15 June 2022

K Drama Review: Our Blues (2022) 5 || 5

When I finish watching a really great drama, I either delay writing about it so I get to think about it longer or I write about it immediately to spread the word and to help me move on faster (because I would have a hard time watching a new drama if I don't). I'm choosing the second option this time because I loved this show so much, I don't think I can function K drama-wise if I delay this even further. 


Our Blues is simple. It tells the story of neighbors and friends in Jeju who have been with each other for a long time. These people grew up, matured, and have been through difficult times together. What makes this show special is how slice of life it feels. The characters and the things they went/are going through are very relatable. You can actually imagine yourself living with them or you can think of people in your life who are going through the characters' experiences. 

The show cleverly focused on a pair/group of characters for an episode or two. This helped viewers get to know and appreciate the characters better. I'll do my review in this manner to make things more organized and efficient. 

Eun Hee and Han Soo

Eun Hee (Lee Jung Eun of Soundtrack #1, Mr. Sunshine, Parasite, A Taxi Driver, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, Monthly Magazine Home, Law School, Ms. Hammurabi, and Fight for My Way) is a big-time and well-loved fish vendor. Born in poverty, Eun Hee strived to have a better life. While she succeeded in becoming wealthy, she was not as lucky in love. 

And let me just say that although Lee Jung Eun was not advertised as the main lead of this show, I believe her character was the glue that held everyone together. I'll go back to this later. 

Eun Hee had a high school sweetheart, Han Soo (Cha Seung Won). However, the two did not end up together. Han Soo married someone else and now works for a bank outside Jeju. The show starts with Han Soo being transferred to the bank's Jeju branch. And for a while there, Eun Hee thought there was a chance for the two of them to rekindle their relationship. Han Soo lied to Eun Hee, telling the latter that he was about to get a divorce. However, the truth was, Han Soo was almost bankrupt and upon learning that Eun Hee's business was doing well, he thought he could take advantage of her and get her money to help his family. 

I loved all the flashback scenes when Han Soo and Eun Hee were young and in love. And how they tried to replicate those moments by going on a trip together. But of course, everything was tarnished when Han Soo's intentions were revealed. 

I loved Eun Hee's honesty when she told Han Soo that she did have another boyfriend, Ho Sik (Choi Young Joon of Hospital Playlist, Hospital Playlist 2, and Vincenzo), after him. However, she broke up with Ho Sik after seeing how poor his family was. She candidly admitted that she was tired of being poor. I loved this show's attempt at normalizing this kind of mentality and not judging people for knowing what they want and going after it. Yes, it was probably harsh but the painful truth was probably better. And judging by how Eun Hee and Ho Sik remained friends, I think things still worked out for them in the end. 

Eun Hee and Han Soo's defining moment was when Eun Hee finally found out about Han Soo's real intention. I loved the very solid acting we got from both actors. Eun Hee's transition from a girl who was giddy to find out that her first love was separated from his wife then to a hopeful woman when they went on a trip together and how all of that changed (her face, her aura, everything), when she realized that Han Soo lied and he was just after her money. 

I loved that confrontation scene when Eun Hee asked Han Soo what comes next - will they sleep together then will he finally reveal that they went on a trip so he could get her money. Eun Hee's breakdown scene was just so heartbreaking. 

In the end, I loved how Eun Hee chose to be the bigger person. While she probably appreciated her friends' concern when they told her that Han Soo was bankrupt and was probably after her money, she still chastised them for judging and backstabbing Han Soo and for not being a real friend to him. And she proved that she really still cared for Han Soo despite what happened when she still sent him money, but making it clear that she was finally closing that chapter in her life. 

And while there was absolutely no acceptable excuse for what Han Soo did, I loved how he was at least man enough to return the money and not accept it. It was nice to see that although difficult times were probably ahead for him, he will be with his family now. 

Hyun, Young Joo, In Kwon, and Ho Sik

The next set of characters featured were high school sweethearts and neighbors Hyun (Bae Hyun Sung of Hospital Playlist 1 and 2) and Young Joo (Roh Yoon Seo, who was really great considering that this is her first drama) and their respective fathers, In Kwon (Park Ji Hwan of 1987: When the Day Comes) and Ho Sik. 

