Like the Japanese movie "Love & Pop," your first instinct might be to simply dismiss this film as "Filth" & "Sleaze." But if that is the case, then I hope that you will watch it and appreciate the true beauty within.
At the start of this movie, two Korean schoolgirls are arranging an 'Appointment' at an Internet Cafe. One of the friends is working as a prostitute and the other is her manager because they are both trying to raise the money to go to Europe.
"A Teenage Girl Selling Her Innocence To Lecherous Perverts? What Could Possibly Be More Disgusting Or Outrageous!!!???" But smiling contentedly as her friend applies her makeup, the prostitute tells the story of 'Vasumitra;' A famous Indian prostitute who lived many centuries ago.
The legend says that every man who slept with her became a devout Buddhist. Not because of guilt, fear or self-hatred, but because of the love she gave them.
After joking that men turn into `babies during sex,' the prostitute asks her friend to call her 'Vasumitra' from that point on. From her perspective, she is not just having sex for money, she honestly believes that she is spreading love. But during the meeting as she waits outside to ensure that her friend is safe, the manager still looks very worried and uncomfortable, feeling the same disgust that the rest of us might experience.
When the police arrive, she texts her friend to ensure that she can escape. But a little while later when they are both eating "Pig's Feet," a crude joke since they were chased by the police, even though she'd only been with the man for a few minutes, the prostitute keeps talking about what her client does for a living.
Her friend is very uneasy. Why can't she just have sex and take their money? But no matter how brief their encounter might be, the prostitute believes that the two of them are 'Sharing Something.'
In the next scene as they are both washing each other in a public bathhouse, the manager insists that her friend is 'Filthy' and begs for them to stop, afraid that these experiences might actually scar her for life. But the prostitute insists that they need more money. And when her friend observes that she seems to be enjoying it, the contented young woman just smiles.
Reading some people's opinions of this movie which are not posted here on Amazon, a great many seem obsessed with the gentle 'Homo-erotic' undercurrent during the first part of the film. Are the two friends actually lovers? I honestly don't believe that they are. But even if there was more to the gentle kiss which they both share a little later in the movie, at the end of the day, their 'Sexuality' is irrelevant because this is a film about "Love."
As the two friends both spend the day together during a very beautiful montage, it is obvious that they both truly love one another, and that is all that matters.
Similarly, the next morning when he comes in to wake his daughter, smiling softly as he sees his 'Little Girl' hugging her teddy bear and unaware that she works as a 'Manager,' her father's love for her is all that really counts. It is also quite touching when he wakes her by putting headphones over her ears and playing her favourite Sonata on CD. After all, now that his wife is gone, she is all that he has left in the world.
Later that day after she's had sex with another man, the prostitute asks her friend if she'd like to join them because he's invited them both out for a meal. The prostitute cannot understand why her friend is so repulsed and disgusted by the idea. The manager insists that it's the day of her mother's memorial, but in reality, this is only an excuse.
The prostitute honestly cannot see anything wrong with what she's doing and she truly 'Likes' the musician she's just met. (Remember that in many Asian countries, people often talk about 'Liking' one another because the word 'Love' is perceived as being vulgar.) But while she can't understand why her friend is crying, she apologises to her and promises not to hurt her feelings anymore.
How could she start to develop feelings for a man in less than an hour? Once again though, she believes that time is unimportant because no matter what, "Love is Love." So as I've already mentioned, the 'Lesbian Question Mark' hanging over the kiss in the bathhouse is a meaningless distraction. And when the prostitute promises to stop liking the man, I personally feel that it is only because she doesn't want to hurt her best friend
After this point however, there are two contrived plot devices which do detract from the beauty of the film.
Unable to warn her friend in time for her to escape from the police, the manager screams as she watches her jump from a window and crack her skull.
She is still alive and conscious so she carries her to the hospital. And just as a brief side-note, carrying a woman in Korean movies is almost always a sign of the other person's love for her.
The prostitute is dying, but she refuses to reveal her parents' phone-number. Instead, she is still smiling contentedly, and her dying wish is to see the musician who slept with her because she 'Misses Him.'
The schoolgirl will do anything to fulfil her best friend's dying wish. However, I cannot believe that anyone would be so callous after hearing that a teenage girl is dying; insisting that he cannot see her simply because he is 'Busy!' Nor can I believe that he would only agree to see her on the condition that the manager has sex with him first!
The young virgin does as he asks of her, but they both arrive too late. And when her best friend pulls back the sheet, 'Vasumitra' still has the same serene and contented smile on her face.
"Stop smiling. What's there to smile about?"
