picture credits to: http://www.dramabeans.com/2012/05/first-promos-for-tvns-i-need-romance-2012/
Wow, just.. wow. Let me backtrack – I am currently doing an academic suicide, probably since this is the weekend prior to finals.
I just spent all of late last night and the last 6 hours of today watching none other than the brilliantly written and sincerely heart-wrenching, heart-tugging and heart-melting romantic comedy of 2012 – drum rolls please – : I Need Romance 2012.
I know, I know. The title is lame. But trust me – the story is ah-ma-zing.
Let’s backtrack further a little bit more, on what exactly transpired that led to my spending a sizable amount of time with Joo Yeol Mae and Yoon Seok Hyun, characters played by awesome Jung Yu Mi and hottie Lee Jin Wook respectively. Together, they sizzled my screen and sent warm fuzzies all over my body. I’d actually picked up I Need Romance 2012 over summer when it premiered and thought it had all the right brew for a tightly written, realistically depicted modern love story but then Real Life, as we all know it by now, took center stage for me this summer that plenty dramas, however good and great they were, fell by the wayside. I never did forget this show and have been wanting to return to it because I remained seriously SO curious on whether they’d end up together in the end or not.
Last night, out of the dire need for down time and specifically, a show with a dash of romance and on the lighter spectrum, I picked it up again – right where I left it last time, halfway through episode 6. The result? That crazy drama-fervor as I told myself, “just one more!” (the internal dialogues us dramawatchers tell ourselves…) and well, one more and another continued… until 4AM. I did some work this afternoon but simply could not let the characters go – oh noes, I thought, why is Seok Hyun holding onto his damn pride so tightly? Oh noes, I thought again, Shin Ji Hoon is such a sweetheart, what now? – that I relented and continued on with episodes 12 to 16. Conclusion? Hot damn, I Need Romance 2012, I think I love you.
Just for the record, I never did watch the first not-quite-predecessor, I Need Romance. I did follow the short recaps Kaedejun wrote in her blog but that was basically it. This one though, had my favorite leading lady, Jung Yu Mi and recently-under-my-radar extremely good-looking Lee Jin Wook. I admit to not digging his real life BFF Kim Ji Suk – it’s a personal thing and I’m aware I’m being completely poorly judgmental here but he always looked so… sleazy to me. But anyway, yes, the three of them in a show together; I had to at least give it a go.
What I loved most about I Need Romance 2012 on a very broad spectrum is the realistic depiction of 30-something modern day adults: their everyday lives, their relationships with one another, their desires and hopes, their childish and sometimes immature acts, their jadedness… I could go on, but these all collectively prove one thing: the show brought to life characters whom I not only cared so sincerely about, but could relate on so many levels. In other words, they’re written so realistically that I can easily vouch that similar people like them exist in Real Life.
In terms of other aspects which I sincerely loved, first: I absolutely loved the relationship between our leads – yes I am a sucker for friendship-to-love romance, God knows why, but I am. So it’s a no-brainer that I fell for their chemistry, banter, I-know-you-more-than-you-do-yourself retorts, their push-and-pull – I loved them all, because these two people, they’re not merely lovers: they’re (pseudo)siblings, they’re friends, they’re housemates, they’re childhood friends, they’re each other’s first loves… They’re everything to one another.
How does one quit the other? How do they extricate themselves from each other when they’ve been in each other’s orbit since birth, just about? How do they move forward and away from each other when they’ve been witness to each other’s good and bad sides inside and out, plus physically, mentally and emotionally? How do they ever be insignificant to each other when he was there for her throughout her mother’s death and she was by his side despite his stubbornness to veil his emotions? They were and are each other’s past and present, over and over, that at least for me, this question came to mind repeatedly: just how do they quit each other?
The execution to the following question posed above? So darn organic and laden with so much heart and natural turn-of-events that despite how much my heart bled – and it did, repeatedly for all the characters and different scenes – I was never able to point my fingers and say, “He’s the jerk!” or “She’s so pathetic!” or “OMG is she seriously acting that way towards him?” so decisively; these characters, they’re not 1-D. In terms of the supporting characters as well, I loved everyone. Although in the beginning I was indifferent towards Jae Kyung and Jin Hee, the former completely knocked my socks off through the way she dealt with the divorce – like a boss, badass and classy at the same time – while the latter took some getting used to but when I did, I loved her for her endearing personality and of course, her payback to the ex-boyfriend. So friggin’ awesome. Their other halves were also great men in their own rights which I enjoyed rooting for and glad they received their respective happy endings.