Ho Sik (ice seller) and In Kwon (sundae seller) used to be very good friends, having grown up together and saved each other from numerous dangerous situations. They even bought apartments in the same building so they could live close to each other. Later on, however, the two had a falling out. Nobody really knew why they drifted apart. It was just apparent that they hated each other. 

And when it became obvious that their kids Hyun and Young Joo loved each other, you knew things were going to be problematic. It was nice to see the two teens in love and lost in their own little world. But of course, they needed to have a conflict - and it came in the form of a baby when they found out Young Joo was pregnant. It was nice to see the two of them try to handle things on their own. There was the abortion dilemma in the beginning. But they resolved to keep the baby, with Hyun deciding to quit school so he can work and support Young Joo who would continue school while carrying their baby. 

But of course, we can't expect their fathers to react the same way. And we got superb acting from the dads here. Yes, they had different ways of expressing their emotions - with In Kwon very violent about it while Ho Sik was quite dramatic. Yet, you can sense that they were both coming from the same place. They were both in pain and frustrated over what happened. Their fight scenes were crazy too. 

And I loved the intense scenes between the dads and their kids too. How everyone was stubborn in the beginning. But when they realized that they were actually hurting each other and people were judging the kids because of what they were doing, I loved how everyone agreed to finally meet halfway. I loved the natural and realistic way their issues were resolved. And how they finally came to accept each other and the situation before them. And it was a bonus to know what caused Ho Sik to hate In Kwon so much. I loved that they were able to clear up something that happened a long time ago. 

I loved how the show tried to inject something socially relevant in each storyline. It made the drama not just entertaining but informative too. For this group, it was obviously teenage pregnancy and abortion. I liked how the show walked us through Hyun and Young Joo's thought process. They initially wanted to get rid of the baby. But then they figured out things were not that easy - like you have doctors not wanting to do it without parental consent or you have judgmental teachers who refused to support you. And when they were thinking of keeping the baby, they now had this fear of losing the rest of their lives because they need to raise another human being. But seeing the baby on the ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat really made them waver. And I loved how in the end, they decided to keep the baby. A decision they came up with on their own, without being influenced by the people around them, even their parents. With their strong support group, I'm sure Hyun, Young Joo, and their baby will be okay. I know they can still achieve their dreams while raising their baby at the same time. 

Dong Seok and Seon Ah

When you look at the show's posters and cast list, you'd think that Dong Seok (Lee Byung Hun of The Man Standing Next, Squid Game, and Mr. Sunshine) and Seon Ah (Shin Min A of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha and Oh My Venus) are the main leads. But that's actually not the case. Yes, they're probably the biggest names among the show's actors, but they were not given any special treatment/storyline or longer airtime because of that. You might even be disappointed if you're watching this show for that reason. Dong Seok and Seon Ah were part of the bigger picture, just like everyone else. And that's another reason why this show's amazing. 

After seeing Lee Byung Hun in super serious roles, it was really refreshing to see him all loose and funny (and angry!) especially when he dances while selling his stuff. After seeing him here, I seriously wonder if there's anything he can't do. 

On the other hand, it was also nice to see Shin Min A do something more serious and less cutesy. She really carried out the depression stuff so well. You felt it in her eyes and her body language. And you can truly feel her pain whenever she had those meltdown moments when she felt the full impact of her depression like when she lost custody of her son (Kim Ha Eon). 

Yes, Dong Seok and Seon Ah's story was heavier than the other storylines. But I liked how the drama eased us into their story. We're first introduced to them in a flashback from 7 years ago when they went to the beach, Dong Seok kissed Seon Ah, and the latter left feeling offended. Then we're taken back to their high school days when they were good friends who supported each other despite the age difference. But miscommunication led them to drift apart. I like how both flashbacks tell us that these two are soulmates but they always fall apart due to misunderstandings. Then tragic stuff happen after they part ways. 

Knowing how crazy their past was, the present was obviously uncertain. Especially since Seon Ah has depression, she was married but now divorced, and she had a kid. Naturally, Dong Seok didn't want to have anything to do with her, seeing how unpredictable and unstable she was (especially after she jumped into the sea, which everyone assumed was suicidal). But like the caring and supportive oppa that the was to Seon Ah many years ago, he went all in in helping her when he learned that she had depression. 

When Dong Seok confessed for the nth time while telling Seon Ah that he respected that her kid was her priority and when he gave her tips on how to cope and he promised that he would still be there for her, I honestly thought that was the end for them. Like the show was giving us a platonic ending. But I'm glad their relationship progressed eventually. I loved how Dong Seok's patience paid off. 

