‘Heartbeat’ Review: A Bland Rom-Com Missing the Romance Spark

Heartbeat Review

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Heartbeat Review
Credit: KBS

A vampire yearning for a heartbeat of love became the hero of the new rom-com. KBS’s Heartbeat centers on a cohabitation romance between a nearly-human vampire and a human woman, which, though somewhat familiar, presents a light and enjoyable watch.

The drama uses a familiar trope of a vampire-human romance and differentiates itself through the variations in its characters. Unlike its famous image, Heartbeat humanizes this fantasy creature, painting a picture of a slightly flawed, almost-human character. Sun Woo Hyeol (Ok Taecyeon) decides to become human to meet the woman of his destiny, Hae Seon (Yoon So Hee), and enters a hundred-year torpor. However, waking up a day too early, he turns into a half-vampire. What’s more, the world has dramatically changed during his sleep, and the gold bars he had collected for his future have disappeared. Now, before experiencing heart-pounding love, he urgently needs to adapt to the human world and make money.

The woman he’ll fall for is also quite unique. Joo In Hae (Won Ji An), who unintentionally wakes Woo Hyeol from his torpor, has been fiercely living with the belief that money is the only thing that can protect her, making her more cynical and dry than even the vampire with a “cold” heart. Unlike other dramas, where the female lead might feel butterflies in her stomach during the romantic (?) moments created by Woo Hyeol’s abilities, the defensive In Hae is merely dumbfounded. The meeting between a vampire longing for love more than blood and a human woman who prioritizes money over love creates an intriguing tension in an otherwise predictable relationship. The control in the relationship lies not with superhuman abilities but with the realistic power of money, adding a touch of amusement.

Ok Taecyeon and Won Ji An offer performances well-suited to their characters. Ok Taecyeon brings a relatable portrayal of Woo Hyeol’s amusing survival story in a rapidly changing world while subtly conveying his character’s romantic facet. It’s as though his on-stage and off-stage persona coexist. In Hae may not yet know the charm of Woo Hyeol, but for the audience, it’s more than enough. Won Ji An is a pleasant surprise. She naturally portrays a starkly realistic character, drawing empathy. Due to her credible portrayal, one can’t help but root for In Hae, a struggling youth for whom love is just a luxury, to fall in love at least once.

Heartbeat Review
Credit: KBS

While the drama sprinkles light episodes, unfolding the characters’ changes gradually like a sitcom, the slow pace weakens the enjoyment of the rom-com genre. On the 18th, the drama reached its mid-point of episode 8, yet the relationship between the two remains in limbo. Usually, by the 8th episode in a 16-episode romance drama, the leads confirm their feelings for each other, but in Heartbeat, Woo Hyeol and In Hae remain unaware of their burgeoning feelings.

Furthermore, the presence of supporting characters forming a love square is insufficient. Shin Do Sik (Park Kang Hyun), who has a secret crush on In Hae, only remains as a kind friend till mid-series, and Na Hae Won that looks just like Hae Seon, whom Woo Hyeol has been searching for, might as well appear sooner. Thankfully, in episode 8, Do Sik discovers Woo Hyeol’s true identity, and Hae Won starts showing interest in Woo Hyeol, hinting at a change in the stagnant narrative.

The drama’s focus on developing Woo Hyeol and In Hae’s relationship has left other interesting characters underutilized. Lee Sang Hae (Yoon Byung Hee) and Park Dong Seop (Ko Kyu Pil), younger vampires who look up to Woo Hyeol, are stuck as predictable comic relief characters, while their helper, Go Yang Nam (Kim In Kwon), lacks the certain mysteriousness to spice up his relationship with Woo Hyeol. The vampire antagonist, Lee Man Hwi (Baek Seo Joo), hasn’t been highlighted enough for his malevolent nature.

Heartbeat is finally starting to ignite sparks between its characters. It has diligently built the relationship between Woo Hyeol and In Hae so far but fell short in delivering the genre’s entertainment quotient. In the remaining episodes, we hope to see a storyline that makes not only the characters’ hearts but also the audience’s hearts race. (6/10)


Edited Hong Hyun Jung: I am a K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.

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