Second, I absolutely loved the friendship depicted, specifically the foursome – you heard me right, foursome. Not the three ladies with one another though I did enjoy their frank discussions, confessions and everyday conversations, but for me it’s the ladies plus Seok Hyun all the way. He’s such a guy’s guy but when he’s with the ladies, he blended right in that any scenes with the four of them together had me awwing and grinning like a fool.
Third would be the easy transitions of past and present, as their relationship history was fleshed out to us in beats and at different moments. I loved the natural back-and-forth transition as it flew with the current conflict, or present-day situations. Kudos to the director and writer for achieving this and doing it so incredibly well. The transition would occur to sometimes act as a dichotomy, other times as an alternate point of view but mostly as little reveals – their relationship, specifically he and she of the past.
In terms of particular scenes, some stood out so strongly to me. One in particular was this: the breakup scene, the one that led to the 3-year hiatus – yes that crazy one where they screamed and went at each other on the streets of Myung Dong. That scene was so raw, guttural and real; it was heartbreaking. Just when I thought it was over though, they continued with what happened after: they were released from jail the next morning and ended up in a restaurant eating some beef soup or whatever. Both were in tears and she spoke first, “Let’s break up.” He agreed. She threw her ring into the waste pail and he followed suit. She continued crying, loudly and unabashedly while he allowed tears to stream down his cheeks.
Broke. My. Heart.
Another scene which owned me completely was this one; so simple yet so powerful. Their argument as always, would become increasingly heated and this time around was no exception. They stood in the middle of the sand field and she had had enough – she turned and walked away, but stopped, having noticed a twig. A pregnant pause as she considered her next move while he stood still where he was. She drew a circle around him and looked at him square, “This is your circle. You’ll be alone forever in this circle.” Across the screen I asked aloud, despite understanding his desperation to clutch at his heart … Are you… Happy now, Seok Hyun? Your walls, so damn high they’re almost impenetrable that despite her misgivings and shortcomings, the very fact she kept trying – for 12 years! – to get through to you had to mean something, surely.
Where Shin Ji Hoon was concerned, I admit to not being on his camp completely – I think I was Team Seok Hyun all the way honestly, even during the lull periods where I tried to not pick a side lest my heart got broken based on her choice. What I loved of his character though, I loved sincerely. He was such a sweetheart and so sincere in his love towards her. He gave her a much-needed reprieve and lesson about love, I think. I’d also thought that it was significant that in this relationship, she was at the receiving end; it matured her and allowed for reflection where her relationship with Ji Hoon versus her relationship with Seok Hyun paralleled each other. I loved that he gave her his heart and despite the obvious wanting to have her return to him, he understood, respected and accepted her decision and choice on why she could not.
The above scene therefore, brings me to two significant dialogues – there were plenty, definitely, but the final episode had the greatest bang to me and I loved the following monologue by Yeol Mae, “At that moment, both of us realized, the opposite word for love isn’t hate or dislike. The opposite was I loved you. The past tense.” Minutes later, he looked at her calmly and with a certain sense of finality and ease, said the following, “We were defeated by time. I was defeated by you. We were defeated by each other. I made you change, and you’re changed. I already lost you and you already left me.”
Oh my god, I think that’s my heart on the floor, broken to pieces.
The thing is, I can totally see why they said so and why despite my broken heart and their broken hearts – it’s true. It’s all true. Timing has never been so important and well-played out as it did in I Need Romance 2012 with these two who tried over and over, as they repeatedly circled each other, to meet halfway … yet kept missing the beat. “We’re crossed,” he’d once said. I totally get it too… which was exactly why to me, the 1-year gap was necessary. The separation and time-gap were both absolutely necessary as they needed space away from each other; they were ruining one another and tearing each other down towards the end, all strangely because they loved each other too much. It’s like, if we’re so in love – why are we always hurting? So I understood the need for that time and space and glad it played out. With that said, I also absolutely, completely loved the ending. I loved that he finally broke down in tears in front of her, finally letting his feelings known out in the open. I also loved the get-together – I love all three couples and loved even more that they continue to be in each other’s presences; together and separate. Finally, I loved the ending in which Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun were all romantic with each other, saying “I love you” between each kiss. So simple yet so heartrending.
“But now we know, that if I open the door, people I love can come back when they lose their way.”
I Need Romance 2012, thank you so much for such a satisfying watch. I absolutely loved our time together.
Final Verdict: 9/10.