I just Won By Recommending Netflix’s The Call

I just Won By Recommending Netflix's The Call - because it's one crazy premise, with one crazy ending, including an even crazier ending in the credits.
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Dang. We are on a foreign movie roll boys and girls! Heck, from White Wall (Finnish series) about um, a White Wall. The film Burning. The Apple TV spy series Tehran. And His House, Under the Shadow, Big Bad Wolves, 2067, and on and on I could keep going. But here we go with the best one yet! And why I just Won By Recommending Netflix’s The Call. Haven’t heard of it yet – watch the trailer, then head over to Netflix to watch The Call before continuing on. Because the rest of this post is one big gigantic spoiler after another. And I have to give credit where credit is due – Chris/Lisa, both awesome Patreon supporters – kudos to you for getting me off my butt and watching this one.

Netflix’s The Call Walkthrough

Kim Seo-yeon (played by Park Shin-Hye) is returning home to visit her mother who happens to be sick. They’ve been separated for quite some time, and her childhood home is a dilapidated wreck. Seo-yeon’s cell phone has gone AWOL, but she finds an old cordless phone (aka, just a tricky landline – you remember those? They use copper? And send voice signals in the ground, and on those old school telephone poles? Yeah, those.) that rings, and she hears a woman flipping out on the other end. She is saying that she’s being tortured by her mother, and that she’s going to die. Or some such. After build up – and lots of knocking holes in walls, and investigations, Seo-yeon realizes that Young-sook (Jong-sen Jun) is living in the exact same house. But not in 2019, rather, back in 1999.

Breaking News: The cordless phone is able to communicate across the past 20 years. (Quite the McGuffin. But I say we roll with it, it may eventually pay dividends.)

After talking about their lives, they quickly learn that both women share tragic pasts, and have bad relationships with their parents.Young-sook (1999) is an orphan who lives with her adoptive (and psychotic) mother who doubles as something of a witch doctor or shaman of sorts. And Seo-yeon (2019) lost her father in a stove fire accident that she blames 100% on her mother, Eun-ae. So there is some sort of connection between these two hurt souls… of sorts.

This is where (when?) the time fiddling starts to get really interesting. After Seo-yeon tells Young-sook about the fire that kills her father, Young-sook goes to their house, turns off the stove that was beginning to over boil, that was about to kill Seo-yeon’s father. And blam – enter cool CGI special effects – and suddenly, Seo-yeon has had a father all her life. Her hair is longer. Their house is better off. Everything gets better. But Young-sook though is horrible punished by her mother, and she becomes angry that Seo-yeon never answers the phone anymore.

Eventually, Seo-yeon, curious about where Young-sook is now, searches the interwebs and learns that she was murdered by her mother when she was attempting to exorcise a demon. Realizing the details of how she dies, and understanding that her death is soon approaching, Seo-yeon shares the information with Young-sook, and saves her life. Now, I’m not sure about you, but I’m not thinking that was the wisest movie that Seo-yeon could have done with regard to the greater scope of things. Sure, it was altruistic of her. And sure, she did just save her father’s life…or bring him back from the dead, or what have you. But still. Why was this a bad idea? Well, it turns out, by surviving her murder, Young-sook turns into a mass murderer herself. I mean, it logically follows, doesn’t it? Your mother murders you – you figure out how to stop it…ergo, mass murderer yourself. You immediately would have killed your mother…and not looked back. And that’s exactly what happens to Young-sook. But Seo-yeon realizes what Young-sook is up to because people begin disappearing in real time in 2019. But when Seo-yeon tries to intervene, she inadvertently lets slip that soon Young-sook will be arrested by the local police. Which isn’t a great thing to reveal to a rapidly burgeoning mass murderer. Using this information is really helpful for someone in need of evading capture!

Well, the encounter becomes highly personal when Young-sook gets a knock on the door to her house by Seo-yeon (who is what… 8 in 2019?) and her newly revived father. Are you picking up what the movie is putting down here? 20 years ago, Seo-yeon and her now alive father, are knocking at Young-sook’s house… why? Well, because, Seo-yeon’s father was meeting with Young-sook’s mother in order to look into purchasing it. BUT PROBLEM! Young-sook’s mother is dead. She’s literally bobbing in the sink currently. Worse, Young-sook invites them in, and then kills the father (the same father she unkilled days previous), and takes the 8-year-old Seo-yeon captive. Immediately, in 2019, there is an impact of these actions. The house becomes dilapidated again, and Seo-yeon’s situation becomes extremely dire. Why? Because she is at the mercy of the past. Her past has actually held her captive!

