04 July 2024

K Drama Review: Lovely Runner (2024) 4.4 || 4.5

I know we're a couple of months late to the Lovely Runner party. I admit that after learning that this was another time travel drama, I was hesitant to watch it. We just finished Twinkling Watermelon and I was concerned that we'd be fed up with all the back and forth in time. Fortunately, some reviews said that this was different from other time travel dramas. And they were right. This show gave me a familiar but still refreshing vibe. And I don't know why but I seem to associate this with the feeling I got after watching Crash Landing on You. And I mean that in a very good way. 


Lovely Runner tells the story of Im Sol (Kim Hye Yoon), a lady whose legs were injured after an accident causing her lower body to be paralyzed. Sol used to be a very positive and cheerful lady. But after her accident, Sol hated the world and lost her will to live. That is until budding K pop band (Eclipse) member Ryu Sun Jae (Byeon Woo Seok) gets the chance to speak with her over the phone through a radio program guesting where Sun Jae thanked Sol for choosing to live. From then on, Sol did her best to live her best life and she became an ultimate Sun Jae fan. 

Fast forward to 2023, Sol misses an Eclipse concert. But she gets lucky with a very rare encounter with Sun Jae on a Han River bridge after her scooter ran out of battery. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there when on the very same night, Sun Jae commits suicide. He was under severe pressure from his management and bandmates to delay his plans to retire. Sol is understandably distraught. She rushes to the hospital where Sun Jae was taken. However, in her haste to get there, she drops Sun Jae's watch, which she acquired in an auction for Sun Jae's stuff. When Sol finally finds the watch, she's surprised that time stops and the watch turns into a time machine which takes her back to 2008.  

Back in 2008, Sol believes this is her chance to save Sun Jae and change their lives. As she goes back and forth between the past and the present, however, Sol realizes that fate might not be something she can control on her own. Dejected after seeing Sun Jae hurt many times, Sol finally gives up and decides that the best option for the two of them might be for them to never meet each other. The story takes us through how Sol and Sun Jae try their very best to fight and change their fate and see if their love will stand the test of time. 

Kim Hye Yoon as Im Sol

After watching Kim Hye Yoon in Cleaning Up, Snowdrop, Record of Youth, SKY Castle, Guardian, and My Love from the Star, we know that she's a very, very capable actress. Yes, we loathed her characters in Snowdrop and SKY Castle. But that's because she was so good in doing those roles. I'm super proud and happy that she finally has a lead role because she truly deserves it. 

Kim Hye Yoon brought Im Sol to life in a super good way. She delivered each and every emotion Sol needed. It was amazing to see her angry before she spoke with Sun Jae in the pilot episode then how she was bawling in the next scene after their phone conversation when Sun Jae thanked her for being alive and how she wept after her unfortunate day when she missed Sun Jae's concert. She does cute really well too like when she was begging to get into the concert even if she were late and had no ticket. She was dumbfounded and speechless after Sun Jae stopped by when he saw her stuck on the bridge and how she turned giddy afterwards. And how she gushed over Sun Jae's concert outfits. Then of course the despair and terror she felt when she found out Sun Jae killed himself. It's great how in one episode alone, Kim Hye Yoon managed to do all of that. And she kept on getting better as the show progressed. 

Kim Hye Yoon did well in all aspects but my favorite scenes would be her funny ones like when she thought of crazy and awkward ways to convince Sun Jae to stop swimming.

I hope this the beginning of bigger things for Kim Hye Yoon because this show just cemented her status as one of Korea's best actresses. 

Byeon Woo Seok as Ryu Sun Jae

We've seen Byeon Woo Seok a couple of times like in 20th Century Girl, Moon Lovers, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, and Strong Girl Nam Soon (which we dropped). And he never really wowed me. I suspect this was because of his role in Record of Youth as Park Bo Gum's friend/competitor. But I now understand why we should never close our doors on actors, haha. Byeon Woo Seok impressed me so much here that I would have probably attended his fan meet if I finished watching this before he arrived. He will definitely be part of the next update of my Oppa List

I now have a deeper appreciation for Byeon Woo Seok's boyish charm. Yes, he's in his 30s but he can still make me swoon as Sun Jae the high school student. 

