When Camellia Blooms (2019)


Drama: When the Camellia Blooms (동백꽃 필 무렵)
Network: KBS2
Episodes: 40
Release Date: September 18 – November 21, 2019
Runtime: Weds. & Thurs. 22:00
Dong-Baek is a single mother who moved to a small town of Ongsan 8 years ago. She has 1 child and she runs the neighborhood bar called Camellia. The neighbors don’t like her except for one mother, who became her best friend. One day, her best friend’s son, Yong Sik moves back to Ongsan and immediately falls in love with Dong Baek. Yong Sik finds out that there was a series of murders a few years ago in Ongsan and DB seems to be the new target.
Main Cast
Gong Hyo Jin – Dong Baek
Kang Ha-neul – Hwang Yongsik
Kim Ji Suk – Kang Jong Ryeol
I couldn’t decide what this drama was — at times it was a sweet noona romance, other times it became a really heavy drama about mothers and the strained relationships between their children, and another side where there’s a chilling murderer on the loose. I think trying to mix these 3 plots somehow brought down the drama since I kept switching from one emotion to another.
Sweet noona romance
To be honest, at first i didn’t like Yongsik, not because he was a country bumpkin, but i thought he was too naive for Dong Baek, and sometimes too possessive. I didn’t like how he gets whenever he sees Jong Ryeol. I think Jong Ryeol has every right to get to know his son and Yong Shik has no right to tell him to leave and never come back. But a few episodes later, i decided that Yong shik is a nice guy and maybe it’s DB who doesn’t deserve him. Her character is so inconsistent i dont know sometimes what Yongsik saw in her. She just kept crying and crying and crying. Then she will suddenly become brave. it’s the first time I didn’t like the main lead at all. She has a lot of hurt, i know, from being abandoned by her mother and feeling unloved by Jong Ryeol, to raising her kid alone (which is another story) so she is mostly shy and self conscious and intimidated. I like the overall growth in her character by the end of the show, but I still didn’t like her that much.
I think the drama could have handled the Jong Ryeol/Dong Baek/Pilgu storyline a little bit better. I loved the writing and all the scenes and lines between DB and JR, DB and Pilgu, esp. JR and Pilgu. First of all, DB should not have deprived Pilgu from knowing his own father and for not telling JR about his son. She just decided to leave him when she was pregnant and raised her on his own. and Now that JR found out and is trying to help, she won’t even accept the help! I thought she was such a selfish girl. I know how much sacrifice she went through but she did it all on her own. She kept saying Pilgu is her child and not JR but it takes two to tango. I think JR is a nice guy (took some time for him to grow up) but he was willing to face his responsibilities once he is there. I didn’t like that in the end, JR just became a “bank account” to DB and Pilgu and he never got the chance to have a real father-son relationship with Pilgu. On the other hand, I understand how much Pilgu hated JR but DB should have told him the truth — that JR didn’t know about him that’s why he was never there. I think Pilgu would have somehow softened his heart against JR had he known that.
Heavy drama about mother-daughter relationships
This is the reason why it took me almost 3 weeks to finish the drama. Not only were the episodes dragging and boring, the drama was so heavy it was hard to watch 2 episodes each night. The recurring theme here was motherhood and the plight of single mothers- as shown with DB-Pilgu, Yong Sik and his mom, Jessica and her mom, DB and her mom, DB-YS’s mom, Lawyer and mom in law. Except for Pilgu and Yong shik, the daughters are messed up. I can’t say that the mothers are successful given that their daughters/sons have a lot of emotional baggage. I love that this drama showed different types of relationships — most of them felt real and complex that even though it’s so hard to watch them fight all the time, it was so compelling that i just kept watching and hoping they all have their happy endings.  I love to hate all the characters — they are all so flawed but that’s also what makes them really good characters. Especially the relationship between DB and her mom. Wow. I can’t even like DB’s mom at all and that episode 19 where we see everything that happened in the past to her almost dying – i honestly didn’t care about the episode at all. I still didn’t like her (and kudos to the actress who played her so well).
Murder storyline
At first it was intriguing. Episode 1 opens up with finding a body in a lake and it’s obviously not DB. Early on we somehow knew it was Hyang Mi, but to get to how Hyang Mi was killed, who killed her, who is Joker just took soooo long it was anti-climactic. imagine, the cops finally finding out Hyang Mi’s body only in episode 16. Seriously. The pacing was so excruciatingly slow because they were also focusing on the other storylines that someone in episode 17 i didn’t care anymore who was Joker and if they never found Hyang Mi. Likewise, the reveal of who Joker is and his motive to do so was also LAME. We already know who it was half way into the drama but they just had to put a small ineffective twist in episode 18. Speaking of Hyang Mi, i can’t say i really liked her. She was too weird — blackmailing the people around her that even if i found out the story behind her life (her brother, her past, etc) still did not make me like her a little bit. But she didn’t deserve to die horribly.
Other characters
Gyu Tae and the lawyer wife were annoying. Gyu Tae was sleazy and yucky. Lawyer wife just assumed too much without even evidence or thinking. But they deserve each other and was actually glad they got back together.
I actually thought JR and Jessica will really get divorced because I never felt like they really loved each other at all but surprisingly they were still together at the end. I like that they both grew up and they’re growing together and their relationship is getting better. I didn’t like Jessica but I think she will be a great mom once she accepts herself completely.
Given the chance, i wouldn’t want to live in Ongsan. The neighbors are nosy and judgemental. We find out in the latter episodes that some people knew something about the murder 5 years ago but no one stepped forward and they all kept quiet because they were busy covering their own butts. They continued to bully DB. They didn’t care at all when Hyang Mi disappeared. They only became “united” and “friendlier” in the end when DB’s mom almost died, and when they found Joker and the last episode where DB was finally included as part of the community.
Overall, this was an okay drama for me, good to watch once because of the brilliant acting by the entire cast, the beautiful shots and the lovely soundtrack and the fantastic writing. But this is too heavy and dragging for a repeat.
Rating: 7 / 10

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