I realized that this was either going to be written as a convoluted afterthought or it will simply never see the light of day. At the rate that I keep piling my drama reviews with the excuse of “I’ll get to them eventually!” coupled with the fact that it’s been a pretty crazy write-and-delete vicious cycle, I… let’s just lower all of our expectations.
I’m mostly re-watching old dramas at the moment because whenever I watch a new show I am guilt-trippin’ to write about it except… my recent track record speaks for itself and well, it’s lousy. So in short, here’s the plan: I plan to publish an entry of short blurbs of shows I watched during summer break and the first two weeks of school. For now though, here’s an afterthought pseudo-review on…
Watching the Discovery of Love was an experience. Knowing full well that I jumped onboard because of my anticipation (okay, rabid excitement) for the reunion of Eric Mun and Jung Yu Mi, what I didn’t see coming was how much I grew along with the show or maybe it’s more like, thanks to the show for being by my side while I experienced my own small-scaled discovery of love. This show is easily one of the best rom-coms I’ve watched in years, with characters who are frustratingly flawed because they were just so unapologetically human and not mere drama caricatures.
The nuance in the writing was anchored to an incredibly solid emotional ground that stemmed from well-fleshed out main characters; their pain and heartbreak were ours to experience too, forget whether we would’ve acted differently or similarly had we been in the same situations. There were many aspects about her writing that are worthy of praise though to be honest, I wouldn’t call it airtight or perfect because the writer demonstrated yet again her fixation with her idea of unfinished business with past lover(s) as well as her viewpoint that the future is an all-or-nothing choice between Past and Present. Personally, I would never limit anyone to this option had this been real life, but given the context of her drama-world, this theme was amazingly well-done. Of course, that’s got as much to do with the writing as it does the directing – skilled with a modern flair ergo zippy, fast-paced and crisp – and acting.
The acting, ah the acting. Eric Mun, believe it or not, grew as an actor with each episode. I do think his character was given the best character growth trajectory though; he went from man-child to a woman’s man and emoted so much with his eyes alone that if looks could kill… suffice to say that if that’s true then I’d be dead by now.
His character was my favorite too, not because Eric was Kang Tae Ha (okay, so that may have influenced my choice) rather the character, for all his shortcomings and oversized ego, was inherently a good person. I suspect a lot more viewers liked him because he was totally a one-woman man, but it was honest to God, the warmth in his character that got to me. I like that trait, I like it a lot. Sure he skated and lingered by the gray areas of relationship-wrecker in the first half of the show, but in my opinion he never went all the way because he drew a clear line against sabotaging. Plus, once he learned his hard lessons and thus tried to sort out his emotions, he really tried not to get in their way.
Above all, it was during his lowest moments that both the character and actor shone. Eric truly outdid himself with his performance in this show, showcasing so much emotional (man)pain through piercing gazes alone without any words exchanged or said out loud. Simultaneously, Kang Tae Ha gave me one of the best transformational character growth turning point and followed up that scene with relatable and realistic “I’m really trying to get over it” moments where again, his slow gazes and silences were more telling than anything he could’ve and would’ve said out loud. Kudos to Eric.
Then there’s Jung Yu Mi who was bad ass and proved or rather, reminded us just why she’s A+ material and the actress that she is. Han Yeo Reum lived up to the term unapologetically human through and through as she moves through her life with full autonomy on her actions and decisions – not governed or bothered in the least by characters in her drama-ville as well as the opinions of her spectators, us the viewers.
She held steadfast to her decisions and actions, too much like most people in real life, colored by jaded perspectives and a hardened, steely determination. I know a lot of viewers couldn’t relate or stand her but isn’t the reason most people couldn’t, is because we see bits and parts of the less glamorous versions of ourselves in her? And well, frankly isn’t that the beauty? She is almost as real as it gets and Jung Yu Mi really gave Han Yeo Reum multiple dimensions and layers with each episode- correction, multiple watch per episode. Blink once and you’ll easily miss the details like say, that deliberate gesture or shifty stare of hers – a kaleidoscope, this one, ever-changing and different with each view yet the light always shines through.
I must say that I thought it was really judgmental and silly of folks to berate her for acting the way she believed was best for herself first, above anyone else, ergo not adhering to the laws of characters in drama land. Yet had she not, I can bet you they’d call her out anyway for being unrealistic. Tough.
As for Sung Joon‘s character Nam Ha Jin, I don’t dislike him. Sure, I was annoyed with him many times and especially his possessive ‘tude with Yeo Reum, as if she’s an object he needs to keepsake as opposed to a person with autonomy of her own, but I never flat-out disliked him. Mostly because I understood his complex with his past and childhood, that bit about his adoption.
Sure, most people could not get behind why it was such a big deal for him and especially in this time and day where a lot of issues are no longer considered taboo like they used to, but I think on an emotional level it isn’t something that completely goes away or is resolved. I don’t mean it negatively, just that some things in real life are inevitably open-ended and I say this because my mother was adopted and even now at 60-something, much as she’s made amends about it, there’s still plenty of residual mixed feelings. So I empathize and feel for him, though there were times I wished a more experienced actor had carried this role. I found Sung Joon serviceable and he’s naturally charming, but had Ha Jin been acted by an actor with more gravitas, I feel like the character would’ve turned out more fleshed-out and multi-dimensional with emotional pain that does not merely graze the surface of our hearts.
Then there’s Ahn Ah Rim played by Yoon Jin Yi who was also equally green. In a way it played to her advantage because of how the character was written, plus I acknowledge that she had several emotional moments in which she was stellar. Unfortunately likewise with Sung Joon, even during their rawest moments, my empathy did not reach beyond the superficial. Still, I really liked the way she parted with Ha Jin – it was her way of telling him she forgave him and her opportunity to come clean and be honest to him; it was true-to-character and just… so big-hearted of her. So when they met again (who are we kidding, of course they would) I thought that they were finally on the same page and footing. A clean slate.
Over the course of watching this show, I mostly shared my thoughts and any reactions with Mookie over at her blog because I felt that she approached the show with unflinching honesty and treated the characters with the best form of respect: like real persons worthy of benefit of doubt, forgiveness, empathy and multiple attempts to understand them. Something interesting in my life took place too while this show ran its course, and it is through this specific personal experience that made me realize that the divide and disconnect between what the heart desires and what the mind hopes for – let’s just put it this way: it’s a very real divide, too painfully real.
I’ll be honest and admit the last episode didn’t move me the way I had hoped – I think I had too high an expectation – but it was a neatly tied bow and I’m thankful to the skilled team behind the show for that. Honestly though, it’s not the last episode that deserves the accolade rather the journey to getting there because man oh man, this show totally moved back-and-forth between past and present so seamlessly and on-point that the emotional impact was always a double punch – for what could have been and hindsight and understanding of what’s lost in the process.
Still, my favorite part and biggest takeaway from the show is that nothing is as they seem; no situation and definitely no one is one-dimensional, even at their most basic. More than keeping your eyes peeled on them and their actions, it’s more that you’ve got to keep an eye and ear out for the things that they don’t do and the words that escape them. In short there’s always multiple viewpoints for a single scenario and memories, even at their best, are in all honestly merely reconstructed truths.
I enjoyed my experience with this show immensely, and look forward to a third collaboration by Eric Mun and Jung Yu Mi. Hey, third time’s the charm isn’t it? What are you waiting for – get to it stat, you two!
PS The sidekicks! The sidekicks! Mad applause to the two best buds and cutie-patootie Director Yoon!