14 July 2022

K Drama Review: More than Friends (2020) 4.5 || 4.3

Oppa is now in a high school romance K drama phase. These days, he's into stories of high school kids in love. And we came across this drama on K Plus. Oppa suggested it because he thought the show would focus on the high school love angle part and the characters would grow old in later episodes. Although Oppa thought wrong, I still liked this drama because it has the super good looking Ong Seong Wu, whom I loved in At Eighteen

Admittedly, there were moments when I felt that this drama was too cliche, repetitive, or simple. But I ended up enjoying it because it was rich with all the feels you look for in a K drama. 


More than Friends tells the story of three sets of high school friends who grew up and matured together.  The show is set around 13 years into their friendship. Despite the difficulties life threw their way, these three couples finally end up together when the timing was finally right for all of them. Focus is of course on the main leads, photographer Lee Soo (Ong Seong Wu) and  writer/calligrapher Kyung Woo Yeon (Shin Ye Eun). But ample spotlight is also given on the other two couples - long-time couple office worker Kim Young Hee (Ahn Eun Jin of Hospital Playlist and Hospital Playlist 2) and teacher Shin Hyun Jae (Choi Chan Ho) and new and crazy in love couple prosecutor Han Jin Joo (Baek Soo Min) and restaurateur Jin Sang Hyuk (Pyo Ji Hoon or PO of Hotel Del Luna and Encounter). The drama takes us through how our couples go through each obstacle that tries to keep them apart and how they fight for their own love stories against all odds. 

Soo and Woo Yeon

I'm loving the mature and better looking version of Ong Seong Wu that this show gave me. Although I still prefer his unassuming character in At Eighteen, I admit that there's also a certain charm in Soo's overconfidence. I love his smug look and the cute little things he did for Woo Yeon. And I can't say anything bad about his acting. Although it might be difficult to judge because how hard can it be to act like a good looking guy when you're really handsome to begin with? 

And we fell in love with Shin Ye Eun right away. She played the part of cute, fun, and bubbly Woo Yeon really well. I loved how positive she was in the beginning despite her struggles. I just found it ironic that she became less adorable when she got together with Soo (well, more like during their silly break up). 

As a couple, however, I admit that I was not a huge fan of Soo and Woo Yeon. They were definitely not my favorite couple in this show. 

I hated how Soo was giving mixed signals to Woo Yeon. Yeah, he was probably just clueless. But he should have at least noticed that he no longer had a positive impact on Woo Yeon. He was hurting her and he was harsh to her. He kept on rejecting her yet he did not want to let her go and move on because he kept on showing up. And he kept on humiliating her in front of the guy who liked her, CEO On Joon Soo (Kim Dong Jun). At times, he was borderline manipulative already especially when he kept on making Woo Yeon choose between him and Mr. On. Despite his traumatic past, it was just really difficult for me to root for Soo when he was so selfish, he rejected help, love, and kindness from others, and he refused to be grateful for the good things that people did to and for him. (But I loved how his character developed and grew!). 

So although it was easy to waver and pity Soo with his puppy dog eyes whenever he regretted missing his chance with Woo Yeon, I was happy that he went through those bad feelings. I wanted him to see Woo Yeon happy with someone else so he'll hopefully appreciate her more when his turn comes. I was even happy with that missed opportunity they had when they were supposed to meet at Namsan Tower. I felt that Woo Yeon needed more time apart from Soo so she can see that other people are capable of loving her too and she is worthy of that love. So that if in the end she still chooses Soo, she can make an informed choice. 

And I liked that much needed meltdown by Woo Yeon when she accused Soo of not really liking her and he just did not want her to date anyone. That he was just jealous of Mr. On. Yes, it had to be put out there to make Soo assess his feelings. The onus was now on him to prove Woo Yeon wrong. And how he proved her wrong. I super loved that proposal for the two of them to switch roles - for Soo to be the one with a crush on Woo Yeon and that he'd like her more and longer and Woo Yeon can now do to Soo all of the hurtful things the latter did to her in the past and how he'll wait until she comes back and likes him back. There can be no bigger proof of his sincerity than that - with him accepting their painful fate. 

But in true circuitous K drama fashion, things can't just end there. Woo Yeon of course had to be extra mean to Soo, to rub it all in. Even if she should have known better because she was once in his shoes before. And Soo, as expected, could not keep his promise of loving her more and longer and waiting patiently and quietly. He went crazy the first time he saw her with Mr. On (without clarifying what their relationship was!). Woo Yeon endured that for 10 years and he didn't even last a month, I think. 

But then again, the show probably felt that we needed all those starts and stops to make the moment when they're finally together more special. And I honestly thought the show was handling this love story really well. Woo Yeon was honest that she could not be in a long distance relationship so she can't be with Soo if he keeps on leaving. Then they maturely agreed that they did not want to get in the way of each other's dreams. That was a very mature thing for them to do because this was a potential issue they could face in the future. 

And I liked the cute little things that came with their new relationship. Especially how Soo exerted effort to know Woo Yeon more. And how everything Woo Yeon liked was connected to Soo - her favorite singer was the one who sang the song that Soo made her listen to in high school, she quit her office job because Soo told her she should choose to do something that makes her happy, etc. 

