Sweet & Sour ending explained — so who was dating who?

By Michael Frank
Published: June 5, 2021 (Last updated: January 24, 2023)
ending of the Netflix South Korean film Sweet & Sour

This article discusses the ending of the Netflix South Korean film Sweet & Sour, so it will contain major spoilers.

Read the review.

Sweet & Sour, the South Korean romantic comedy from Lee Gye-byeok, follows a formula, one that’s been tested for decades: two people meet, they fall in love, and then they drift apart. In this case, that drifting’s caused by distance, as Hyeok (Jang Ki-yong) moves away from Da-eun (Chae Soo-bin) due to a promotion at work. With 10 minutes left in the film, all seems to be right with this formula, as the couple has broken up, and their Christmas vacation is about to begin with neither of them present. The Netflix film shifts at this moment to a film concerning itself with more than just young love or long-distance troubles, transformed by its final moments.

Netflix’s Sweet & Sour — the ending explained

Hyeok spends his final day at his contractual firm in sorrow, mourning the loss of his job, his girlfriend, and their Christmas plans together. He drinks at an office party with Bo-yeong (Krystal Jung), the colleague who helped confirm his relationship rift. A wave rushes over Hyeok, and he realizes that he loves Da-eun, the woman who bore his aborted child and who has spent the last year and a half in his life. 

As with any good rom-com, the man runs to the woman at the airport, hopping out of a cab as he passes her by, yelling at the driver to stop. Hyeok hops out, starts jogging towards his ex-girlfriend, and then bumps into someone, pushing them both to the ground. The other man, also called Hyeok, because Da-eun gave him that name, is the patient from the beginning of the film, the less fit, less successful version of real-life Hyeok. Da-eun had started seeing him as the original Hyeok began working later and later at the office, replacing him with someone who loved her unconditionally.

The film flashes back through the timelines and gives the audience a full picture of the situation. Da-eun got lonely, and the new Hyeok, named Jo Yeon-hwan, happened to be there to sweep her up or at least comfort the nurse during her pregnancy and after the abortion. And so, both of them had been cheating in one way or another, never moving beyond their relationship. Da-eun looks at Hyeok, doesn’t say a word, and walks into the airport with Jo Yeon-hwan, about to take the same Christmas trip she’s taken for years. 

Lee peppers the narrative with tiny hints to give us insights into this complex, odd situation, but it transcends the regularity of this story, giving the film a sense of unconventionality. The twist gives the film life in its final minutes, breathing a freshness into a plot that loses steam halfway through. The ending of Sweet & Sour brings a bang of confusion and then a wave of understanding, filling a need for intrigue that the film otherwise was sorely lacking. 

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