K-Drama Review: ‘Private Lives’: If It’s Too Complicated, Then It Ain’t Pretty

Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: JTBC

Evil fighting against greater evil has become quite a common subject. Private Lives also falls into this category. The story of “fraudsters go up against the conglomerate that plans to turn the nation upside down” that could get so obvious; How did Private Lives unravel it?

Cha Joo Eun’s life is far from “normal.” Being the swindlers’ daughter, she lived a life of fraud, and these cons destroyed her family and put her behind bars. However, Joo Eun meets Lee Jeong Hwan while working as a “docu actor (slang term referring to fraudsters)” and falls madly in love with him. Hiding her real identity, she marries him.

But life never works out the way she wants. On the day of the wedding, Jeong Hwan does not show up, and Joo Eun realizes that everything she knows about him is fake and is even delivered the news of his death. To make matters worse, she is saddled with debt upon his death. Eventually, Joo Eun decides to join hands with Jeong Bok Gi, who shattered her family’s happiness, and digs into the real story behind the incident to find the truth surrounding the identity and death of Jeong Hwan, who she truly loved although the relationship is based on lies.

Credit: JTBC

Private Lives is a work with many unique elements. The topics like “being monitored by those with power” and “personal information and privacy” have instilled a sense of reality and freshness into a story that seems a bit cliche, and various genres of crime, intelligence, romance and comedy are melted into one project. On condition that everything is well-mixed together, a work that shows an outstanding level of immersion will be created. And in the beginning, these gripping elements seemed to have blended in well.

One of the biggest reasons that the early stage captivated the viewers is the chemistry between the characters. Joo Eun’s fraudulent family and the presence of a “gag character” Han Son added pleasure to the play, while the tension created by two villains Kim Jae Wook and Jeong Bok was combined with Lee Jeong Hwan’s mysterious atmosphere to unfold a story that is neither too light nor too heavy. On top of that, all actors showed their best performances, and of them all, Seohyun’s presence is certainly unequaled. As a person who has not seen other works of “actor Seohyun,” not a member of Girls’ Generation, it feels like I have made a huge discovery.

Credit: JTBC

However, as the story progresses, a significant problem starts to overshadow this excellent chemistry. And that’s “the distractions within the plot.” Private Lives tells the story by going back and forth between the past and the present. In the present time, you see the heroes chasing after the hidden truth behind a case, and through the past, you are given the clues about the truth.

This kind of development is a method chosen by many genres, but Private Lives switches its timeline too frequently and what’s worse is that it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two. If viewers let their guard down even for a moment, they find themselves in confusion of needing to figure out if what they’re seeing is in the past or the present, ultimately breaking the sense of immersion. If those who have followed the drama from the start are confused, there will be even greater entry barriers for new viewers joining the drama midway. The fact that Netflix is also on service may also have an impact, but the continued slump in the ratings proves that more and more viewers are complaining of fatigue and dropping out, while the number of newly-joined viewers is relatively small.

Credit: JTBC

Fortunately, the viewership has been recovered to a certain extent from episode 8. Joo Eun and Jeong Hwan figured out each other’s real identity, and what the villains are trying to gain through the somewhat hazy “nation’s privacy” started to show a clear outline.

So far, more cons have been spotted than pros, but I hope to see the drama soothe these disappointments through a full-fledged “fraud competition between fraudsters and the conglomerate” in future episodes. And since most of the past stories came to an end in previous episodes, wouldn’t it be great if the development becomes more concise?

Verdict: Will it be able to untangle the messy threads in the second half? (6/10)


Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.

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182 Points
  • So far the most honest and real review!!!!!!! Thanks so much !!!!! …for speaking the truth and saying what’s actually correct

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