But the show had to mess things up. Like most K dramas, the show thought it would be cute to make the couple break up towards the end. As if we didn't know that they'd be back together again anyway. And I totally hated the lame excuse the drama used to make Soo and Woo Yeon break up. It was of course predictable that their long distance relationship would be problematic. Never mind if it was Woo Yeon who decided she did not want to leave with Soo because she want to go after her dreams too. Despite that, she had to be the one who was all whiny in the end, conveniently forgetting that it was her decision to stay that was causing all of her troubles. Could she not have joined him later on when her work was done? 

And they had to prolong the agony even after Soo came back. Even when it was obvious that they still liked each other. I just don't get why we have to project negative energy and vibes and ruin the mood when the couple would obviously be together in the end. 

But as they say, all's well that ends well. I'm just grateful to the people who helped bring them back together like Hyun Jae and Soo's mom (Kim Hee Jung of Monthly Magazine Home, Start-Up, and Warm and Cozy). I admit, however, that I still don't feel confident about Soo and Woo Yeon's relationship (more with Woo Yeon actually). Woo Yeon still throws a fit when Soo gets caught up with work. And while they might find the constant bickering cute at the moment, I'm concerned that this issue could arise as something more serious later on. 

On Joon Soo

Allow me to say that Kim Dong Jun is so good looking. And his acting was not that bad either. I'm loving these ZE:A boys who are not only good looking but are great actors as well (hello to Park Hyung Sik of Soundtrack #1, Happiness, Suits, Strong Girl Bong Soon, High Society, What Happens to My Family, Juror 8, and She Was Pretty, and Im Si Wan of Thirty-Nine, Misaeng: Incomplete LifeRun On, House on Wheels 2, and Reply 1997). 

I loved how Mr. On was straightforward, in stark contrast and the perfect rival to the very misleading and confusing Soo. Although I knew he was going to end up hurt in the end, I liked how he was that person needed to make Soo realize that he liked Woo Yeon. 

And I liked how Mr. On played fair. He could have used Soo's flaws and mistakes to his advantage. Yet he never exploited them. He was honest when Woo Yeon thought he gave her tangerines when in fact they came from Soo. And when Soo returned, he clarified with him right away that there was nothing between him and Woo Yeon. 

Yes, Mr. On became annoying at one point when he could not take no for an answer despite Woo Yeon's numerous pronouncements that she did not like him. I admired how Woo Yeon never gave Mr. On false hopes. I liked how they got that amicable closure, which will hopefully really be the end for them. 

Hyun Jae and Young Hee

Young Hee and Hyun Jae's story is probably my most favorite. Yes, it was still flawed. But for me, it perfectly depicted what true love is. 

First, it was refreshing to see Ahn Eun Jin in a non-hospital setting. Playing a different character helped me appreciate her even more. 

I admit that it was difficult to like Young Hee and the main reason why I love this couple was mostly due to Hyun Jae and not Young Hee. It was exhausting that she refused to see her self-worth, how she made poverty get in the way of her happiness in life (including her love life). Yes, I know she was being cautious. But I just found it unfair that she's been dating Hyun Jae for 10 years yet she still could not open up to him about her problems. 

Despite that, I loved how Hyun Jae continued to stay. How he wanted her to rely on him because strong women need men like Hyun Jae, someone they can be weak with. How he kept on adjusting to all of her demands. How he bent over backwards to please her. How selfless he was. How I often felt that Young Hee did not deserve a guy like him. 

I hated how Young Hee kept on holding back. I knew she wanted to marry Hyun Jae. And it was so heartbreaking to see her set aside her proposal book for Hyun Jae when she found out her mom (Yoon Bok In of Forecasting Love and Weather, So I Married an Anti-Fan, Vincenzo, and Hot Stove League) was sick. I understand her insecurities but I really wanted Young Hee to realize how much Hyun Jae has done for her. He even went against his family's wishes. I sincerely wished for her to be healed because she deserves to be happy too. 

And I loved Hyun Jae's relationship with Young Hee's mom. How he still kept on visiting her even after they broke up. How he broke down before her when they broke up. And how mom was honest with him - that her daughter was broken but for him to please embrace her and still take care of her. 

It was so painful to see Hyun Jae still wearing their couple ring even a year after they broke up. And how he still cared for her. I loved that scene during the wake of Young Hee's mom where Young Hee rested her head on Hyun Jae's shoulders - how that one scene perfectly captured their relationship. 

In the end, I'm just glad that Young Hee was brave enough to go back to Hyun Jae. I am so sure that Hyun Jae will never give up on her after all of the things he has endured for her. 

Sang Hyuk and Jin Joo

This couple got the least air time among the main couples. Sometimes I felt that they were just there for comic relief. But I must say that they made good use of whatever limited time was given to them. 

I loved that Jin Joo was very protective of Woo Yeon, often threatening to attack Soo. She was also cute and funny whenever she's giddy over a prospective love. Her cheesy lines were hilarious. But she was also badass when the situation called for it. Like when she threatened her gold digger ex with a countersuit for forging public documents. 