I liked the show's depiction of depression and mental health issues. I don't know much about it. But I liked how descriptive, vivid, and very visual it was - losing track of time and how all the lights around you are turned off and how bleak life feels in general. And how people should stop telling depressed persons to quit being said because depression is not something they can control. And how it breaks your relationships - how Seon Ah's husband divorced her and her son was taken away from her. 

It was heartbreaking to see Seon Ah's son acknowledge that mom was sick and how they can't play together because of that. And how despite being young, he understood how mom felt whenever she was depressed - with darkness surrounding her. And how he sweetly offered to give her his horse stuffed toy to comfort her. The custody issue was a very difficult one knowing that a child's safety and welfare is at stake. But of course, I understood Seon Ah when she said that she needed her son to live. 

Jeong Joon and Young Ok

I was indifferent towards Kim Woo Bin (Jeong Joon) in the past. Yes, he was in the 2021 Oppa Calendar I bought. But apart from knowing him as Shin Min A's boyfriend, I knew nothing about him. But after watching him here, I think I'm now a fan. He's definitely more telegenic than photogenic. 

I didn't recognize Han Ji Min (Young Ok). She looked different from when I saw her in One Spring Night. And although she had shorter screen time, I believe she looked much better and she was able to showcase her range more in this show. She carried out the happy-go-lucky (but deep inside troubled) girl role really well. 

Based on the rumors surrounding Young Ok, I was thinking that her relationship with Jeong Joon would be a very tough one. But Jeong Joon trusted her despite all the gossips. And how he boldly announced that he could take anything for her after she promised that she had no other guy and she didn't have a kid. I super loved his faith in her. 

And let me just say that I hated Young Ok's fellow haenyeos for ostracizing her. Yes, they hated her for being greedy because that could kill her and make them unsafe. But weren't they gossiping about her even before that? Were they treating her differently just because she's from the mainland and she didn't mingle with them that much? I loved how Ms. Hyeon (Go Doo Shim of Exit, My Mister, High Society, You are the Best, and The Snow Queen) advocated for her. 

I loved how persons with disabilities were prominently featured in the show. There's Byul (Lee So Byul), the deaf coffee seller in the market. She was not a mere token character because she actually had a job, a life, a love story, and she even used sign language to communicate with the others. Yey for inclusivity because Byul was really treated as one of them. 

And of course there's Young Hui (Jung Eun Hye who was a very great actress, along with the other PWD actors), Young Ok's twin sister who has Down Syndrome. I loved the show's depiction of this story line because it didn't try to gloss over or sugarcoat it. Like people's initial reaction when they see someone like Young Hui. People would whisper, feel awkward, and would not know how to react, like Jeong Joon. But I loved how he owned up to his shortcomings. How he was honest that it was his first time to see someone like Young Hui and he naturally didn't know what to do. But he promised to do better (with a vow to stay with Young Ok forever even if they have to take care of Young Hui for the rest of their lives). And based on what I saw, I think he's on the right track. 

And the real talk about the burden that caretakers of persons with disabilities feel. That desire to run away like how Young Ok thought of leaving her sister in the subway. And how even people who profess their love for you would end up finding it too cumbersome to deal with your family who have disabilities. How it's a lifetime responsibility. And how it will really take its toll on the caregiver. Like how Young Ok broke down lamenting that her situation was so unfair. And Jeong Joon couldn't do anything but hug her while shedding tears as well. How he probably wanted to do more for her but he just can't. Because her concerns were personal and valid. But I really appreciated his willingness to share her burden to prove how much he loved her. Young Ok's breakdown scene was probably one of the best dramatic scenes in the show. 

But what made this storyline really shine was the show's depiction of the struggles of persons with disabilities. Yes, it must be tough for their caregivers. But it must be a million times tougher for them. The loneliness they feel. How no one wants to believe them (like Young Ok refusing to believe that Young Hui can draw). How people laugh at them and mock them as if they don't feel anything. How they try so hard to avoid inconveniencing other people. That scene where Young Hui was shown to be cognizant of how tough things were for Young Ok was really heartbreaking.  

Another Han Ji Min highlight was Young Ok's breakdown scene when Jeong Joon showed her Young Hui's drawings. I could feel her guilt for all the times she told everyone that her sister can't draw. And how she probably realized that she did not really know her sister. 

