Edited by Young Jun Yang
Translated by Eungee Joh
Perhaps because of the global pandemic or the constantly spawning violent and graphic shows, quiet, slice-of-life-style dramas are currently gaining great popularity. tvN’s Our Blues tells a heartwarming story that offers hope to all of us who may be going through hard times via the beautiful view of Jeju Island, the breeze of its sea, and the stories from its population.
Our Blues features a star-studded cast that includes Lee Byung Hun, Shin Min A, Cha Seung Won, Lee Jung Eun, Han Ji Min, Kim Woo Bin, Uhm Jung Hwa, Kim Hye Ja and Go Doo Sim. Expectations were high for this project as it stars a stunning cast that could easily put together a blockbuster movie. However, there were some concerns about how the show would carry out its narrative. Fortunately, the drama took a breather by selecting an omnibus format to weave different stories together. With all characters telling their own narratives in each episode, the drama emphasizes its central message: “We are the main characters in the stories of our lives.” It is also fun to see the previous episode’s main characters casually walking by like “Friend 1” in other episodes, not to mention the cast’s brilliant performances.
The drama views Jeju island with a fresh set of eyes as it describes the place as a “neighborhood where people reside” rather than “a travel destination,” which often comes from other dramas with outsiders’ perspectives. The drama is filled with warm and cozy moments of Pureung villagers and fully shows the eccentric Jeju dialects, lively auction houses, crowded seafood markets and the famous five-day market. The beautiful scenery of Jeju Island on the small screen also gives us vicarious satisfaction as it distracts us from the aftermath of our pandemic life.
The show begins with the story of Eun Hee (played by Lee Jung Eun) and Han Soo (Cha Seung Won). Han Soo returns to his hometown Pureung on Jeju island to take a break from his busy, overwhelming city life. His daughter has been living abroad for several years to study golf and the cost is now putting serious financial strain on him. After learning that his hometown friend Eun Hee is affluent and still has feelings for him, he decides to borrow money from her by taking advantage of the fact that he was once her first love. However, his plan does not go as he hoped, and the friendship between the two verges on collapsing.
The story of the two ended on a perfect note, although many worried that it might be another ‘makjang drama’ with twisted relationships. Both characters successfully made the audience tune into the show with incredibly relatable stories. However, it was wrong for Han Soo to borrow money from Eun Hee like that, even if he didn’t want his daughter to repeat his past. But knowing his whole situation helped us understand why he had to take that step. The scene where Eun Hee sheds her tears after realizing that her first love is over for once and for all broke our hearts as if we were breaking up with our own first love. Many say that those two episodes would have never managed to leave a lasting impression as they did if it weren’t for Cha Seung Won and Lee Jung Won. The “Goodbye” text message she sent and her singing along to “Whisky on the Rocks” while she patched up her wounds made us all wonder what they have in store for us next.
However, the episodes that aired after the part with “Hansoo and Eunhee” have not managed to impress us just yet. The same goes for the romance between Young Ok (played by Han Ji Min) and Jung Joon (Kim Woo Bin), the relationship between Dong Suk (Lee Byung Hun) and Sun Ah (Shin Min A) as well as the friendship that was torn apart by an incident and the story between a mother and a son. Each episode seems to have a deviation depending on the message or subject matter it wishes to portray.
The “Young Joo and Hyun” episode was not special at all as it was just another story about teen pregnancy. The narrative wasn’t just ‘not special,’ it was disturbing. The scene where they hear their baby’s heartbeat at an abortion hospital or where Hyun shouts, “We have a pregnant woman on the bus. She’s carrying my baby,” had us cringe pretty hard. On top of that, when Young Joo decides to have Hyun’s baby, the two share a heartfelt kiss with overly dramatic background music. It’s regrettable to see how the episodes secretly instill a sense of guilt about getting an abortion and romanticizes teen pregnancy.
The story has just begun as only six of the twenty episodes have been aired so far. We’ll be getting fourteen more episodes on the way, so there is plenty of room for the show to tell interesting episodes of other characters, including Young Joo and Hyun. Just like how the writer wishes to “tell a kind and compassionate story for all of us,” I hope the rest of its episodes will be as heartwarming, touching, and lasting as Han Soo and Eun Hee’s story. (7/10)