Show Review: Discovery of Love (2014)

Ooooooh, I love a good second chance romance! And that’s exactly what Discovery of Love (aka Discovery of Romance aka 연애의 발견) is all about. This show follows Han Yeo-reum (played by Jung Yu-mi), her ex-boyfriend Kang Tae-ha (played by Eric Mun), her current boyfriend Nam Ha-jin (played by Sung Joon), and her housemates Yoon Sol (played by Kim Seul-gi) and Do Joon-ho (played by Yoon Hyun-min).

Before the events of the show, Yeo-reum and Tae-ha were in a five year relationship that started perfectly and ended rather anti-climatically. To the point where Tae-ha has trouble even remembering why they broke up. But Yeo-reum remembers. She remembers how Tae-ha never asked her what was wrong, how he never had any interest in spending time with her, how he stopped being the guy she fell in love with. So much so that she stopped telling him about big events simply because he wouldn’t think to ask. They break up at a train station, the same place they fell in love, and go their separate ways.

Five years later, Yeo-reum is dating Ha-jin, a plastic surgeon and seemingly all around perfect boyfriend. Her housemates love him and they have plans to get married. But then a new job comes to Yeo-reum – interior design of a wine bar. The wine bar, as it turns out, is owned by Tae-ha and his business partner. Cue, **drama**.

The show is shot in a way that scenes are interspersed with characters giving interviews and insights to the audience, so you get what they’re thinking even when they’re not saying as much to the other characters. Ha-jin, like Yeo-reum, is keeping secrets in their relationship and the secrets spiral out of control. While Yeo-reum is hiding her past relationship with Tae-ha from Ha-jin, Ha-jin is hiding his childhood friendship with Ahn Ah-rim (played by Yoon Jin-yi), whom he sees as his little sister after growing up together in an orphanage and being separated as children. They haven’t seen each other since, but Ah-rim has kept a large scar on her arm in the hopes that Ha-jin will recognise her scar and find her, which he does. Yet he keeps their burgeoning friendship from Yeo-reum, thus leading her to believe he’s cheating. The mix ups continue with everyone (including their friends) trying to convince the couple that there’s no cheating happening on either side.

My feelings on the characters changed from episode to episode. Tae-ha was not a good boyfriend in the flashbacks, but in the present, I really liked him and how much he grew. I was totally Team Tae-ha by the end. Ha-jin was super frustrating when it came to Yeo-reum, but as an older brother to Ah-rim, I really liked him and I loved how protective he was of his little sister. There’s a good bit of commentary about quitting a relationship before it becomes toxic, too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a cute second chance romance with likeable leads, this is definitely one to check out!

My Introduction to Korean Dramas (한국드라마)

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I don’t know why it took me so long to get into Korean dramas, but I am now deeply enamoured with the genre and have been watching them non-stop throughout the lockdown. Not only is it helping me learn Korean, but they’re just so much fun! The romance is always top notch, the acting is superb, and as a lady who needs bad-ass action scenes in everything, these shows more than provide.

I’ve written up long reviews of Crash Landing on You, Suspicious Partner and When the Camellia Blooms, but all of these deserve their own posts, honestly. And I’m going to try and write up some longer reviews for them when I can.

I’m now almost done with Oh My Venus and My Secret Terrius, which I’m loving. Both have So Ji-sub and he’s definitely one of my new favourite actors. No one enters an action scene like him! (Except maybe Ji Chang-wook, haha.) The action scenes in these shows are just so satisfying to watch.

*All of these are available on (Irish) Netflix, but I think they’re pretty widely available in most countries.*

The K2 (더 케이투) – [action, politics, romance] This one follows a framed soldier-turned-mercenary-turned-bodyguard as he protects a wealthy family with nefarious intentions. The romance and political intrigue in this was great, but the action scenes were by far the best. SUCH GOOD ACTION SCENES.

Suspicious Partner (수상한 파트너) – [romance, comedy, drama, mystery] My review. If you like adorable courtroom dramas with a touch of action, this one’s for you.

Because This is My First Life (이번 생은 처음이라) – [romance, drama] My (short) review. This show is actually one of my top favs despite the short review. It’s really, really good and the relationships are wonderful.

Doctors (닥터스) – [romance, medical drama] This one follows a troubled student who becomes a doctor and the mentor who becomes her co-worker years later. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m really enjoying the main character. She’s such a legend (and throws quite the punch)!

Descendants of the Sun (태양의 후예) – [romance, military drama, action] Two Special Forces soldiers are sent to Uruk and are joined by a group of doctors. The angst in this one is wonderful, the friendships are so great, and the awesome brotps are fierce.

