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[Review] ‘Record of Youth’: A Story of Growth That’s More Beautiful Because It’s Opaque

Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: tvN

Many unfortunate phrases represent today’s youth, such as “Those who gave up on n number of things,” “If you are sick, you are a patient, not a youth,” or “what kind of spoon were you born with?” I’m sure every generation had their own difficulties, but seeing these keywords and sentences spreading like wildfire, I can feel the harsh reality that youth these days face.

There is a drama that gives warm comfort to those who are tired of this reality. It tells the story of a young man who chooses not to despair despite the high and cold wall of reality and runs towards his dream – it’s tvN’s Record of Youth.

Credit: tvN

The fact of life that the 26-year-old model and actor Sa Hye Joon faces is cruel. While neighborhood friend and fellow model Won Hae Hyo rose to stardom with his mother’s full backup, Hye Joon is just treading water in his career. It became a daily routine for him to endure his agency CEO’s power tripping, delays in getting his salaries, and a slap in the face by his father and brother as they lecture him on “well-living.” One day, a mail arrives to Hye Joon, yet it’s not an acceptance letter from an audition, but a draft card.

The situation for Ahn Jung Ha, the same age as Hye Joon, is not so different. Though she quit her job at a big company and entered the path of a makeup artist, she is bullied every day by her jealous boss, who just refuses to acknowledge her skills. However, there’s one hobby that allows her to stick it out, and that’s “fangirling Sa Hye Joon.” The two happened to come across each other at a fashion show as “business partners” not as “a fangirl and a star,” and get along like a house on fire. Slowly but gradually, they fall for each other as they overcome the difficult realities together.

The best part about the Record of Youth is how it portrays the youth. The things that head off Sa Hye Joon and Ahn Jung Ha, such as the unemployment crisis, conflicts between dreams and reality, workplace harassment, and the gap between the rich and the poor, are realistic issues that anyone can relate to (although their visuals are somewhat unrealistic). Even when they suffer setbacks, they strive to overcome in their own ways, drawing sympathy from viewers.

Credit: tvN

One other impressive thing is the fact that they don’t draw the line of youth with age. Sa Hye Joon and Ahn Jung Ha are at the heart of Record of Youth, but with Hye Joon’s grandfather Sa Min Gi, who is trying out to be a senior model, the drama states that everyone with dreams and goals, not just those in their 20s and 30s, are at the prime of their “youth.”

You can’t also leave out Park Bo Gum and Park So Dam’s excellent acting. Their performance, which perfectly describes youth today, not only increases the level of immersion but also adds to the probability. It is a bonus to be motivated after seeing them but bite the bullet to finish their jobs even in harsh conditions.

Credit: tvN

However, how the element of romance is consumed in Record of Youth can draw out mixed reactions. How Hye Joon and Jung Ha are besotted with each other seems somewhat lacking in persuasion, and above all, there’s Hye Hyo between them. Hye Hyo always stood on Hye Joon’s side up to now, but this time, he is putting love in front of friendship. A typical love triangle with a girl in the middle. I understand that it’s the basic formula for romance dramas, and yet, was that really necessary in the story of young people facing tough reality?

Opinions are also likely to differ on the stuffy development around Young Nam and Kyung Joon, Hye Joon’s father and older brother. It’s not just not once or twice when I felt the way they treat Hye Joon and Min Gi are over the line. Perhaps it’s because I know in my heart that there are people like them somewhere in the real world, but I feel exasperated just by looking at them. Of course, this proves that Park Soo Young and Lee Jae Won, who play Young Nam and Kyung Joon, are two amazing actors.

Credit: tvN

The rest of the story is expected to be full of fun. Hye Joon and Jung Ha shared their heart-fluttering first kiss, and Hye Hyo will do everything in his power to turn Jung Ha’s mind. There are still many mountains to climb in front of the two lovebirds, who expected to walk a flowery path in both love and career as they were finally recognized for their potential. Will Record of Youth be able to wrap up the story that has been well led so far? I don’t know the answer yet, but I know that I will stand by He Joon and Jung Ah till the very end.

Verdict: Records of youth that give you comfort and excitement (8/10)

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