I loved how Jeong Joon's parents reacted to Young Ok. True to their reserved characters, they seemed to be ignoring her. But I loved that great revelation in the end that they were quiet because they actually felt sorry for her and for the things she had to go through at a young age. And how they actually loved and welcomed her. 

Eun Hee and Mi Ran

Eun Hee makes a comeback during the second half of the show. This time with her high school best friend, Mi Ran (Uhm Jung Hwa). 

If you thought Eun Hee had a sad life with how she has to keep supporting her family, her ex trying to dupe her, etc., you'd feel even worse after you find out how her supposed best friend has been treating her. 

Eun Hee and Mi Ran were close as kids when rich girl Mi Ran took poor Eun Hee under her wings. She gave her rides, food, etc. But she had her mean side too. She once called Eun Hee a moocher when the latter innocently asked why her favorite ingredient was not on the dish Mi Ran shared with her. But being mean as kids can be quite acceptable. 

However, years later, with Mi Ran running a successful massage clinic and Eun Hee still working like a horse in Jeju, I don't think being mean is still excusable. Yes, even if Mi Ran was drunk, it was totally not acceptable for her to make Eun Hee travel from Jeju to Seoul because she thought Mi Ran was going to kill herself after a divorce. When in fact, Mi Ran was just testing her to show her friends that Eun Hee was her doormat and she was at her beck and call. That prank was just too harsh and mean. 

When their feelings were out in the open, I was honestly okay with Eun Hee breaking free from her toxic friendship with Mi Ran. I don't think we should ever feel obligated to be friends with others just because we're indebted to them. I just hoped that Eun Hee immediately explained to Mi Ran why she felt that way. So that at least Mi Ran knew where she was coming from. 

I loved their highly-charged and emotional confrontation scenes. They didn't need to pull each other's hair or break things or throw tantrums. They just talked and told each other how they felt. And even if they were yelling at each other, you can still feel that they truly cared for each other. Which of course made their "break-up" even more painful. 

And I loved the way they made up. With Eun Hee unloading her feelings as Mi Ran was giving her TLC through a massage. Despite Mi Ran's shortcomings, she was right when she said that if Eun Hee were really a loyal friend, she should have confronted Mi Ran right away. But I guess people are different. Some people, like Eun Hee, are non-confrontational and would prefer to keep the status quo. In the end, I'm just glad that all's well with them. 

I liked how as an aside to this story, battered husbands were talked about through Myung Bo (Kim Kwang Kyu of Angry Mom, Wonderful Days, Reply 1994, and You are the Best), whose wife was super jealous of Mi Ran. It's nice that it was put out there for awareness. And as a reminder that due process should be given and victims should be heard, regardless of gender. 

Ms. Hyeon and Eun Gi

The penultimate storyline focused on Ms. Hyeon, a market vendor and haenyeo, and her 6-year old granddaughter, Eun Gi (Ki So Yu of Hospital Playlist 2). Eun Gi had to stay with her grandma because her mom (Min Ji Ah of Hospital Playlist 2) had to take care of her dad Man Su (Kim Jung Hwan of High Society) who was unconscious in a hospital after he was involved in a vehicular accident.

Yes, it was easy to hate on bratty Eun Gi. But anyone who's raised a kid would know that kids tend to be like that a lot especially when they're brought out of their comfort zones. Without their go-to stuff (favorite food, toys, parents, etc.), kids can be expected to act up. It didn't help that people were gossiping about Eun Gi being abandoned by her mom. 

Although we can't entirely blame Ms. Hyeon because she's old and she was kept in the dark and she probably does not know how to deal with young kids anymore, I felt that she was quite harsh when she told Eun Gi that her parents won't come back if she's a bad girl. Or that her dad would die and turn into soil and not a star. I can't imagine the guilt feelings Eun Gi would have if her dad really died. She'd think it was because she was disobedient. But having said that, I loved how Ms. Hyeon tried really hard to appease Eun Gi. 

When Ms. Hyeon found out about Man Su's condition, I loved how she was brutally frank with her daughter-in-law, telling her to follow the doctor's orders and to just let him die if there was no hope left. Those must have been very difficult words to say as a mother. But sometimes, someone needs to say the painful stuff. 