As for PO, I wish he'd get meatier and more serious roles in the future so we can see more of what he's got. Although I enjoy seeing him funny and goofy, it would be a good change to see something different from him. 

I'm glad how this show had a never-ending supply of selfless guys. I loved how Sang Hyuk has always lurked in the shadows for Jin Joo. Yet when the time for him to emerge finally came, he definitely rose to the occasion. How his confession came out unexpectedly yet naturally. How he sweetly offered to be Jin Joo's transfer station, fully cognizant that he was no match for her. 

Yes, I felt so bad for Sang Hyuk when Jin Joo denied her in front of her colleague and even said he was a delivery guy. The least she could have done was to acknowledge him as her friend. But then that paved the way for them to be together. I admit, however, that I found them cuter when they were still running after each other. Things got a bit corny when they were already together. 

Oh, and let me say that the "petty" issue they had in the end where Jin Joo was complaining about having to do all the work/planning/choosing for their wedding and Sang Hyuk weaseling out of it by saying that Jin Joo had a discerning eye - was totally not petty. It's a big issue that burns out a lot of women. Call it whatever you want (discerning eye, we trust you more, etc.) - but guys still need to try and help out. 


I loved the high school stuff, reminding all of us of how sweet young love can be. And how you grow and mature alongside each other as you both figure out what you want out of life. 

I loved the clever writing - the witty banters and the narrations that get you thinking. I liked how the show managed to insert bits of critic of Korean life or life in general. How parents can also be selfish. Or how it's sad when you can't choose a job and spouse that can make you happy when those are the only choices you can control in your life, which of course is an attack on arranged marriages. How unemployment is often blamed on the youth when in fact, it can be beyond their control no matter how hard they try. Or how daughters-in-law are basically treated like slaves. And how parents can also be burden to their kids. 

I liked how the show didn't drag on the issue of Mr. On inheriting Soo's old number and receiving calls from Woo Yeon when she was drunk. Yes, that was quite improbable and it was pushing the fate/coincidence/serendipity arch a bit (with Woo Yeon doing a part time job in an event where Mr. On was the speaker, their meeting in Jeju, etc.). But at least this issue was revealed right away and it didn't cause a lot of problems. 

I loved the funny parts of the show portrayed by equally funny actors. Like Woo Yeon and Soo's arguments. Or Jin Joo believing that she should not date yet because she was bound to meet and date guys who look like actors in college or after taking the bar exams. Or Mr. On and Soo's silly competition of who can carry the most number of books when they visited an orphanage. Or their fight scene and drinking sessions. And of course, Jin Joo's hilarious blind date (toilet humor aside, of course). 

I loved that Seoul photobook concept where they explored the seemingly forgotten parts of Seoul, which are different from the usual cold and heartless spots that are known to tourists. I liked how they used these places as analogies for Woo Yeon and Soo's relationship. Like how it's mean to go back to something when you've abandoned it. But how it might also be a chance to start over. 

And while morbid (and triggering to me more than I expected), I believe this show had the most accurate and realistic depiction of cancer - chemo, the side effects, and the final days and moments. The show did not sugarcoat or glamorize the illness the way recent shows have done. 

As I mentioned earlier, this drama is far from perfect. For instance, the time jumps were quite confusing. It was not always clear how many years have passed and you'd wonder if the characters actually developed in the previous years. 

And for a relatively recent show, it was quite disappointing to see a lot of the cliche K drama stuff here - the backrides (who does that these days?), characters who have terrible balance that they always end up on the verge of falling and their heroes trying to save them, getting amnesia when drunk, dads trying to bully their daughters suitors by taking them out to drink, etc. And how everyone thinks it's fine to keep secrets from their friends whether deliberately or not. Like how no one told Woo Yeon that Soo was in an accident while waiting for her at the Namsan Tower. Sang Hyuk conveniently forgot to tell his friends. Young Hee refused to tell Woo Yeon right away. Soo didn't want to tell her either. Even Mr. On kept mum about it. 

Yes, the show tended to be repetitive too - especially when it came to Soo and Woo Yeon's woes. How Woo Yeon would be after Soo, Soo would be mean, Woo Yeon would feel bad, Soo would woo her, and Woo Yeon would fall for him again. Then the cycle repeats. 

The show also had the tendency to overdo things. I talked about the serendipity stuff earlier (like how many times Soo and Woo Yeon's paths were about to cross in Jeju). And there was also that thing about misfortunes in episode 12. It felt quite contrived when nothing seemed to be going right. 

I was also not a huge fan of the story about Soo's mom and dad (Ahn Nae Sang of Law School, The Last Princess, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, Ms. Hammurabi, and Wonderful Days). Yes, their story was useful in helping Soo realize his feelings for Woo Yeon but I personally felt that their story did not add much entertainment value to the show. 

But since everyone got their happy endings, we can't really complain, even if we don't agree with some of the means the show used to get there. In the end, this drama was still entertaining enough for me. 

Oppa says...4.5.

Noona says...4.3.