17 February 2021

K Drama Review: Lovestruck in the City/City Couple's Way of Love (2020)

Ever since watching our first on-air drama, Record of Youth, I sort of made it a practice to watch at least one on-air drama at a time alongside an old drama that we're currently viewing. When Start-Up was wrapping up, I saw an article about Lovestruck in the City/City Couple's Way of Love. I was intrigued because I really liked Kim Ji Won in Descendants of the Sun. I was also curious about Ji Chang Wook, who I know is popular but we have yet to watch any of his shows. Let's see if this goes to the Start-Up column of on-air dramas that we loved or the Record of Youth column, which was just okay for us. 

Plot


Lovestruck in the City, as the literal title suggests, is about the love stories of city couples. The show uses a mockumentary format where the camera follows 3 Seoul couples (both ex and current) to dig deeper into their love stories/heartbreaks. As the show moves along, we learn more about the connections among these couples and how they move on, mature, and for some, break up. 

I won't be splitting this review between what we liked and what we didn't. Our feelings were mostly mixed up all throughout so I'll just review specific aspects. 

Kim Ji Won as Lee Eun-o/Yoon Seon-a

On days when we were not feeling so much love for the show, I would admit that it was Kim Ji Won who pushed us to keep watching. She's gotten even prettier from her DOTS days and she definitely did not disappoint us here. 

In the first few episodes, we come to know Ji Won as Yoon Seon-A, a girl living in Yangyang who was enjoying life by the beach. Ji Won played the carefree character so well. It was refreshing to see someone so beautiful doing all those silly/funny faces without looking awkward. It all came so naturally to her. 

As we move forward with the show, we find out that Seon-a was just a fake character assumed by the real person, Lee Eun-o. She was supposed to reunite with her Yangyang fling, Park Jae Won (Ji Chang Wook), in Seoul but she decided to ghost him instead. At that point, Eun-o's friends were still unaware of her connection to Jae Won. Eun-o was mostly evasive and she tried her best to appear indifferent whenever Jae Won was brought up. But her face and eyes showed that his memory still haunted her. 

Eun-o's reasons for ghosting Jae Won were quite valid. She must have been torn since he knew her as a different person. It didn't help that when she asked him in Yangyang if he would have loved her if she looked and dressed differently, he replied that probably not because that would have been a different person. To make matters worse, Jae Won was the cousin of the boyfriend (Kim Min Suk of DOTS as Choi Kyeong Jun) of Eun-o's best friend (So Ju Yeon as Suh Rin-i). The connections just made things more complicated. 

Although I loved Kim Ji Won and I was generally okay with Eun-o/Seon-a, I just felt that her reaction after Jae Won discovered her real identity were not so realistic. She made a complete 360. From someone who insisted that she didn't really care and she just stole Jae Won's cameras, she was now crying, running after him, and stopping him from leaving. She even braved the cold to look for Jae Won's ring that he threw in a stream. While I was happy that she kept the rings, I was just as confused as Jae Won with regard to Eun-o's real feelings. She was all weepy at the police station when Jae Won first found out but she was on attack mode afterwards. I would have been okay if she were weepy on her own but aggressive in front of Jae Won because that would have been more consistent. 

But I absolutely loved Eun-o's scene where she confessed to her friends about her connection to Jae Won. I felt her sincere apology and gratitude for her friends being there for her without judgments. 

Over all, Eun-o was okay and she benefitted a lot from having Kim Ji Won inject some cuteness into her. 

Ji Chang Wook as Park Jae Won

Yes, I now get the hype over Ji Chang Wook. He is good looking. But I need to watch another one of his shows before I can put him in my Oppa List

Initially, I was scared of Jae Won's character. For someone who only met Seon-a recently, he was being too clingy. I felt that he was rushing things when he asked her to marry him. But seeing that Seon-a was fine with it, I slowly became more comfortable with Jae Won. 

