Can a person be a miracle for another?
If you’re in the mood for one of the cutest, most feel-good romances ever, allow me to direct you to When the Camellia Blooms (on Netflix!). The story follows Oh Dong-baek (played by Gong Hyo-jin) and Hwang Yong-sik (played by Kang Ha-neul) in the small town of Ongsan that has a slight problem in the form of the ‘Joker’, a killer who leaves behind messages on his victims that reads: Don’t be a joke. (Okay, so when you summarise it like that it doesn’t sound like a cutesy show, but the love story really, really is. And the mystery takes a back seat to the lurrrrrrrrve, so perhaps class it as a cosy mystery-romance show?)
Dong-baek is a single mother and moves to Ongsan to raise her son Pil-gu and run her bar, which she names Camellia. She’s not the most popular person in town, often called ‘unlucky’ by the other townsfolk, and she doesn’t have many friends apart from Hyang-mi, a mysterious waitress that she hires who also doesn’t have a support system. They get along well and the business does okay, largely kept afloat by all the men in town who like drinking and think Dong-baek is pretty.
Yong-sik is a life-long do-gooder who becomes a police officer. He gets demoted after slapping a man on television after the man proudly confesses to beating and killing his wife. Yong-sik has no patience for bad people! He’s a brash, energetic, optimistic, innately kind man and this spills into every aspect of his life. He’s basically a PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL and it’s SO ENDEARING. When he meets Dong-baek, he instantly falls in love and is entirely open and unapologetic about it.
Unfortunately, Dong-baek is traumatised from being left on the side of the road by her mother as a child and has severe trust issues. She’s basically a push over with no sense of self, no confidence, no ability to yell at the people who are rude to her. Watching her grow as a character throughout the show is really rewarding and, above all else, believable. It does take time, but she really does shine on her own by the end of the show. I liked how her characterisation happened. It felt natural. People don’t change over night, after all, and a person that’s been scorned and abandoned all their life isn’t just going to miraculously believe they’re loveable. So watching Yong-sik pour his heart and soul into her every episode is just lovely to watch. THEY ARE PERFECT OTP MATERIAL I SWEAR. HEART EYES.
I don’t think there’s a single character I can think of who tries as hard as Yong-sik to make Dong-baek believe he loves her and isn’t going to leave her. And he’s never bitter about it. He recognises every attempt of hers to cut herself off from happiness and is always understanding and offers her a second chance, telling her he loves her regardless. Slowly but surely, Dong-baek grows in confidence and begins standing her ground with the people in her life and eventually realises that she deserves to love and be loved. It’s such a great character arc, honestly.
The background mystery is really intriguing, with little snippets coming into every episode between the normal day-to-day lives of the characters, and ramps up the drama throughout the course of the series. You definitely won’t see the reveal coming!
There’s also the storyline that revolves around Kang Jong-ryul, Dong-baek’s famous, very rich ex. He lives a lavish lifestyle with a social media influencer wife Park Sang-mi/’Jessica’. But while they appear happy to the public, the reality is much, much different. They aren’t even friends and Jong-ryul is left taking care of his daughter by himself often. Jessica doesn’t seem to like Jong-ryul at all and they spend most of their time sniping at each other. When he learns that he has a son he’s never met or even knew existed, he begins popping up in Ongsan to try and establish a bond with Pil-gu. I actually ended up feeling really bad for Jong-ryul. He wasn’t a good boyfriend to Dong-baek by any means, but he seems like a very unhappy guy who badly wants to be a good father and just keeps messing up. There’s a lot of moments where he was just the most frustrating person ever, but I ended up rooting for him to get a happy ending, too.
Overall, if you’re looking for a romance to watch with a sprinkle of drama and mystery, definitely check out this one! You won’t regret it and the ending is very satisfying.
**gifs found online, not mine