THE SISTERS WHO CRIED ROMCOM
As a teenager, Lee Jung Joo (Kang Sora) arrived on Jeju Island in hopes of finding her family. She meets Baek Gun Woo (Yoo Yun Suk), a carefree rich kid. Though their encounter is brief, they leave a lasting impression on one another. Years later, Jung Joo returns to Jeju Island to escape the hustle and bustle of Seoul and the unrewarding grind of her job. She reunites with Gun Woo who now owns a restaurant on the island. After an unsuccessful attempt at starting fresh on her own, Gun Woo helps Jung Joo and they both end up running the restaurant together.
I’ve been a faithful follower of the Hong Sisters for a while now, having seen all of their dramas except for three. They typically choose a well-known story or theme and write whimsical romantic comedy dramas filled with witty catchphrases and multi-layered characters. Over the years, there were a few dramas in which viewers disagreed over the ending or the progression of a story but I think many K-Drama fans generally had a feeling of esteem over their body of work. However, when I think back to this drama, I feel disappointment.
The major issue is that I don’t quite understand the point of the story. Was there an underlying theme other than Jeju being the setting for the characters to escape to? What was I supposed to take away from the story?
Considering that the original title of the drama was Jeju Island Gatsby, I wondered if F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby would play a part in the drama’s story and its characters. I could be grasping at straws but I can see the flightiness of Daisy Buchanan in Gun Woo’s character, while the one-track mind (and heart) of Jay Gatsby is indicative of Jung Joo. The drama never gets as dark as the book does but neither does the drama delve into themes portraying the excessiveness of extravagance and the irony of dreams turning into dust very much.
As much as I like Kang Sora and Yoo Yun Suk, it grew tiring to watching Jung Joo pining after Gun Woo week after week. After all, it’s the first episode where we learn that Jung Joo has had a crush on Gun Woo since she first met him. The drama does bring up the story of The Boy Who Cries Wolf but you can only tease the audience for so long before they turn on you.
What’s really infuriating about Gun Woo as a character is there were numerous times when he toyed with Jung Joo’s emotions. I could have lived with that aspect of his character except Jung Joo doesn’t have a backbone to stand on when it came to Gun Woo. Even when she aims to get back at Gun Woo, she relents fairly easily making any reasonable tension between the two subside.
*SPOILER ALERT* We spend so long wondering ‘will they or won’t they’ that when Jung Joo and Gun Woo finally admit their feelings to each other, we don’t get a kiss to seal the relationship deal. As superficial as it may sound, this is indicative of how the dramas informs us where it’s going but holds back delivering on crucial elements. If there were a plot-driven reason to hold back but without complicated relationships or layers to the story, they could at least give me a kiss to swoon over. Amiright? Rather, you’re going to have to wait until the final episode to satisfy your drama needs.
I also really love Kim Sung Oh as an actor as it’s been awhile since he’s played a straight comedic role. Lately, he’s been playing to the extremes, whether it’s dramatic roles like in Inspiring Generation, or over-the-top comedy as in Fashion King or unintentionally comical as in The Night Watchman’s Journal.
As the town mayor, Hwang Wook, this role felt more like his character as Secretary Kim in Secret Garden. Sure, he does have his over-the-top moments but his character is rooted in someone that’s relatable.
However, what he got was a role in which he plays the same scene over and over again. He secretly pines for Jung Joo, she comes to him when she needs comforting and then leaves him when Gun Woo returns.
The one pairing that did have me coming back week after week was Hotel Resort Tycoon Song Jung Geum (Lee Sung Jae) and Female Diver Cha Hee Ra (Ok Ji Young). She saves him after he accidentally falls in and theirs is a Cinderella story that we’ve all heard many times before but despite the banality of the storyline, Lee Sung Jae and Ok Ji Young have great chemistry that’s comical and endearing.
I love the metaphor of the “black pearl” to describe CEO Song’s worth in Hee Ra’s eyes. The way the actors deliver their lines is unique in and of itself as CEO Song has a robotic way of talking but is filled with lots of emotion while Hee Ra talks quite plainly but is unemotional. Their unique speech doesn’t change throughout the drama but as their love grows for one another, you can hear the emotion that they feel behind their words.
However, the big elephant in the room when it comes to Hee Ra and Jung Geum’s relationship is the role that their mom and Gun Woo’s dad plays in the death of Hee Ra’s first husband. We spend so long wondering when Hee Ra would find out the truth that when it is finally revealed, it’s very anticlimactic. Despite that, I have to admit that I was relieved that the drama doesn’t go the route of an angsty separation between Hee Ra and Jung Geum. It was too much, too late for that to happen at this point in the drama. However, I do have to ask what the point of this storyline was to begin with.
Some might find that the rating I give this drama is harsh because I respect the Hong Sisters so much. However, it’s because I respect the Hong Sisters so much that I rated it poorly as I feel like we deserve a better class of drama as their fan. I have incredibly fond memories of the actual Jeju Island as I hope that it will one day be my escape from reality and so I thought I would feel a lot for this drama. Although my impression of Jejudo is slightly tainted now, here’s hoping that the next Hong Sisters drama will be a hit.