Korean Movie: The Call Ending Explained (2020 Netflix)

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Hi, this is Barry, and welcome to my site. The Call is a 2020 Korean thriller featuring elements of time-travel. This is Jong-seo Jun‘s second film after her stellar debut in the movie Burning, and she does not disappoint. She’s at her menacing best! The Call is writer and director Chung-Hyun Lee’s first full-length feature film. You’ll need to take the time-repercussions with a pinch of salt in this film. Rather than viewing the film as science-fiction, it’s best watched as a fantasy thriller. Thanks for the multiple recommendations folks. Here’s the detailed plot analysis and ending of the Korean movie The Call explained; spoilers ahead.

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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

The Call Korean Movie: Timeline Diagram

The Call Timeline Diagram
(click to enlarge)

The Call (Korean Movie): Plot Explained

As I mentioned earlier, The Call many times ignores the concept of the Butterfly Effect. Ideally, significant changes to the past should have had cascading effects that resulted in the lead character no longer being in the same physical spot. 

The other thing is memory. 

Seo-yeon is shown to move from one timeline to another. In every new timeline, her life has been re-written. Yet, the memories she retains is that of the very first timeline. While scars come and go, her past memories don’t get altered. For the sake of The Call’s explanation, we’ll assume that Seo-yeon’s consciousness jumps from one timeline to the other.

With that, let’s go through each of the timelines one at a time.

The Prime Timeline: Understanding the Timelines

Seo-yeon has lost her mobile phone and hence pulls out an old cordless phone and plugs it in. We’re not told how, but something about this phone connects Young-sook in 1999 to Seo-yeon in 2019. 

It’s essential to understand this – the phone call creates a rift in the timeline and Seo-yeon is talking to Young-sook from a new timeline. Let me explain. Remember, in the Prime Timeline, Young-sook never spoke to anyone from the future, no one warned her, she got killed by her stepmother. To understand The Call, it’s critical to note that telephone conversations are happening between people from two different timelines. The moment a phone call is placed, the past has already drifted into a new path, a new future.

Timeline 2: Saving The Father

Based on the information Seo-yeon gives, Young-sook intercepts the gas explosion that would have killed Seo-yeon’s father. A side note here – though she blames her mother for this accident, it is Seo-yeon who goes back to turn on the gas in the kitchen. A childish mistake. She was the one that caused the accident.

Seo-yeon’s consciousness is transported to Timeline 2, where her father (now alive) and mother are together, and she seems to be a much happier person.

Seo-yeon is very thankful. But when she hears Young-sook being beaten by her stepmother, Seo-yeon looks up the internet to realize that Young-sook was killed by her shaman stepmother in 1999.

The Call Seo yeon

Timeline 3: Young-sook, save Yourself!

Seo-yeon warns Young-sook that her stepmother will kill her in the night. Why does the stepmother want to kill Young-sook? Well, she’s a shaman. Her powers tell her that Young-sook will grow old to become a serial killer. To save the lives of many, she decides to kill Young-sook.

Come night, Young-sook escapes death and in her rage, kills her stepmother. Seo-yeon’s consciousness moves to timeline 3.

Timeline 4: Sung-Ho’s death

In a stroke of bad luck, Sung-Ho shows up to deliver strawberries. He opens the fridge to find chopped up bits of the stepmother. Young-sook, seeing no other option, kills Sung-Ho.

Seo-yeon’s consciousness moves to Timeline 4. Just moments before, she is with Sung-Ho eating strawberries and stains her coat. As she goes upstairs, the stain disappears. When she comes back down, she is surprised to know that her parents don’t even know Sung-Ho. She finds out that Young-sook was eventually arrested for both murders – Sung-Ho and the stepmother.

On a call later with Young-sook, Seo-yeon makes the mistake of mentioning that Young-sook spends the rest of her life in jail.