Now that her best friend is gone, the schoolgirl tries to burn the appointment book and the money she'd earned before quickly changing her mind. She wants to return the money to the men who had given it to her. But more than that however, she is curious to know why her best friend 'Loved' them so much. And so the manager becomes the prostitute, arranging a meeting with each man that her best friend had slept with one by one, sleeping with them, informing them of her friend's death, thanking them and then returning the money.
After the first meeting in fact, the man calls his own daughter just to ask her how she is. Not out of guilt or shame, but I believe because the experience and the news of the tragedy has truly made him appreciate life and love. But in the next scene after the schoolgirl has gone to bed and her father has carefully folded her clothes, there is a moment of discomfort when the film suddenly cuts to a man smoking as he lays in bed beside her.
Please don't worry. Nothing disturbing has happened. It is the next day and the man beside her was the second man in the appointment book. He truly thanks her for making him happy, but she insists that she is more grateful. She is not punishing herself, atoning for her friend's 'Sins,' wallowing in grief or going insane. In her heart, she is continuing her friend's work spreading love and happiness, while at the same time, experiencing that love.
"We all have to live in harmony by understanding and not hurting one another."
"I'll pray for you every day until I die."
Before you accuse this film of 'Glamorising' prostitution however, after seeing the schoolgirl sleeping with another man in a hotel room, the film immediately cuts to show a woman who's been stabbed to death. At first you believe that it's the star of the film. But no, it is another woman in a neighbouring hotel. However, since her father is a police detective and is heading the murder investigation, he is understandably shocked when he looks out of the window and sees his 'Little Girl' in bed with a strange man.
The synopsis might insist that her father sets out to "Avenge His Daughter's Innocence," but that is a gross misinterpretation. He isn't angry at the men who have 'Used' his daughter, and at this point he doesn't even know that she is working as a prostitute. Instead, he is struggling to 'Rescue His Little Girl;' the innocent child who cherishes her father as much as he cherishes her.
Regardless of whether she is taking the man's money, returning it or genuinely 'In Love,' the sight of his 'Little Girl' behaving as an adult woman truly breaks the detective's heart. So as his daughter continues meeting each of the men in the appointment book, her father begins a slow downward spiral of intimidation and violence.
If only he can drive away the men who are sleeping with her, or better yet, drive his daughter away from them, then his 'Little Girl' will return to him and they will be together forever. So having chased one man away with a broken liquor bottle and driven another to commit suicide in front of his whole family, things come to a head when the detective beats the last man to death with a pair of handcuffs and a brick.
His daughter sees the body and is so traumatised that she throws the appointment book away. Watching this, her father is very happy and relieved because now his 'Little Girl Might Return.' But no, it is already far too late. The little girl has already 'Grown-Up.' And although she still truly loves her father, he is no longer the centre of her world.
Having taken a trip to the countryside and to visit her late mother's grave, her father finally seems to recognise the truth when he sees her crying late at night. Was she crying for her late friend or for the man whom he had murdered? Either way, her own father's love just isn't enough for her anymore. And like in many other Korean & Japanese films, the two 'Alternate Endings' might be rather confusing. So even at the risk of 'Spoiling' the movie, I will take the time to describe and explain them for you.
The next day as they are both driving back home, the schoolgirl falls asleep in the car. When she finally wakes up, everything has turned blue. Her father has stopped the car near a deserted lake. And when she looks for him, he grabs her from behind.
In this ending, the man's 'Little Girl' is dead, and he cannot live with the 'Prostitute' that she has become. But even so, after he's murdered his daughter, the man still lovingly buries her body; even placing the headphones over her ears so that she can listen to her Sonata as she 'Sleeps.' However, this ending is only a dream. And when she awakens, her father has painted a route for her so that he can teach her how to drive.
I believe that this ending is a very beautiful metaphor. Because across the whole world, learning to drive is a symbol of 'Adulthood' and 'Independence.' The schoolgirl is more than a little scared at first. But after while, she starts to enjoy it. This touching scene reminds me of a father teaching his child how to ride a bicycle. And so smiling nostalgically, he reaches the point when it is time for him to finally 'Let Go.'
In the distance, the police detective's colleagues are arriving to arrest him for murder, but his daughter is too busy enjoying herself to notice. And whenever I watch this film, I always smile through the tears as he speaks his final words to her.
"Now, on your own. Your dad's not following you anymore."
Sure enough, after he's been arrested, the schoolgirl is left on her own in the middle of nowhere. But of course, she is an adult now and she will be okay.
Will she continue working as a prostitute or go to Europe? Will she fall in love with a man or with a woman? In the end it doesn't matter, because now the choice is hers.