The Netflix original Ballerina is a good old violent thriller that doesn’t shy away from the deep wounds, ending with the sweet taste of revenge. There’s nothing extraordinary in this story about a girl who has to take revenge for her best friend, who has just committed suicide because she was assaulted. To understand Ok-Ju, we must first understand Min-Hee, her best friend—the ballerina. We don’t know much about Ok-Ju’s past except for the fact that she used to be a bodyguard and quit.
Ok-Ju has no family, no lover, and nobody in her life to look out for her. When she meets Min-Hee, she’s buying a birthday cake for herself. It’s Min-Hee who recognizes her as a schoolmate from high school. Min-Hee is kind enough to spend Ok-Ju’s birthday with her, and they get to know each other slowly. Min-Hee is a ballet dancer, and Ok-Ju tells her that she’s a bodyguard. The two girls are complete opposites. Apart from the obvious fem-masc difference, thanks to the obviously chosen professions, there’s a deeper difference. Min-Hee is filled with light and joy, whereas Ok-Ju looks like she’s given up on life. Apart from that, we know that Ok-Ju has a violent streak, seeing the way she butchers the two guys trying to steal at the supermarket.
When Ok-Ju realizes Min-Hee’s dead, it’s like the star of her night sky has been darkened. Wouldn’t you do everything in your power to fulfill the last wish of the one person who truly made you want to keep living? The “nice” parts of Ok-Ju died with Min-Hee, and now all she can see is red. Director Lee Chung-Hyeon uses color to beautifully represent Ok-Ju’s feelings, too. When she’s with Min-Hee, everything is warm-toned—pinks, yellows, oranges, and stunning purples. On the other hand, when Ok-Ju is alone, when she’s fighting the bad guy, or basically anything in the present timeline, it is all darkened by blue and deep red. When it comes to the room where Choi, the bad guy, takes the girls to assault them in their sleep, it has a warm shade of yellow, too, but the room itself is covered in a deep blood red, displaying his thirst. When Ok-Ju goes to Bate Choi, she wears a pink corset, probably belonging to Min-Hee. Ok-Ju is all black until Min-Hee dyes her hair a bright orange, showing her influence on her. Ironically, even if Ok-Ju wouldn’t like such a thing normally, she does anything Min-Hee wants her to do. She goes to the beach with her, a secret hideout that the two of them share.
Although Ok-Ju lives on her own and appears to be making her way through life to the best of her abilities, it’s all because Min-Hee is the light at the end of that tunnel. When we meet Ok-Ju, she’s fighting off goons at a grocery store only because she wants to buy her own things. Not because it’s the right thing to do. But the second she gets a call from Min-Hee to come to see her, her entire demeanor changes. She lets her hair down, has a smile on her face, and a skip in her step. Then, to see her in the tub is the biggest downer she could possibly get. Ok-Ju becomes blinded by revenge.
In a flashback, we see that Min-Hee thinks that the fish are the true owners of the world. She wants to be reborn as a fish in her next life. Maybe this is because it would mean freedom from all things human. She feels it’s the world of fish, and we just live in it. Unfortunately, her death is also linked to fish. Now, these are not real fish, but it’s almost like Min-Hee’s prediction. The roofie that Choi uses to make the girls unconscious is packaged in a fish-shaped tube. We see Choi flush it down a toilet when he thinks he’s drugged Ok-Ju. Of course, she hasn’t had any of the drink. This is like rubbing salt in Ok-Ju’s wounds. Even if Min-Hee comes back as a fish, she’s at risk of ingesting this plastic fish. Choi has tainted Min-Hee’s purest thoughts, making Ok-Ju even more frustrated (if she saw them, of course).
At the end of the day, we’re able to see Ok-Ju defeat hordes of men by herself because her love for Min-Hee makes her superhuman. She doesn’t care about anything else. At the same time, the young girl who helps her escape the room and the chainsaw guy is a new light for Ok-Ju. She sees a mini-Min-Hee in her. In the end, Ok-Ju takes Choi to the same beach Min-Hee had shown her as her hideout spot. It’s her gift to Min-Hee so she can watch Choi die a horrible death. The beautiful night sky and the ocean promise to wash away her sins. The young girl helps Ok-Ju weapon up. Choi begs and begs for forgiveness, realizing that she’s actually going to go all the way and torch him to death.
When Choi asks Ok-Ju why she’s going to these lengths and who she is, she says she’s the Ballerina. The disgusting monster calls Min-Hee fat for a ballerina, asking if she could even be a ballerina at that size. As if that’s going to help his case. He’s surprised someone would go to such lengths for what he’s done, claiming he doesn’t deserve to die for it. In the end, he says he will find Min-Hee in hell and do worse things to her there, too, if Ok-Ju kills him. Ok-Ju replies that it doesn’t matter because she’ll find him in hell, too, aiming and firing. As she burns him alive, she begins to cry and shake. The screen fades from the dark ocean of the night to the day when Min-Hee and Ok-Ju are in the same place. The beautiful day they spent there when Ok-Ju decided it was worth living.