20th Century Girl: the Netflix movie’s ending, explained

20th Century Girl

Na Bo-ra’s life changes by the turn of the 20th century, with love, heartbreak, friendship and finding her own identity.

This article contains spoilers!

A mysterious parcel and a trip down the memory lane

A parcel gets delivered to Bo-ra’s parental home in Cheongju, and her father calls her up. The parcel contains a VHS tape in the non-returned cover of a 19+ movie rented from their shop. It also contains an invite to an art exhibition.

As soon as she hangs up, Bo-ra goes into a flashback of the year 1999 when her best friend Yeon-doo is leaving for New York for a heart surgery. She’s fallen in love with a boy who came to her mother’s shop. Bo-ra sets up email ID’s and since the boy is going to their high school, she promises to find out everything about the guy and update her. The boy’s name, from his uniform, was Baek Hyun-Jin.

Investigative Bo-ra on her mission

Bo-ra is totally absorbed in her research about Hyun-jin. She decides to join the Broadcasting Club on hearing a conversation between Hyun-jin and his best friend Poong Woon-ho. But Hyun-jin withdraws his application to it while she gets in and is paired with Woon-ho.

She takes it in good stride and asks info about Hyun-jin from him. Woon-ho likes her but everything else creates misunderstandings. Bo-ra and Woon-ho eventually realize that they like each other and she asks him out during semester break while continuing her updates to Yeon-doo, while hiding the fact that she too has fallen in love.

An emotionally chaotic reunion

Yeon-doo soon returns after a successful surgery and soon enough the plot twist unfurls. Whom Yeon-doo thought was Hyun-jin was actually Woon-ho. This misunderstanding shakes Bo-ra’s world and she decides to leave him for her friend’s happiness.

Bo-ra ghosts Woon-ho and he’s confused. In Seoul, Hyun-jin reveals to Yeon-doo that they both like each other. On the other hand, Bo-ra pretends to be unaffected when Woon-ho tells her he’s leaving for New Zealand, which hurts him a lot.

Yeon-doo confronts Bo-ra and they have a falling out. She tells her that she should’ve told her what was happening. That she doesn’t need to be ‘protected’ anymore. That night, she logs in Bo-ra’s email and reads the deleted email where Bo-ra has written about liking Woon-ho.

Misunderstanding’s resolve

Woon-ho’s story is revealed, he’s been in love with Bo-ra ever since he came there. He’d been happy with her and was going to tell her he’s moving on their movie date. The day Yeon-doo saw him, he’d been wearing Hyun-jin’s uniform- leading to all later fiasco.

The night before he leaves, Woon-ho goes to Bo-ra’s home but they’re not there. They’re in the hospital because her younger brother had an accident. They don’t get a chance to say goodbye. The next day, Yeon-doo talks to Woon-ho about everything.

Bo-ra is persuaded to go to him and cries as she finds him at the station. They both proclaim their feelings and Woon-ho promises he’ll come back for her.

The century turns and so does Bo-ra’s life

The next few scenes show their long-distance relationship in the 20th century. Emails, letters, the long waits. Until the turn of the century when soon after, his responses come to a halt. Nothing. They planned to go to college in Seoul and Bo-ra got in. But still nothing from his side.

She reels, has anger but gradually Woon-ho becomes a deep ache, not a constant thought. She goes out and has fun. One day when she meets a blind date with the name Woon-ho, everything repressed comes to surface and she calls an unavailable number and lets her emotions out.

The present day

Presently, Bo-ra reaches her home and see’s the parcel. She goes to the exhibition where she finds out a heart-breaking truth- Woon-ho died in 2001. The exhibition was organized by his brother after he finds his tape and tells her that she truly made Woon-ho happy. Bo-ra’s held on anger dissipates.

At home, she watches the VHS tape. It’s shot by Woon-ho during his time and the last clip is on New Year’s 2001, saying that he’s coming to her soon. The movie ends with her crying to the tape.

Talking to Korea Times, director Bang Woo-ri said the film is “cliche-filled romantic comedy but introduced it as a uniquely refreshing story that would provide a glimpse of popular Korean culture, fashion and retro items.”