I loved how in the end, it turned out that Sun Jae has actually liked Sol all along. He was the best when he tried to act all cool and indifferent even if he was all giddy and bursting with happiness inside like when Sol said she didn't like Tae Sung (Song Geon Hee). 

I was also pleasantly surprised that Byeon Woo Seok handled drama quite well like in his confrontation scene with his dad (Kim Won Hae of Samjin Company English Class, Youth of May, Monthly Magazine Home, Run On, Start Up, Hotel Del Luna, Strong Girl Bong Soon, Misaeng, and Reply 1994) when he wanted to quit swimming or after his dad found out about his injury or when he finally realized who Sol was in his life. 

There are still so many things I want to explore about Byeon Woo Seok and I certainly hope I will be given more opportunities to do this in the future.

Sol and Sun Jae

I wasn't sure if Byeon Woo Seok and Kim Hye Yoon would be a good fit for each other. To me, they seemed to be from different worlds. But they won me over when they started doing more cute scenes together. The chemistry was there. And the height difference made them even cuter. 

It all started with simple sweet stuff like when they took that photo where Sun Jae called the heart on the cheek gesture as a lump. Or that bike tutorial. Or how Sol lovingly tried to shield Sun Jae from news about the Olympics after he decided to quit swimming and how Sun Jae reassured her that he's okay. Or their cute study room dates. Or how Sol endured swallowing a hot dumpling instead of spitting it out on Sun Jae's hand. Or how he memorized an entire book so she would go out on a date with him. And of course that cute baseball game date on the street followed by Sun Jae's cute confession. 

And of course the super mushy moments that really made me melt. Ahhh, the countless times and variations of them telling each other that they would be willing to go through anything to be together. Like when Sol told Sun Jae that she would jump over time and space to be with him. Or when Sun Jae told Sol that he didn't care what time zone she's from but he just wanted to know if in all her lifetimes, she liked Sun Jae even once. And while it was irresponsible for Sun Jae and inconsiderate to his dad to forego the US rehab program, I loved how he stayed because he figured out that despite being rejected numerous times, Sol actually liked him and she was there to save and protect him. And how he vowed to still choose to save Sol even if it meant that he could die. Or how Sun Jae said he'd run diligently to 2023 to be with Sol again and that she should not blame herself for whatever happens to him. Or how overprotective he was of Sol when the killer Kim Young Soo (Heo Hyeong Gyu) was still on the loose. Or how Sun Jae thanked Sol for taking a long and arduous journey to the past to be with him. And how Sol thanked him back for saving her and making her want to live again. Or how Sun Jae always looked at Sol with longing whenever she runs away from him. Or how Sol painfully chose to erase herself from Sun Jae's memory and lose his affection so as not to lose him forever to death. 

I wasn't quite happy with Sun Jae's first confession to an obviously drunk Sol who could not remember anything the next day. Yes, she conveniently recorded everything but she couldn't listen to it right away. The moment when she finally heard it was really sweet though because it happened at the same time when Sun Jae was asking her to break up with Tae Sung. 

I admit though that the never-ending arguments and petty fights between Sun Jae and Sol about forbidding them from protecting and doing things for each other were quite overused and exhausting. 

But of course, my most favorite Sun Jae and Sol moments were those in the present, when they both remembered everything that's happened in the past. Like that suave way Sun Jae made Sol stay in his house to eat breakfast when she got sick. Or his casual confession to Sol while they were walking on the street. Sun Jae recreating Sonaki from scratch. Or how Sun Jae cutely bugged Sol as she worked in the cafe and library. Or Sun Jae's grand entrance during the birthday of Sol's nephew. That aborted proposal, that coffee truck surprise in Sol's filming set, and of course, the actual wedding proposal. 

I love, love, love everything about Sol and Sun Jae. And after all that they've been through, I'm sure everything is worth it because they're finally together hopefully, forever. 

