‘Ballerina’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: What Does The Fish Symbolize?


Netflix’s 2023 film, Ballerina, directed by Chung-Hyung Lee, is a story of love, and it makes us privy to a girl who is ready to burn down everything who stands in her way and wreak vengeance on that one person who had destroyed her world. Ballerina is a very simple and straightforward story, and there is nothing wrong with it, as long as it doesn’t look like a half-hearted attempt that lacks vigor. The action sequences, the dramatic moments, and the gloomy environment are undoubtedly striking, but the weak narrative is never able to capitalize on the setting that it’s provided with. There are gaps in the screenplay, and you never really get to know those characters or understand the relationship dynamics that exist between them. The directors leave it up to their audience to fill in the blanks and come up with their own backstories, as the film never tells us anything about the roots of the characters. The characters have potential, and they are interesting, but we don’t understand their motivation fully, and in the end, Ballerina fails to strike a chord, at least with us. So, let’s find out what happened in the film and if the protagonist is able to take revenge on the criminal who took her love away from her.

Spoiler Alert

Who killed Min-Hee?

Ok-ju lived a lonely life, and there were not a lot of people she talked to. She used to work for a security agency as a bodyguard, and that is why her combat skills were top-notch. She looked like a timid girl, but she had the capability to take down several men, double her size, in one go, as we saw at the beginning of the film. Min-Hee was probably the only person who could make her laugh. They had met by coincidence when Ok-ju had gone to pick up a cake in the bakery where Min-hee worked, and she recognized Ok-ju as they had studied at Yahwa School together. Min-hee had a completely opposite personality to Ok-ju, and the chatterbox made sure that the always silent and introverted Ok-ju didn’t have a dull moment in her life. Min-hee was like that sunshine, which made Ok-ju see the lighter side of things.

Min-hee always said that if she hadn’t been a Ballerina, then she would surely have been a fish, as the world belonged to them, and such things always fascinated Ok-ju. They spent all their time together, and then one day, late at night, Ok-ju received a call from Min-hee and the latter sounded very tense and asked Ok-ju to come to her place as soon as possible. Ok-ju had seen Min-hee’s performance the day before, and she didn’t know what happened to her all of a sudden. Ok-ju went to Min-hee’s house and found her dead body in her bathtub. Min-hee had committed suicide, and she had left a note for Ok-ju, telling her to take revenge for her death. In the note, the name of a man named Chef Choi was mentioned, and Ok-ju didn’t have any clue who it was. It seemed like Ok-ju’s world became dark again, and all her happiness was snatched away in one moment. Ok-ju made a resolution to herself that whoever was responsible for the death of Min-hee, she would find them and make them regret the fact that they did something to her friend. With fire burning in her heart, Ok-ju set out to find the person who had ruined her life and taken all the hope that she ever had.

Who does Ok-ju ask for help?

Ok-ju connected with Choi on social media, but he didn’t respond there. Later in Ballerina, he ended up calling on Min-hee’s phone and blackmailing her to meet him, and he said that if she failed to do so, he would do something to make her family disown her. Ok-ju understood the predicament that her friend might have had, and she realized that this man had something on him, because of which Min-hee had committed suicide. Ok-ju went to the address where he had called Min-hee, and she spotted Choi standing there. She followed his car and broke into his house when nobody was there, and then wiretapped the entire place so that she could get some sort of evidence about what he was up to. Ok-ju searched the entire place, and she found a cupboard full of instruments, which he used to retrain or chain the women who used to come there for his sexual gratification. There were a number of pen drives kept in his cupboard, which had all the videos he had recorded. Probably, he was also selling these videos on the black market and earning a huge amount of money through it.

The next day, Choi was talking to an accomplice, and he told him that he was going to a particular club, something that he often did, to pick up some girls from there. It was all a game for Choi, and Ok-ju realized what a sadistic person he was. She went to the same club and made sure that Choi noticed her. As expected, Choi took her to a hotel in Gapyeong, where he generally took all her girls. Choi had no idea who he had brought to the hotel, and he thought that he could go about his business as he always had, in an unhinged manner, and then blackmail her through the videos. But guess what? He was absolutely wrong, and he came to know about it seconds after he spiked Ok-ju’s drink and tried to make her unconscious.

Is Ok-Ju Able To Take Revenge On Choi?

Ok-ju was pretending to be unconscious, and as soon as Choi got over her, she attacked him. They both entered into deadly combat, and Ok-ju was able to get the better of him. Choi’s men attacked Ok-ju, and luckily, the girls, who had been kept as slaves there, helped her escape from the hotel. The girl told Ok-ju that these people had done the same thing with hundreds of girls. First, they used to make their video, and then they used to threaten them to give in to their demands if they didn’t want the video to leak. Choi gained consciousness after he was treated by the doctors. The head of the gang came and told him that if he wanted to stay alive, then he should kidnap Ok-ju and bring her to him.

Meanwhile, in Ballerina, Ok-ju realized that she needed to wage an all-out attack on the perpetrators, and she needed weapons. She went to meet her old employer, with whom she had had a very good relationship. That employer made her connect with an elderly couple who used to deal in illegal firearms. Choi had asked Myung-shik, one of his men, to kill Ok-ju, but he was unable to do so. Myung-shik told Choi that he had killed Ok-ju, and Choi communicated the same thing to his boss. They had also captured that schoolgirl, but what they didn’t know was that Ok-ju was still alive, and she was coming with all her might to kill each and every one of them and take revenge for her friend’s death.

During Ballerina‘s ending, Ok-ju first kills the leader of the gang and then goes on to find Choi and teach him a lesson. Ok-ju put a gravely injured Choi in her truck, and together with the young girl, she went to the same beach where Min-hee used to come back in the day. She torched him alive and took revenge for Min-hee’s death. In his last moments, Choi tried all sorts of things to change Ok-ju’s mind, but obviously, she was not going to let him go. 

What Will Happen To Ok-ju?

It is quite possible that the surviving gang members, when they come to know about what had happened to Choi, will come hunting for Ok-ju in the future, but as of now, she has fulfilled her mission, and she is at peace knowing that she has been able to accomplish what she had set out for. Ok-ju went back to Choi’s house and collected all the pen drives he had there and probably destroyed them. Ok-ju also procured a diary from Choi’s cupboard where the pick-up time and location were mentioned. It could be possible that Choi was going to pick up the girls from the specified spots and bring them to his house to be tortured. Perhaps, through this diary, Ok-ju would be able to help these women in need. From what it seemed like, these were not the first victims, as Choi was sure that they wouldn’t be able to say no to him. Ok-ju might have realized at that moment that she not only took revenge for the death of her friend, but she also saved the lives of the many victims.

What Is The Symbolism Of The Ballerina?

Min-hee might have wanted to become a fish in her next life, but for us, a ballerina and a fish were alike in more than one way. The streamlined motion of a fish and the grace and swiftness with which a ballerina moves symbolize freedom and liberation for us. Maybe Min-hee always felt liberated when she saw a small fish making her way through all the obstacles that came her way. She wanted to dance through life, and whenever she stood in front of the ocean, she felt that no matter how big the problem was, one day, everything would be fine. The moves that a ballerina performs are probably the most complex and hard to perfect, but once they hone the skill, there is a grace with which their body moves. Similarly, in life, one must learn to navigate through the difficult times, through the ups and downs, and not get disheartened if they fall down. Probably, Ok-ju would have the same attitude in her life henceforth, and amidst all the darkness, she wouldn’t forget to come to the sea, once in a while, and be happy and grateful for what she had.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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