My Secret Terrius (내 뒤에 테리우스) – [romance, action, comedy, drama] I am loving this one. When a young mother to twins is left widowed, her strange neighbour offers to be her babysitter as he tries to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her husband’s death. This one is just pure fluff at times and I am HERE. FOR. IT.

Oh My Venus (오 마이 비너스) – [romance, drama] After passing out on a plane from a toxic combination of diet pills and an untreated thyroid condition, a lawyer joins a trio of fitness enthusiasts who help her get healthy and fit.

Crash Landing on You (사랑의 불시착) – [romance, politics, drama] My review. My first ever Korean drama and still one of my top favs. Just start this one right now!

When the Camellia Blooms (동백꽃 필 무렵) – [romance, mystery, drama] My review. A cosy, smalltown mystery show with the cutest of characters.

Vagabond (배가본드) – [action, politics, touch o’ romance]  This one is super intense. The chase scenes are some of the best ever. The story follows Cha Dal-gun, a former stuntman as he tracks down those responsible for the death of his nephew.

Something in the Rain (밥 잘 사주는 예쁜 누나) – [romance, drama] This is a quiet, lovely show that follows the romance between a woman in her thirties and a man in his twenties, and the judgements they get from their friends and family. I started this one for Son Ye-jin, but Jung Hae-in totally stole the show.

***

If anyone has any Korean drama recommendations, definitely link me! For once I have the time to watch new television, so I may as well watch them all 😉

Mini Review Roundup [30/04]

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Show Rec: Because This Is My First Life:  I totally recommend this! The main guy’s such an interesting character and the main lady is so wonderful. Let me just say, the otps otp hard. I was a very happy fangirl by the end, haha. And all three couples are just the CUTEST. Without question, the romance in this one is top notch. GO WATCH.

Audiobook Rec: The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl: Okay, this is super cute and I love Kate Winslet’s voice, so I definitely recommend the audiobook version of this. It’s super short, under half an hour, and totally worth it. A must read for kids, definitely, and for burgeoning vegetarians and those who hate hunting. Go Dahl!

Book Rec: Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah:  This was a truly strange, deeply melancholy novella. It’s very stream of consciousness style and the main character drifts from day to day, experiencing grim events at every turn. The writing was very good, though.

Book Rec: The Gown of Harmonies by Francesca Forrest: This was such a cool idea! A gown that makes music. LOVE IT.

Currently Reading

Currently Watching

 

What’s everyone else watching/reading in lockdown? Hope you’re all well! (✿◠‿◠)

Show Review: Suspicious Partner (2017)

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Suspicious Partner (수상한 파트너) took me completely by surprise. It’s a courtroom drama with romance and a murder mystery to boot. (It’s on Netflix, if you’re looking!) Honestly, the premise sounded cutesy and kind of bubblegum, but give it one episode and you’ll fall in love. It has swallowed me whole. I watched the first eight episodes in one sitting and the entire show in a weekend.

The show follows Eun Bong-hee, a newbie lawyer, and Noh Ji-wook, a prosecutor known for his dislike of criminals. They meet on a train one day when Bong-hee is groped by a random man – unfortunately, she thinks Ji-wook is the one who groped her and she tells him off, much to his chagrin. They part ways, with Bong-hee going to confront her boyfriend at a hotel with another woman, and Ji-wook on his way to a business meeting. As it happens, they’re going to the same hotel.

Ji-wook is still reeling from walking in on his ex-girlfriend Cha Yoo-jung with his ex-best friend Ji Eun-hyuk. When he overhears how poorly Bong-hee’s boyfriend is treating her, he intervenes and offers her an out. Despite the fact that neither particularly like each other, they spend the night drinking and then part ways. Later the next day, however, they realise that he’s her new mentor. Things really kick off, though, when Bong-hee accidentally witnesses a murder and someone else gets killed. Suddenly, she’s accused of the crime and Ji-wook is the prosecutor on her case. And everything spirals from there.

The murder mystery of the show gets super intense (in a wonderfully well written way). I was not expecting some of those twists! The suspense gets quite stellar and keeps the pace of the show moving along briskly. It doesn’t drag along and the villain is scary, complex and well-explored. A very interesting, well done character. The comedy and the drama mesh really well and the actors have amazing range. I’m talking slapstick comedy to serious, intense, heart-breaking angst. This show has it all.

