When Camellia Blooms (2019)

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Profile
Drama: When the Camellia Blooms (동백꽃 필 무렵)
Network: KBS2
Episodes: 40
Release Date: September 18 – November 21, 2019
Runtime: Weds. & Thurs. 22:00
Plot
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
Review
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.
Ongsan
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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20th Century Boy & Girl (2017)

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Profile
Drama: 20th Century Boy and Girl (20세기 소년소녀)
Network: MBC
Episodes: 32
Release Date: October 9 – November 28, 2017
Runtime: Mondays & Tuesdays 22:00 (35 minutes each / 2 episodes per day)

Cast:
Han Ye Seul – Sa Jin Jin
Kim Ji Suk – Gong Ji Won
Ryu Hyun Kyung – Han A Reum
Lee Sang-hee as Jang Young-shim
Lee Sang-woo as Anthony / Lee Chul-min
Ahn Se-ha as Jung Woo-sung
Oh Sang-jin as Kang Kyung-suk

Plot: The heartwarming romantic comedy follows the story of friendship and love lives of three single ladies in their 30s who have never had real relationships.

Review:
Fresh from watching Another Miss Oh, I was kind of disappointed that Kim Ji Suk didn’t get the passionate romance for his character by the end of the show so when I saw this drama with Kim Ji Suk and Han Ye Seul as the leads, I immediately picked this up and boy am I glad I did!

The plot is very simple and nothing too glamorous or exciting that normally makes a Korean drama a big hit, but I loved how down to earth and real the friendships and family relationships were in this drama.

First off is the romance. I don’t think Sa Jin Jin’s “love triangle” with the 2 brothers were really that scandalous. Because one, they’re not blood brothers, two, it’s so obvious that Sa Jin Jin and Anthony didn’t have romantic feelings for each other. So in a way, the “love triangle” didn’t really go well. However, what went well and sold the story for me was seeing Sa Jin Jin meeting her long time crush and actually even get to be pretend couple for a few episodes! how cool is that? i’m sure every single kpop fan girl have imagined themselves in Sa Jin Jin’s shoes at one time or another. and for her dream to be realized was just a great thing to happen for her.

as for Ji won, it’s no contest at all. they are each other’s first loves and have known each other for a long time. I’m guessing the only reason they broke up was because of the dad finding out. this is something that surprised me. coz I thought he was always the nice dad and he seemed happy to see Ji won everyday. so i’m guessing, it’s either, he was still reeling when one of her daughters ran away to be with a guy that he is scared to losing her other daughter too at a young age. or as I interpreted his gestures in the current time when the news broke out that they were dating, I think he was just a bit jealous that dad is no longer #1 in his daughter’s heart. haha. it’s so sweet. I love the slow build up of their romance. they saw each other and they knew they are still attracted to each other. but instead of jumping right into a relationship, the show focused first on catching up on being friends until they couldn’t deny their feelings anymore. I actually screamed when Ji won presented Jin Jin with a proposal cake. didn’t expect it at all. he may not have gone down on one knee with a ring but it felt just as romantic and sincere.

and the end where Jin Jin proposed to him at a café. wow again, so random, in such a public place, with no fanfare yet the scene was so powerful I had tears in my eyes.

the next best thing about the show is the beautiful and long time friendship between the 3 girls and Ji won. their acting seemed so real and relatable – the things they talk about, having their special place, bonding and just having fun with each other’s company. I also liked the different perspectives they had on love, especially 3 of them being single women in their 30s. I especially liked A Reum. she is like such a cool lady and I guess most guys are either intimidated by her or shocked by her. I love that she ended up with Jung woo Sung – also another boy from their childhood. they seemed like two different individuals yet when put together ..just seemed so right. they were friends first and that slowly changed into liking and loving each other. I loved how they also changed not to force themselves to like each other but actually change because they want to support and be with each other. I was heartbroken and almost hated A reum when she broke up with the sweet Woo Sung but I am so happy that it was just a phase.. a wake up call for both of them to sort out their feelings. I know they were not each other’s ideal partner but they still got lucky to have each other.

I feel bad for Young shim, she was the studious girl among them yet she was the one who seemed sad (because of the family situation), she was the lawyer but she didn’t have a job (hello, what has she been doing for the past 8+ years??) and didn’t have money. she did end up with a cute lawyer guy, though I have to admit he is sooo weird. him drinking sips of soju and getting drunk and the 4 bongos’ reactions were just hilarious!!! their romance was a bit boring and less romantic compared to the two, but it was equally beautiful – to find someone just like you, who experienced the same things and who shares the same values as you. btw, young shim’s dad was so bad I can’t believe the mom and Young shim just took it all in stride.

As for Anthony, to be honest I don’t know if it’s the acting but most of the time I didn’t know what he was thinking or feeling. he had the same expressions all through out the show. but somehow I could understand his dilemma. he has been cruising for the past 20 years banking on his past boyband life that he has really made any effort to do more and at the same time, he is also being pulled down as being an idol. and I think it’s mostly his fault for not doing better that he should have been. I applaud the manager for staying with him even though he probably was so frustrating to handle. I think what he felt for Sa Jin Jin was more gratitude, that 20 years after being an idol, there were still people who are his real fans, and at the same time, I felt he was also ashamed or embarrassed that so many fans were counting on him and he hasn’t really lived up to the expectations. being with Sa Jin Jin on We Got Married was a big turning point in his life, because it made him really think of his career and decide what he wants to do. I love the cameo of Kim So Yeon, his real wife, as the director of his new movie. there have been rumors that the director was really mean and a perfectionist and when she did it to Anthony, I was wondering if she purposely did that to force Anthony to really act or she is just like that. either way, what’s was more important were 1) Anthony finally acted as if it’s his last project and he finally becomes a top star, and 2) turns out the director was actually the club president of the boyband that Anthony was in and she has been a long time fan. I guess the dream of meeting and marrying your kpop idol/crush came true for the director!!

Overall, this was the perfect show to watch while the weather is rainy and cool. it was very heartwarming like drinking hot chocolate while lying in bed on a rainy day.

oh and trivia – Kim Ji Suk, Han Ye Seul’s mom and the Bongo driver were all part of the cast of Another Oh Hae Young! I didn’t expect that at all!

and it was nice to see Kim Jung Hwa again after so many years. she was one of my fave actresses in the early 2000s esp her Taste Sweet Love drama.

I wished the epilogue showed Jiwon and Jinjin getting married with AReum and Youngshim as bridesmaid but the ending where the 4 met up, and Jiwon is the yellow bongo driver was just as epic!