Timeline 5: Young-sook kills Seo-yeon’s father

Seo-yeon refuses to say how Young-sook was traced back to the murders. Unfortunately, in the past, young Seo-yeon and her father show up at Young-sook’s house asking about the home transfer that was supposed to happen. Young-sook kills Seo-yeon’s father and takes the little girl hostage. 

In 2019, Seo-yeon’s consciousness jumps to Timeline 5 as she experiences her father and the car disintegrate into nothingness. She heads back to the house to see it in a barren state with the words “pick up the phone” on the floor written by Young-sook.

On a subsequent phone call, Young-sook demands how the police got to her.

young sook Korean call

Timeline 6: Incorrect location of the murder weapon

Seo-yeon comes up with a plan to kill off Young-sook. She locates a storehouse which exploded at 5:00PM on the day of her conversation with Young-sook in the 90s. Seo-yeon tells Young-sook that a junk collecter found the knife she murdered her stepmother with and he would be available at 5:00PM at the storehouse. While this is a good plan, and Young-sook does land up at the storehouse, she steps outside because she hears dogs. Young-sook escapes death as the storehouse explodes before she walks back in.

Young-sook returns home and tortures young Seo-yeon as punishment by pouring hot water on her body.

In 2019, Seo-yeon’s consciousness jumps to Timeline 6 as her body develops scars from the hot water wounds. 

Timeline 7: The correct location of the murder weapon

Not knowing what else to do, Seo-yeon gives away the location of the murder weapon. Young-sook shows up and kills the junk collector and burns the knife. This stops the event of the cops tracing the murder weapon back to Young-sook, and she is not arrested.

We also have this timeline establishing that Young-sook goes on to become a full-blown serial killer and the house is filled with refrigerators which store the mutilated bodies of the dead. Young-sook grows old in this house and eventually is able to use the phone to advise her younger self to stay clear from being connected to any of the murders.

Seo-yeon’s consciousness transfers to Timeline 7. She’s in the midst of many refrigerators and in this timeline, older Young-sook lives in this house. 

Korean Movie: The Call: Ending Explained 

To understand the ending of The Call, we need to note that two calls are made to the past:

  1. Seo-yeon talks to her mother, trying to save her life.
  2. Old Young-sook warns her younger self about the cop and Seo-yeon’s mother who’s looking for her husband and daughter (part of this is shown in the film, the remaining as a mid-credit scene).

Each of these calls creates one timeline of their own. In the timeline diagram above, they are marked in green and red, respectively.

Timeline 8A: The Call Ending Graveyard Scene Explained

In this timeline, Seo-yeon’s mother falls over with Young-sook in the past. While the mother survives, Young-sook dies. In the future, Seo-yeon finds that the old Young-sook who was moments away from killing her doesn’t exist and the house has gone back to being deserted. Her consciousness has now moved to Timeline 8A. There are no refrigerators which means Young-sook never began her killing spree. Seo-yeon meets her mother at her dad’s grave, and the two of them walk away happily. But …

Timeline 8B: The Call Ending Chair Scene Explained (Mid Credit Scenes)

In this timeline, thanks to the warning Young-sook has received from her older self, she takes corrective actions to ensure that she survives the fall. While not shown in the movie, Young-sook appears to have recovered and later found and killed Seo-yeon’s mother. This is why the mother disappears as the two of them are walking away. Young-sook has also kidnapped Seo-yeon and retained her as a hostage in the house’s basement. This way, there is nothing more Seo-yeon can do to jeopardize Young-sook’s path of mass murder. The film ends as Seo-yeon’s consciousness jumps into this nightmarish Timeline 8B.

In the ending of The Call, we come to realize that the shaman lady, Young-sook’s stepmother, was right about the deaths that Young-sook will cause. She tries to avert it by killing her. But fate had it designed such that a phone call to the future allows for Young-sook to escape death time and over and unleash her darkness.

What did you think about the film? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

If you liked The Call, check out this list of best Time Travel movies:

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