FINDING YOUR HAPPY HOUR
Drinking Solo is a slice-of-life drama that centers around the daily lives of the teachers, students and staff at a Noryangjin learning prep center for students who are taking the civil service exam. The drama also depicts the romance between Jin Jung Suk (Ha Suk Jin), a Korean history teacher who is an arrogant, star lecturer, while Park Ha Na (Park Ha Sun) is a Korean language teacher, who is sweet but struggles to survive the world of the prep center.
If you’d been following along with me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I attempted to watch each episode with my own honsul (drinking solo) sessions. I had a good start but I have to admit that it was really difficult to keep it up on a bi-weekly basis. Still, as much as drinking is a big part of the Korean culture, the concept of these characters relieving the stress of their daily lives by enjoying a drink along is a relatable one.
Although I haven’t watched Ha Suk Jin in many dramas, it’s been ages since I last saw him in a romantic comedy and it made me realize what I’ve been missing. Ha Suk Jin is great at playing those cold, Darcy types who ends up having a heart of gold. As for Park Ha Sun, she’s great at playing the sweet, girl-next-door. Together, there was no doubt that the two would have decent chemistry despite the fact that cold guy/sweet girl trope is one that we see over and over again.
Vanilla Acoustic – 나와 (With Me)
The rest of the cast is pretty charming as each of their characters brought their own unique merit to the story, whether it was a running, comedic gag or a heartfelt story. Apart from the main OTP, many of the supporting cast members used their own names for their characters. One of the most memorable performances in the drama was by Min Jin Woong. He always had an infamous impression ready for his lecture. The beauty of his impressions was not that he did spot-on impressions but rather he was just a regular rather than a comedian trying to do them. From Yoo Ah In’s Jo Tae Oh from Veteran to Song Joong Ki’s Capt. Yoo Shi Jin from Descendants from the Sun to Park Bo Gum’s Lee Young from Moonlight Drawn by the Clouds to Lee Je Hoon’s Park Hae Young from Signal and many more. His pitiful attempts at the impressions made him all the more endearing and hilarious. Also, I loved that the drama peels back the layers of his cheerful composure, which was reserved for his colleagues, to show an unexpectedly, different private life.
As for the students at the prep center, it’s hard to overlook Gong Myung’s performance as Jin Gong Myung. He starts off as an aimless, young adult, who finds a reason to pass his civil service exam when he meets the lovely Park Ha Na. In comparison to Jin Jung Suk’s seriousness, which is reflected in his name (jung-suk = by the book), it was hard not to love Gong Myung’s carefree attitude. After watching Gong Myung in Hwajung and now in this drama, I look forward to seeing this 5urprise actor in many more projects in the future.
There were also a lot of new faces in the drama as well, including Shinee’s Key, Kim Dong Young and Jung Chae Yun. Although it’s the first time I’m seeing Key act, I found that he’s pretty decent with long dialogues as he has a knack for delivering sharp, witty lines as Kim Ki Bum. He’s playing a heightened version of himself which includes using the Gyeongsangdo accent which works for his facetious character.
Kim Dong Young plays a poor but hardworking student who wants nothing more but to make his girlfriend and family proud by passing the test. And yet, that goal remains just outside of his reach. Compared to his other buddies, Gong Myung and Ki Bum, his character seems the most relatable and Kim Dong Young’s solemn moments are definitely worth watching.
Rooftop Moonlight – 떠날 수 있을까 (Will I Be Able to Leave?)
As for Jung Chae Yun, this is her debut project as an actress. While I found her to be a bit one-note, her consistency in depicting her character’s cold but determined demeanor was convincing. Her work in this drama was promising enough that I look forward to how she’ll grow as an even better actress in her next project.
I think a lot of the cast members, especially the younger cast, could relate with the drama’s overall theme. It’s about chasing dreams even though life can sometimes knock you down. There are a lot of things about the themes in this drama that remind me of Misaeng and I still believe that Misaeng did a better job at depicting those stories. However, I like that the drama doesn’t sugar coat a happy ending for the characters just because we, the viewers, find the characters likable. Sure, they all get a happy ending but the point that this drama makes is life is about challenging yourself and trying it again if you don’t succeed.
The cast is likable and the theme of struggling against the everyday strife is relatable. The plot and the characters are not quite as deep or poetic as the plot and the characters in Misaeng but that’s okay. The drama is entertaining enough to stand on its own and maybe that’s all you need.