So, here we are, in 2019, and Seo-yeon’s circumstances are horribly off- kilter all over again. The lopsidedness is manifested in the house chaos now that her father is dead all over again. How can Seo-yeon fight back against someone in the past?? (How can we fight back against the chaos of our past? It’s behind us, but it still has us captive.) At first, when Young-sook calls Seo-yeon and tells her to find out how she will be caught and arrested, Seo-yeon starts by feeding her false information. But when Young-sook promises to kill Seo-yeon’s mother (Eun-ae), Seo-yeon rapidly changes her tune. Seo-yeon then decides to head to the police station and break in to learn more. She quickly finds the police notes that were used in 1999. Seo-yeon chooses to give Young-sook the real info from the police, and as a result her reality changes all over again. Young-sook now has gone on for years as a serial-killer. She’s also stayed in the house that Seo-yeon should have moved into, but now didn’t. And, as time marches forward, the police notes, and notebooks continuously change as well. There is a note that appears that Eun-ae arrived at Young-sook’s home with a police officer. They ask if she has seen Seo-yeon, and if they can check the house. Eventually, Eun-ae makes a call on the cordless phone, and talks to her daughter 20 years in the future, and Seo-yeon warns her she’s about to die.

And sure enough, Young-sook murders the policeman, and hunts down Eun-ae in the house. Simultaneously in the future, Young-sook attacks the older Seo-yeon and they fight, full tilt, attempting to kill each other. 2019 Seo-yeon tries to convince Eun-ae to fight. To not give up. And that is when Eun-ae dives at Young-sook and tackles her over the banister both falling to their supposed death. And with that moment, the house becomes completely dilapidated (Seo-yeon is now an orphan after all) but Young-sook also disappears. Their fight ends.

After Seo-yeon leaves the house, believing that she is now alone, and has an emotional reunion with her mother whom is actually alive and well. But we notice several distinct scars from her encounter with the serial killer she was able to stop through her sacrifice. And with that, the duo walk off into the sunset, so happy, blissful, and exceedingly happy that they have finally put to rest the terror wrought by Young-sook.


I am sure a ton of you watched on Netflix, saw Eun-ae and Seo-yeon walk off into the sunset and turned it off. But that wasn’t the ending. As they walk off into the horizon, we watch as Eun-ae vanishes. Wait, what? What happened? Well, first off – obviously, Young-sook survived the swan dive off the balcony. Not only that, but she was able to kill Eun-ae back in the past after crashing onto the main floor.

But, as the credits continue, we learn that older Young-sook is able to contact her younger self, and warn her about Eun-ae and the police officer. This then allowed her to change the story yet again. That is how she was able to preemptively erase Eun-ae and the officer. Then, we cut to a horrible basement room where we see a person covered in a white sheet. A person screaming for help. And as the sheet is removed we learn that it is a scared Seo-yeon. But what does that mean? Yeah, it means that the happy ending you thought you saw happen, actually didn’t happen at all. Instead, Seo-yeon is about to die as the credits end. Congratulations! Who needs a happy ending anyway?

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The Past Controls Us

Pause. Think about that. Think about what the film is saying. We are at mercy of our past. We all are. Sure, we don’t have a landline to the past that can literally change our history. But we are controlled by our past all the same. Notice how dramatically Seo-yeon’s physical conditions change as her father comes and goes. It’s interesting how the film tells us how well she is doing by the length and luxuriousness of her hair. You know? But also the house itself. It goes from luxurious to run down hovel and back again. Or vice versa.

Now think about your own past. What would have happened if that car accident hadn’t happened? Or you had gotten into Julliard. Or what have you. There are seminal moments in everyone’s lives wherein we can see massive changes happening in our lives. What I find most interesting about that is that the film only posits that direct, familial changes, are the ones that really impact Seo-yeon. But, when the local strawberry farmer dies, wouldn’t that have affected her as well? Maybe marginally, but still… the local community could have been worse off for his business loss. Her own health could have dropped by the absence of strawberries in her diet. Etc. But it speaks to the film’s creators philosophical assumptions that it is only our families that really impact us the most. (Which, is true, our families do impact us greatly.)


What Do We Make Of The Call??

So, at the end of the day, I thought this was a pretty clever little film. It tickled a lot of favorites motifs all in one movie. Time travel – sort of. Foreign predilections. Closed-boxish sort of mentality to it. It was a lot of fun. If you’d like to play with another movie or two in this space, the first one everyone thinks of is Frequency. But we can do better than that. Maybe you should check out Phone Booth (it has a phone in it, and a clever conceit?), maybe Don’t Let Go (that is very on point… phone calls from the past and everything.) Or, if you have other movie recommendations in this space, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Edited by: CY