Apart from the scenes where he was being his handsome self, Ji Chang Wook was also (or even more) awesome during his drama scenes. I'm sure ghosting victims were able to relate when he said that the trouble with break ups like his and Seon-a's was not the part about missing her or remembering the things they did together. The worst thing was not knowing what he did wrong so he ended up blaming himself and feeling that he was not enough. 

I felt Jae Won's pain especially when he broke down at the bar when he thought he was dreaming of having Seon-a in front of him. Unlike Eun-o, I felt that Jae Won's reaction upon finding out Seon-a's real identity was more realistic. 

What I could not understand though was how he continued to attack/torment Eun-o even after Kyeong Jun told him that Eun-o ran away because her ex-boyfriend cheated on her, which led her to assume a different identity to run away from her painful past. I felt that he should have been more understanding because he now knew where she was coming from. Instead of making Eun-o feel that she should not have underestimated Jae Won's capability to understand and love her, he just sort of affirmed Seon-a's fear - that Jae Won would no longer love her if she were a different person. 

But around episode 13, Jae Won won me over again when he rescued Eun-o from the bus station. He looked like a super hero coming to her rescue. I liked how he truly loved her - although he resented her, he still looked out for her. 

I also loved Jae Won's minimalist hanok. And he looked absolutely cool while surfing. I love that Ji Chang Wook is now in my radar and I hope to watch more of him really soon. 

Jae Won and Eun-o/Seon-A


I loved Jae Won and Eun-o together. Ji Chang Wook and Kim Ji Won were such naturals. They were credible as lovers in Yangyang. They were oozing with love and hotness. Oppa said that so far, this appears to be the drama with the most number of skinship/kissing scenes that he's watched. 

I also loved how emotionally charged Jae Won and Eun-o's confrontations were. During that scene in the police station, I felt Eun-o's regret and Jae Won's pain and anger. When they faced each other again in Jae Won's house, I felt Eun-o's defensiveness and evasiveness, which Jae Won responded to with anger and aggressiveness. I enjoyed watching all of their other confrontation scenes - in her house over ramyeon and on the street when he hit her car. They were all so intense. 

One of my favorite Jae Won-Eun-o moments was the one inside his car where they were just looking at each other wistfully while waiting for the rain to stop. Although they are always at each other's throats, the way they look at one another says so much about how they truly feel. 

And I loved how that intense argument in episode 14 finally led them to bring out all of those strong feelings they've kept for so long. I loved how they just let go with that kiss and how they totally surrendered to their feelings. That would probably be one of my favorite K drama kisses. 

I liked how Jae Won respected Eun-o's wish to find herself. He was probably heartbroken but at least he understood this time and he gave her the space she needed. And when she was finally ready to commit, I loved how Jae Won accepted Eun-o wholeheartedly - now understanding that everything about her forms part of who Eun-o is, including her past as Seon-a. And it was thrilling to see them together again, ready to give love another try. 

Kyeong Jun and Rin-i

I enjoyed watching Kim Min Suk here. He has grown so much from his "puppy" days in DOTS. I loved Kyeong Jun's cute eyes and smile especially when he's acting coy and cutesy with Rin-i. I just feel bad for Kim Min Suk because his characters always break up with his long-time girlfriends like in Because This is My First Life.  

So Ju Yeon's adorable too. She did really well in making Rin-i cute, funny, and likable. I loved how Rin-i approached an ex-boyfriend who ghosted her and accused him of cheating in front of his present girlfriend as revenge for what he did to her. 

I super loved how simple Rin-i was. She preferred an old refurbished nightstand over a new and expensive one because the older one was painted by Kyeong Jun. I loved how sentimental and non-materialistic she was. And how she preferred simple joys like having various part-time jobs as against a permanent one because she didn't want to be bothered by the commute and office politics. Maybe others will criticize her for that but I get her. Some people are just happier that way. And we have to respect that. She's not starving and mooching off anyone. So what's the big deal, right?

And because they appeared to be the most stable couple among the three, I felt bad when Kyeong Jun and Rin-i broke up. But that was totally necessary. Two people with different goals just can't be together. It's unfortunate that Kyeong Jun does not seem to get and accept the life that Rin-i wants. It was awful that he would push her to achieve his dreams for her, not her own dreams, and that he felt offended whenever she rejected his offer of providing for her. 

