It’s been a while since I did a review which was not for a book and since I absolutely love foreign TV shows, particularly ones from China and Korea, I thought I’d share with you guys my thoughts about another one I just finished.
Release: Aug. — Oct. 2015
Episode Count: 16 episodes.
Plot Synopsis: (taken from Asianwiki—wikipedia for Asain dramas) “38-year-old Ha No-Ra dreamed of becoming a dancer when she was younger. She met her future husband, Kim Woo-Cheol, when she was only 19-years-old and became a mother unexpectedly. Since then, she focused on her life as a wife and mother. Ha No-Ra then decides to attend the same university as her 20-year-old son Min-Soo and faces life a second time like a twenty year old.”
The idea of an older woman returning to college is not a new one. Just recently I’ve been seeing tons of trailers for Life of the Party, starring Melissa McCarthy (who is one of the few comedians in Hollywood I often enjoy), which tells a very similar story.
While the premise is certainly not new, it’s the characters which I truly enjoyed. The main character Ha No Ra, played by the gorgeous Choi Ji Woo (who is also nearly my height—5’ 9”/173 cm)—from Woman with a Suitcase (2016) and Stairway to Heaven (2003)—is both relatable and funny. After her husband demands a divorce, she realizes she must make her own way in life, while also trying to build a closer relationship with her son.
When she starts attending college, she meets her old high school friend Cha Hyun Shik (played by Lee Sang Yoon from Liar Game and Jung Yi, Goddess of Fire), who is a professor at the school. She is also Hyun Shik’s first love, complicating things a lot. Meanwhile, her son Min Soo (played by Kim Min Jae from Great Seducer and The Best Hit) tries to date Oh Hye Mi (played by Son Na Eun, who is also a member of Kpop girl group Apink) in secret because his father refused to allow him to date. Also meanwhile, the horrible husband Kim Woo Chul (played by Choi Won Young from Kill Me, Heal Me and Hwarang), who is also a professor at the same college, is having an affair with another women, who happens to also be a professor…
You get my point…there are a lot of misunderstandings and a lot going on. Each character stands out on their own, not merely as an attachment to other characters. Like in most Korean dramas I’ve watched, the characters are probably the best part.
Often times Korean comedies feel like Shakespeare comedies, and this one is no exceptional. If you’ve read a few of Shakespeare’s comedies, you’ll notice Shakespeare likes bordering on tragedy before finally adding a twist which leads to a happy ending.
Similarly, there are a lot of serious and moving moments within this comedy which border on tragedy. There are many misunderstandings and lies, often times to the point of being annoying. I won’t go into detail because it would take all day, but there were many times when horrible situations could have been fixed simply by communicating better with other characters.
The pacing was well done. With many TV shows, whether American, Asian, or European, I often times get bored after a while. However, with this drama the plot was so tightly written that every time I tried fast-forwarding it, I realized I’d missed something and had to go back.
The ending was also really good, relying more on realism than on a forced happy ending. Some of the characters ended up in places I hadn’t imagined. For some it was bittersweet, and other others it was good. This is how a realistic TV show should end, as in real life things aren’t tied nicely into a perfect bow. Some things are left unresolved. But for the most part, this drama had a happy, satisfying ending.
I find in most “older woman going back to college” stories, the emphasis is on making friends and getting the degree. What I loved about this drama is that was not the central theme. Instead, it was more about No Ra finding how what made her happy. For twenty years, she had been miserable being a housewife to a selfish man. I’m not saying being a housewife is bad (in fact, it is shown in a favorable light in this drama, unlike in American dramas), but because of the horrible relationship with her husband, her life was very unhappy. So now No Ra has the time to find herself as a person. To embrace her past choices and move unto a new future.
Also, there were strong themes of youth. How, when you’re young, you shouldn’t necessarily do what society tells you to. Just because college is important does not mean it is everything. Relationships with friends, family, and yourself is what makes you happy in life, not getting that degree, being secure financially, or marrying the person you think you should.
I confess that I am not in No Ra’s position. I’m in my early twenties and I’m pursuing my dreams now. And yet I think human nature can be understood by everyone, no matter their age or background. We’ve all had heartbreak, failures, and successes.
As you might be able to guess, I really enjoyed this drama. It was fun, light, but also covered complex, deep issues. Because of that, if you do enjoy Asian dramas, I would highly recommend this one.
Let me know down in the comments what your favorite going-back-to-school movie is. Also, with more and more women going back to college in their 30s and 40s, do you think college itself will change? Let me know any of your thoughts, follow my blog for more madness, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,