Song Geon Hee as Kim Tae Sung

I don't usually write about third parties either because they're annoying or it's too painful to see them broken hearted. But I'm making an exception for Song Geon Hee (Snowdrop, Love Alarm, At Eighteen, and SKY Castle). After all, Tae Sung was cute and likable in a crazy kind of way. Yes, he was an ass most of the time but he was really nice to Sol. 

And to Sun Jae too. I loved how he selflessly helped Sun Jae realize that Sol liked Sun Jae and the latter should not feel threatened by Tae Sung. Or how he revealed to 2023 Sun Jae how much Sol pined for him. And how Sun Jae paid that back by hugging Tae Sung and thanking him for ending the misfortune of Sol and Sun Jae. 

I also loved how Tae Sung was a constant in present-day Sol's life. How he comforted her when she missed Sun Jae. And how he always protected her, especially by catching Kim Young Soo. 

I'm sure Tae Sung was hurt and sad as evidenced by the longing in his eyes when he watched Sol and Sun Jae walk away from him. But I loved how he chose to be the bigger person. And I can only hope that he would find love in his lifetime too. 


Let me begin by saying that this show was not perfect. There were a couple of absurd (or inane as Oppa called them) scenes and storylines that were not really needed. 

Like the fire scene in Sol's house. I'm sure it was supposed to be a serious one because it could have severely injured the skin of Sol's mom (Jung Young Ju of Vincenzo, At Eighteen, and My Mister). But the way it started was totally crazy - Sol's brother (Song Ji Ho) and Sol's friend (Seo Hye Won of Extraordinary Attorney Woo, Jirisan, and Nevertheless) were too busy arguing to notice that something was happening around them. I can probably accept that the fire might not have been immediately visible to them. But I don't buy that they didn't feel the heat coming from the fire. And that knocked out tooth incident after. I guess, all I'm saying is I was not fond of the love story between Sol's brother and her friend. 

And the totally unnecessary toilet humor. Like the constipation of Sol's friend. Or Sun Jae's dad getting stuck in the toilet. Or the extremely overused flying underwear. 

I also didn't like the taxi driver killer storyline. Fate could have been mean to Sol with a simple vehicular accident without the need for an anxiety-inducing abduction angle. What made it worse was that the killer's motive was not established at all. Did he just really enjoy killing people? Or why was he extremely obsessed with Sol and Sun Jae? 

Episode 12 felt like a huge stretch for us. It's as if the show originally intended to have 12 episodes but they decided to extend it because it was doing well. That hide and seek at Sol's house. Sun Jae's dad locking himself up in the toilet. Even that beach trip to the province of Sun Jae's bandmate (Lee Seung Hyub of Nevertheless) felt quite contrived. 

Fortunately, the show had a lot of good points that made it easier for us to gloss over the not so good parts. 

The drama had a number of funny parts. Like Sol talking drunk. Or how Sun Jae wrapped Sol in a blanket to smuggle her out of his house. Or that argument between Sun Jae and Sol's brother about who was better for Sol between Tae Sung and Sun Jae. Or how Sun Jae comforted Sol because she was crying when in fact those tears were only caused by the onions she was slicing. Or Sol's wrongful arrest when she was mistaken as Sun Jae's stalker. Or how in one of Sol's trips back to the past, she started out on top of a huge horse statue in their university. Or those numerous flexing competitions between Sun Jae and Tae Sung like when there was a water leak in Sol's house or that contest on who can tolerate hot tea better. Or how they both ended up twinning when they auditioned for a band gig. Or how a family war erupted when Sun Jae and Sol were caught sleeping together in the video shop of Sol's family. Of course, there was the drama debut of Sol's brother as a comatosed guy who had no movements and speaking lines. Or Sun Jae pretending to be in a band practice when he was actually buying a ring to propose to Sol. Or the hilarious way Sol's family was sucking up to Sun Jae when they found out the two were dating. 

I liked how the show touched on depression and suicide. It's a familiar storyline but I'm sure this sad reality can never be overstated. It's lonely for celebrities who are on top. They can't always have things their way. They can't just leave whenever they want to. There are so many things to consider - bandmates, management, fans, etc. And that immense pressure can lead celebrities to find quick fixes  that unfortunately can include risking their lives. 