Lying to his uncle about Rin-i's job was an absolute dealbreaker. How can Kyeong Jun do that? How can he be embarrassed of what she did when she herself said that she was fine and happy with it. And he even had the gall to say he did not like the way she lived her life, completely forgetting that it was her life they were talking about. So yes, Kyeong Jun deserved that. But if there's going to be another season, I hope to see him learn from this mistake. 

Geon and Seon Yeong


From the few times I saw them, Kang Geon (Ryoo Kyung Soo) and Oh Seon Yeong (Han Ji Eun) seemed like okay people. Unfortunately, the show didn't give me enough material/time to get to know them better. Most of the time, Seong Yeong was just being interviewed so we were not able to fully know her story. 

I loved how three years after their crazy break up, they agreed to part ways formally. I believe everyone needs that coming clean, closure kind of break up. But since this couple was not given as much screen time as the other two, it was quite difficult to understand how Seon Yeong finally got to the point where she wanted to end things formally with Geon and stop being aggressive towards him. 

The Friends


Geon, Rin-i, and Eun-o were childhood friends. And I loved scenes where the three of them were together - both the funny drinking sprees and the serious ones. I liked that lighting a candle thing. I loved the support they gave each other. They were just there, no questions asked. I loved how they still did not judge Eun-o after she confessed about what happened in Yangyang. They just reassured her that she was okay. 

Execution

The mockumentary style was quite confusing and I loved how the show adjusted midway by limiting the documentary part mostly to the start of the episode and the rest was back to the drama style. I felt that was a cleaner way of storytelling that helped me understand the show better. 

I liked how the show talked about sex matter of factly. I'm so used to most dramas avoiding the topic, as if it were not the most natural thing between people in love. 

The gradual reveal of the connections among the characters also worked for me. It made me look forward to the succeeding episodes and it helped me hold my judgment on what went wrong because I didn't really know the full story yet. 

The short episodes were also refreshing. It made things easier for me to digest. 

And all those beach scenes made me miss the sea even more. 

It was nice to see some familiar faces here like High Society's Lee Sang Woo (as Bin, the owner of the surf shop/restaurant in Yangyang where Seon-a stayed), Encounter's Park Jin Joo (as Ra Ra, Bin's wife), and Stove League's Son Jong Hak (as Jae Won's dad). 

Ending

While Oppa was generally unhappy with this show, I was still quite okay with it. I even started loving it around episode 13 or 14 when Jae Won and Eun-o were finally forthright with their feelings. But all those warm and fuzzy feelings I had disappeared after watching the ending. 

During the finale, we barely saw the main leads. The focus now was mostly on Minho as Oh Dong Sik, the police officer who helped catch Seon-a the camera thief, and Hong Su Zu as Hae Na, a rookie actress who's in love with Dong Sik. 

I read before that Lovestruck is supposed to have several seasons featuring different city couples. I understand that the Dong Sik and Hae Na storyline was probably being introduced for season 2. But I felt that they were given way too much airtime. A short intro would have worked but the way it was done felt like they were grabbing the spotlight from the six main lead characters. I would have used that airtime to learn more about Seon Yeong and Geon or to find out if Rin-i and Kyeong Jun's break up was really final. Maybe it would be acceptable if these three couples would still be in the next season. But if they won't, I think they at least deserved a proper goodbye. And if there won't be a season 2 at all or if the next season won't even be about Hae Na and Dong Sik, then the show just made things worse by introducing new storylines/characters that it had no plans of developing. 

It's unfortunate that the show failed to capitalize on the uptrend from the last few episodes. Given how the show ended, I would have very much preferred that everything ended in episode 16. 

Over-all, the show would have been okay had it not ended the way it did. 

Oppa says...3.4. 

Noona says...4 which would have been lower had it not been for Kim Ji Won and Ji Chang Wook.

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