Look Back: Padam Padam

This review was written for and appeared in the Korean Quarterly.

It is a rare and precious drama that, upon viewing, can make one’s pulse beat just a little faster than normal, from the opening moments through to the final scene. Cable network jTBC performed that miracle with the exceptional “Padam Padam… The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats.”

It is clear from the opening scene that this will be no ordinary story, told in no ordinary way, nor performed by ordinary actors. If it were simply a case of a great story, many viewers of television dramas would be delighted at being treated to a novel and imaginative tale. Yet this is perhaps the least of the not inconsiderable treats provided by “Padam Padam.” It brings to the screen an incredible visual style, cinematic in its scope, as well as beautiful and unique locations in and near Tongyeong, South Korea. But it is the excellence of the performers who make up the drama’s cast that bring these other components to brilliant life and make it unforgettable.

One of the boldest and bravest of these performances is that of Jung Woo-sung.

Jung Woo-sung is Kang-chil

The drama opens with an extreme close-up of Jung, dedicated to eating a meal of fried chicken with a single-minded thoroughness. Meat is stripped from the bones with precision and no succulent morsel escapes his unselfconscious attention. He eats without passion.  A voice interrupts his meal to tell him that Prisoner Yang Kang-chil has a visitor. This is to be his last meal; he is destined for the gallows. Are we seeing, in fact, a story told in reverse?

While this is not the case (we are not after all seeing the story’s final sequence), “Padam Padam” is a richly layered story, with multiple timelines. It demands your attention at all times, though this is never a chore. Watching the various threads of the story unravel and become knit together once again is particularly gratifying. It is a story of redemption and retribution, of courage and despair, of love and doubt, and of miracles.

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#han-ji-min, #jung-woo-sung, #kim-bum, #lee-jae-woo, #na-moon-hee, #padam-padam, #padam-padam-the-sound-of-his-and-her-heartbeats

Just Between Lovers – First Impressions

At first, I wasn’t sure about watching this drama: on the one hand, I wanted to see Lee Jun-ho take on his first drama lead role and having “the column” Lee Ki-woo as the love rival could be nothing but a plus, but the plot seemed a little on the dark and melo side. The main characters were all involved in the traumatic collapse of a shopping mall while in their teens or early twenties, and they’re supposed to find love and healing. Doesn’t that just sound sappy?

Well, I started watching it on an impulse and I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised! Oh, don’t get me wrong; it’s still dark and veering on the melodramatic side of things, but not in an OTT kind of way. It’s full of sadness and dark emotions and yet optimism. In many ways, it reminds me of Padam Padam (and it also has the great Na Moon-hee in it as a supporting but pivotal character) in its tone and the quality of the writing, the acting, and production value, and that’s a very good thing IMO.

I’ve watched 6 episodes (on Viki, but it’s not fully available as soon as it’s subbed – they want those premium subscriptions) and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

#just-between-lovers, #lee-jun-ho, #lee-ki-woo, #na-moon-hee, #won-jin-ah