I loved the core group of lawyers and their family banter. Other than Ji-wook, Bong-hee, and Eun-hyuk, there’s Bang Eun-ho and Byun Young-hee. The group dynamic is so, so cute. And a great counter to the angst of the mystery storyline. They have a chore chart and everything. They bicker like a family and it’s so adorable. Mr Bang really stole the show, though! He was like everyone’s dad and even refers to them all as his four children at one point. Mr Bang is just PRECIOUS. I loved his relationship with Ji-wook and Eun-hyuk especially.

On that note, Eun-hyuk was a treasure. He did something in his past to Ji-wook that has never been forgiven, but he spends every moment of the show trying to prove how sorry he is and how much he wants them to be best friends again. His atonement is A+ and I really adored his characterisation. I liked Yoo-jung less as a character until the middle/end. At the start, it seemed like Eun-hyuk really fought for his atonement, while she just wanted to be forgiven without working for it. By the end, though, I realised that she was awesome, too. This show does that! Every character assumption you had gets turned around.

I thoroughly recommend this to anyone who likes slow-burn romance, murder mysteries, court-room dramas, and comedy mixed with their action and angst. This is a brilliantly done one! (●^o^●)

 

**gifs found online, not mine

Show Review: When the Camellia Blooms (2019)

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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

Show Review: Crash Landing on You (2019)

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Crash Landing on You is a new(ish) Netflix show, and I AM IN LOVE. It’s a spin on the classic star-crossed lovers story and one I totally, totally recommend. It follows Yoon Se-ri (played by Son Ye-jin) and Ri Jeong-hyeok (played by Hyun Bin) after Se-ri, a South Korean woman, ends up in North Korea after a paragliding accident sends her over the border.

Right, so Se-ri is a successful businesswoman from Seoul, the head of an international company, multi-millionaire; and Jeong-hyeok, the man who finds her, is a captain in the army. He stumbles upon her in the woods after she crashes, and tries to bring her in to his superiors, but ends up getting stuck and she escapes. Se-ri manages to elude him for a time, only to find her way to his village where he finds her again. (The jokes they make about destiny later are so true!)

Jeong-hyeok wants to turn her in, but she threatens to report his crew for not doing their jobs properly (one was drinking, one was watching a South Korean television show while on watch, etc.) and he begrudgingly agrees to hide her until she can leave the country. Unfortunately, Se-ri’s caught fairly early on by soldiers, and he’s forced to spin a story that she’s his fiancée to save her life. Jeong-hyeok soon enlists his soldiers – Kim Ju-muk, Pyo Chi-su, Park Kwang-beom and Geum Eun-dong – to help him get Se-ri home, and they quickly grow to adore her.

There are numerous storylines going at once outside of the main romance storyline: Se-ri’s older brothers want their father’s company and hate their sister’s success; Jeong-hyeok’s brother Ri Moo-hyeok died before the series begins and the mystery of what happened slowly unfolds in the background; and Seo Dan, an heiress who’s spent most of her life studying music in Russia, was arranged to be married to Jeong-hyeok, only to return at just the wrong time. There’s also Jeong Man-bok, who has history with Moo-hyeok and knows something about his death; Cho Cheol-gang, who hates Jeong-hyeok and wants to ruin him; and Gu Seung-joon, an exile who knows Se-ri and befriends Seo Dan. (Like I said, there’s a lot of plot.) 

I love the little moments the most: the found family aspect of the soldiers and Se-ri; the flashbacks to the brothers; the bond and solidarity of the village women who befriend Se-ri; and the loyalty of Se-ri’s team manager and insurance agent, who are determined to find her and bring her home. There’s a level of kindness and love to the show that’s in the quiet moments and made me tear up frequently. It offsets the darker, grittier moments. Seriously, I cried so many times watching this show. But there are also great action moments – a car chase, lots of fighting, even more running, etc. It’s impossible not to be on the edge of your seat the entire time.

One of my favourite parts about Se-ri and Jeong-hyeok’s relationship is that they both spend the time actually trying to look out for each other. There’s no selfishness between them, no unnecessary drama or chaos. They fall in love, they know the reality of their circumstances, and they have very understandable reactions. They’re such OTP material, it’s insane. I JUST LOVE THEM. (/◕ヮ◕)/

I want to give a shout out to the fashion, too. Se-ri’s outfits are stunning, and Jeong-hyeok rocks some serious style. Without question, the fashion in the show is lush. The cinematography in general is also on point and there were so many moments where I was so wowed by the views. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

I totally recommend this show to everyone! It’s utterly romantic, but not over the top or cheesy, and the characters are given such great backstories and plots. I’m a few episodes from the end and I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up!