And how life-limiting disabilities can also lead to depression. Like how Sol missed a lot of opportunities because she can't walk. It was painful to see her give up her long-time dream of working for a film company simply because the office was on the second floor which she cannot climb without an elevator. 

And the pressure parents exert on their children. Like how Sun Jae's dad pushed him to overstretch himself in swimming which led to his shoulder injury. It was sad to see Sun Jae lose his love and passion for swimming. It stopped being fun for him. 

First of all, I want to say that I find time travel storylines quite escapist. They try to start off with extremely sad stories. But because they don't want to feel overbearing, they try to present us with alternative and often lighter scenarios. In this case for example, the show didn't want to give us an entire series where Sun Jae is battling with depression and Sol is paralyzed. But that's just me. And I would concede that it's a convenient way to make things a bit interesting.  

After watching a couple of time travel dramas, I would have to agree that this one's quite different and refreshing. Just like all time travel shows, it was poignant to see Sol regaining stuff that she lost when she went back to the past - her legs, grandma's (Seong Byeong Suk of Misaeng and My Love from the Star) memory, and that once in a lifetime chance to save Sun Jae. 

But here's where things get interesting. Time stands still when Sol tries to talk about the future. Or her notes get erased when she tries to write about it. That proves to be really challenging because Sol can't expressly tell other people about her mission. It was funny to see Sol escape sticky situations by talking aloud about the future like avoiding Sun Jae's dad. I liked how she creatively circumvented this glitch by saying instead that she dreamt of that certain scenario. 

As with time travel dramas, things slow down a bit when our lead characters move back to the past. And because Sol had to travel back and forth a lot of times, it was easy to get lost and confused with regard to time. There were moments when we couldn't follow the point in time where Sol exactly was. 

I liked how the show focused on the idea of the cost of going back in time to change one's fate. You change one thing, and everything else changes too. To save her legs, Sol had to stop being Sun Jae's fan. And in the end, Sun Jae still died. Which makes you question if Sol's legs were worth all the trouble everyone around her (herself included) had to go through. 

It was a huge relief for me when Sun Jae finally figured out that Sol was from the future. And I loved how perceptive he was in connecting stuff based on the limited things Sol could talk about. That really made Sol's mission a bit easier. 

It was poignant to see Sol and Sun Jae make the most out of their borrowed time. Each moment was precious because they never know when their last time together might be. It was heartbreaking to hear them promise to see each other again and do the same things together in the future. 

I liked that interesting twist where Sol could foresee that her future was going to change. 

The show's lessons on choices were thought provoking for me. How Sun Jae pushed through with his choices (like being with and saving Sol) despite knowing their dire consequences (including death). Or how Sol painfully chose to erase herself from Sun Jae's memory and not to meet him to avoid hurting and killing him. Or how in effect, Sol chose to give life to Sun Jae at the expense of her losing the greatest love of her life. 

And grandma's gentle reminder about how our souls never forget our memories despite our brains forgetting all about them. And true enough, she is proven right when Sun Jae remembered everything. That moment was a very powerful scene for me. Goes to show how the power of love can breach through the highest of walls built around us. And how Sun Jae realized that he was fated to love Sol regardless of the time period of their meeting. 

It was such a sweet moment to see Sun Jae reveal to Sol that he remembered everything and that he felt bad that she had to cry alone all those times when Sun Jae was still finding his way back to her. And how he recounted the ways when his heart remembered her like when he saw the necklace he gave her in the past. 

It was fitting to see grandma throw away the time travel watch into the stream. She was their time travel guide all along. And how lovely it was to see grandma and Sun Jae comforting each other with grandma telling him that he can now have a happy life with her. 

Yes, the show might not be perfect but I truly appreciate its refreshing take on time travel stories. It's a must watch especially if you want to fall in love all over again. 

And the music's really great too. My favorite would have to be Sonaki/Sudden Shower, the song Sun Jae dedicated to Sol. 

Oppa says...4.4.

Noona says...4.5.