, and the camera movement. Ah, I love it so much. Do you have any memorable line(s) from the movie? 

G: Jihoo’s lines when he said he likes everything crumbles and being broken are memorable for me. It feels new and makes sense to be the reason for his preferences of being dominated. I usually need dialogue to be lyrical and almost poetic to be memorable but somehow this movie doesn’t even need to rely on heavy dialogues to leave an impression. The lines are light but the message is conveyed clearly. And that makes me curious about your favorite lines, too!

M: For me, it’s the Sun and Mercury lines! I love how Jihoo is the one who first mentions it and then elaborates it further, but Jiwoo actually remembers it clearly for her to mention it towards the end of the run. Gosh, they are so cute…although they are just fictional characters, they feel so organic and I can’t help but root for them earnestly. I’m smiling just from thinking about them and their adorable selves! 

G: They are indeed adorable. The casting directors did a good job. Both Seohyun and Junyoung suit their roles so much. They are natural and not cringey at all. By the way, if you had to rate this movie, how many scores will you give?

M: I’m bad at giving ratings to shows I watch lol mostly because I tend to rate it purely according to my own enjoyment. Still, if I really have to rate it…4.5 out of 5 stars? How about you?

G: Wow! I had the exact numbers on my mind too. And I would definitely recommend this movie to my friends. That’s how much I like it.

M: I saw that the movie’s release date is set to be in time for Valentine’s Day, so this can also be a very cute and adorable movie to watch with your special half. Any parting words before we conclude this movie talk, Gia?

G: Yes, suitable for pandemic too because it’s on Netflix. I want to thank you for letting me join this review. I’m not sure whether I did a good job or not but it was such a FUN experience. Stay happy and healthy, Mimi!

M: Thank YOU for doing this review with me! I hope we will have another opportunity to do this in the future, Gia. Thank you again, and speedy recovery! To everyone, stay safe wherever you are 😀

TitleLove and Leashes ( 모럴 센스, lit. “Moral Sense“)
GenreMelo/romance, comedy
CountrySouth Korea
Running time117 minutes
Release date11 February 2022
Directed byPark Hyeon-jin
Screenplay byPark Hyeon-jin
Lee Da-hye
StarringSeohyun
Lee Jun-young
Lee El
Seo Hyun-woo
Ahn Seung-gyun

Check out Love and Leashes, now streaming on NETFLIX

3 thoughts on “Movie Talk: Love and Leashes/모럴 센스 (Moral Sense)

  1. I agree with all the comments made. Both actors portrays their feelings so well with just subtle changes of expression. Her character came off as so rational that I did think I would have a problem relating to her. However her care for him and her own unhappiness when the contractual relationship wasn’t meeting her own needs for intimacy and affection really made me love her character. I am amazed at how much was packed into two hours without it feeling rushed. The female touch definitely brought out the best for this drama.

  2. I would say the exact opposite: “if you are under 18, PLEASE watch this film. You don’t get to watch many romantic stories that concentrate on consent, poor little ones. Watch it. Your mothers can go find something actually important to be upset about.”

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