And while Ms. Hyeon was generally harsh with Eun Gi, I loved how much effort she exerted to conjure that 100 moons scene for her. Yes, she was losing hope. And she probably felt that her granddaughter was just an added burden to her. But her love for her granddaughter prevailed. And she knew she had to give her something to hold on to, no matter how little. And how despite the horrible weather, everyone rallied behind Ms. Hyeon, with the help of Eun Hee and friends, to make that possible. And it was definitely a bonus that Man Su survived. 

Dong Seok and Ms. Kang

And of course, the show had to save the best storyline for last, featuring Dong Seok and his mom, Ms. Kang (Kim Hye Ja). I loved how throughout the show, Ms. Kang was painted as someone quiet and unimportant. But she actually ended up with the heaviest and probably the most significant story. 

Dong Seok hated his mom because after his sister died, she lived with another man, his friends' father. She told him not to call her mom anymore. She didn't help him even if she saw him beaten up by his stepbrothers day in and day out. She was cold. Hence, he refused to budge even if his friends told him that his mom was terminally ill with stomach cancer (I loved how everyone tried to reach out to him to convince him). Yes, he was proud but we have to admit that what mom did was also traumatizing. 

In the end, it was Seon Ah who convinced him to give his mom a chance. I loved how Seon Ah was not preachy about it. She even told him the decision was his. And she was candid enough to tell him that he would probably not regret not forgiving mom but he will probably be haunted by all his unanswered questions. Which means he would still not be free even after mom dies. 

And let me just say that I loved Ms. Kang and Ms. Hyeon's little storyline. They were neighbors who relied on each other because they had no family to depend on. They worked together. Did stuff together. And checked on each other. That's why it was so painful to see their last goodbye scene. How Ms. Kang gave her money to Ms. Hyeon for Man Su, knowing that the latter needed it more than her own son. 

Although Ms. Kang never apologized for how she neglected Dong Seok, I believe she was able to redeem herself when she stood up for him in front of her stepson who called Dong Seok a thief. That was really her shining moment. It was nice to see her fierce and angry and protective of her son. That was probably the best closure Dong Seok could ask for. Mom, after all, felt sorry for him but she couldn't do anything about it. Because as she said, she thought that living with another man was the only way for her to feed her son three times a day and to send him to school. Yes, it does not correct the wrong stuff she did in the past, but it was a fitting way to make amends for them. 

And everything that happened thereafter was just special. Dong Seok finding out about mom's difficult childhood. Mom asking Dong Seok to write words for her on the ferry window. Dong Seok asking mom if she would still choose him as her son if she were reincarnated. Their difficult trip to Mt. Halla, which mom said was her most favorite moment in her entire life. Ah, the lengths Dong Seok went to to make mom's final days happy. And I loved that she still had the chance to meet Seon Ah. 

And what a peaceful way for mom to die. She cooked her son's favorite dish one last time, fed and played with her dogs and cat, and she went back to sleep. Dong Seok was right. While his mom never said she loved him or that she was sorry, she was probably not just verbal. Her love language was through service - cooking her son's favorite dish. And it was a very bittersweet moment to see Dong Seok lying down beside dead mom and hugging her. And how he said that after all these years, he didn't actually resent her. His coldness was actually a cry for help and a call for attention. 

And I loved how this show did not exploit Ms. Kang's death for drama. It was enough to show glimpses of how everyone reacted to her death. Then the next scene was set a month later. 

Execution and Ending

I can't say anything bad about this show. The story was great. The actors were all amazing. I loved the laidback and simple island/countryside feels it gave me. I loved the organized and efficient storytelling, which was a potential problem given the number of characters and stories that had to be woven together. And the socially relevant stuff they managed to inject into each storyline. Our Blues is definitely a drama done right - boldly touching on heavy issues but not in a heavy-handed or self-righteous manner. It was sensitive and empathetic. It was never preachy. And as I mentioned earlier, it's so slice of life that it does not fear showing the ugly truths about life. 

My favorite would probably be Eun Hee who kept all of them together - she found out about Young Joo's pregnancy, Ms. Kang's illness, and she helped find boats for Ms. Hyeon. She was probably the most constant character in everyone's lives. 

And of course, I loved the ending. How the show brought everyone back (except Ms. Kang, of course) in the guise of a sportsfest. Seeing everyone again was a closure I needed. And I loved that montage of what each pair or group went through in the past as proof of how much they've overcome to be where they are. 

Oppa says...5.

Noona says...5.