May 2023 BREAKDOWN
- 18 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
- 11 foreign films/series
- 4 re-watches
- 3 TV series
Biggest Disappointment: My Roommate is a Gumiho
Favorite Discovery: School 2017, Fight for My Way, Oath of Love
Brokenwood Mysteries Season 9 – As much as I love all the characters and their relationships on this show, I feel like it is stagnating. At this point, I would like to know a lot more about the main characters than I do and feel like their development should have progressed more. In particular, I’m dying to know more about Kristen’s background and personal life. In contrast, the mysteries this season seem a bit more complex, which I do appreciate.
Continued rewatches of Doctor Blake & Frasier
Foreign Films & Series:
School 2017 (2017) – I’m not much for school dramas as I find them hard to relate to and also hate the ever present cruel bullying they often depict. I almost gave up on this one early on, but it grew on me more with each episode until I really loved it at the end. The lead couple are so engaging together, starting out as reluctant acquaintances, then moving on to good friends and eventually falling for each other. Our heroine is particularly engaging as she is so cheerful, friendly and loyal making her one of my favorite female characters in recent memory. Even though the male lead seemed like a rebel without a cause at first, I quickly warmed up to the way he teases her, taking delight in her reactions. And when he finally falls for her, the way he looks at her like she’s the best thing in the world is just swoon worthy. I did feel that there were too many supporting characters and side plots that didn’t get the time they deserved and really weren’t all that necessary. But it was nice that the bullying was toned down and also that one of the best supporting characters is a teacher who champions the students when they respond to the inequality and corruption at their school. I finished this one with a warm feeling and a smile on my face.
My Roommate is a Gumiho (2021) – Why do these shows about ancient mythological creatures often have them falling for naive, young women? No matter how good the rest of the show is, I struggle to overcome the illogical central relationship. Even though I’m not a fan of the lead actress, I really thought I would enjoy this one more than I did. Unfortunately, I found it somewhat boring and struggled to finish it. I could write more about it, but I don’t care enough to do so.
Flower of Evil (2020) -Despite a couple of false starts on my part, this romantic thriller was a gripping tale exploring psychological trauma and the power of love to save. Lee Joon Gi is absolutely riveting as the son of a serial killer who has lived half his life under an assumed identity. His world is threatened when his original identity is suspected of new crimes and his detective wife starts to investigate. Joon Gi plumbs the depths of his character’s psyche with an emotional performances that varies from understatedly chilling to completely heart breaking. Moon Chae Won matches him with an equally compelling portrayal of a wife whose unconditional love for her husband is challenged when she starts to uncover the truth of his past. Watching her process these discoveries while wrestling with her duty as a police officer made the shattering of trust in her marriage even more tragic, especially since they genuinely love each other. The intense and sad moments are thankfully balanced out by the male lead’s scenes with their young daughter who is adorable. Their mutual affection is so sweet. I have never had such a physical reaction to a series before. I couldn’t sit still and found myself jumping out of my seat and yelling at the screen among other things. I wasn’t crazy about most of the final episode as it added an additional challenge to the main couple that didn’t seem necessary, even though it ends well. Due to the subject matter this is not an enjoyable show to watch but it is an extremely memorable experience.
When the Weather is Fine (2020) – With a meandering pace, this explores the inner lives of the protagonists who have unresolved childhood traumas of abuse, neglect, sudden deaths and hidden truths. They are both very reticent but through their slowly developing relationship, they began to face their pasts and heal. The winter weather serves as a metaphor for their emotional inner landscapes and the quiet countryside feels like its’ own character as it displays the rhythms of daily lives of the villagers. It’s inspiring to see how despite their fear both characters still try to build their own community of people they feel safe with. I especially love the hero’s adorable little sister who is unapologetically herself; feisty, bossy, direct and so self-confident even in the face of rejection. My favorite scenes are those where the book club gathers for their discussions and I love how there is no age limit with their members ranging from a child to an elderly grandpa. Plus instead of discussing one book they’ve all read, they each share their thoughts on whatever they’ve each read that gives them food for thought. Park Min Young gives a uniquely understated performance as the heroine who longs for human connection and really lights up when she finds it. Despite being wary, she is able to speak the truth bravely when necessary and is always the one pushing for conversation and truth in her relationships. I do wish the male lead had eventually grown enough to take some initiative in their relationship as she is always the one making the first move. There were some great discussions and contemplations about live and love but this one stuck out the most, “Trust is like glass, once it’s broken you can put it back together but the cracks are still visible.”
The Rebel Princess (2021) – Despite my good intentions I found myself skipping through large chunks of this long historical Chinese drama. It’s the story of a royal princess whose sheltered life is upended when her scheming father marries her off to a powerful general instead of the cousin she has always loved. Even though they start off on the wrong foot, the princess and her general quickly fall in love. Their scenes together were the highlight for me and kept me watching longer than I otherwise would have. The male lead is particularly compelling as an honorable but fierce military genius who displays complete love and tenderness towards his wife. Unfortunately, they spend quite a bit of time apart and I couldn’t drum up any interest in all the court intrigue and military actions. On top of that, there were too many side characters and sub plots that I found confusing and didn’t care about. There is a lot of royal and military pageantry, some ornate sets and costumes that draw the eye in this drama, but it just wasn’t enough to hold my attention the whole way through.
Ending Again (2020) – A rather forgettable mini series featuring a contractual marriage between a woman getting over a break up and a man who wants revenge against her ex. It was cute but nothing special.
Discovery of Love (2014) – I have never felt so frustrated by tv characters in my life! If the writers were hoping for an emotional response by making them human and deeply flawed, they certainly did a great job. Featuring a love triangle between a woman, her current boyfriend (who is almost too good to be true) and her soulmate ex, the characters were at turns, selfish, manipulative, secretive, and dishonest. I couldn’t stand the hypocritical heroine for the first half of the drama and her ex boyfriend was charming but also so selfish as they struggled with the feelings brought to the surface after years of separation. In learning their background, I was eventually able to feel some empathy and understanding for their behavior, but I did feel really sorry for the current boyfriend who was too in love with her to call her out on her deceptions. Eric Mun did a wonderful job and had a great character arc as the ex-boyfriend who grows emotionally and learns to love unconditionally even though it might be too late. As a fan of Kim Seul Gi, I was excited to see her in a supporting role as the best friend, but her character was so pathetic in the first half I believed the writers did her a disservice. Fortunately, that also improved in later episodes Personally, I did not care about, many of the side characters and plots such as the one with the heroine’s mother and the boyfriend’s back story of adoption and a lost sister. For better or worse, I was so engaged with the main story, I had no interest in anything else. The title so accurately encapsulates the theme of this series as everyone contemplates what love truly is upon contemplation of their experiences together and I really appreciate how that was explored.
Reply 1997 (2012) -This is my first of the Reply series and I thought it was pretty cute. As adults, a group of friends reminisce on their high school days together. Since, I was also in school at that time, I expected to find more in common with their experiences and the styles, but I guess cultural differences were too great, because little of it felt familiar to me. Still it made me ponder my own memories. Among the group of friends, there were two (potential) love matches one between childhood friends whose families were very close. Their bickering like siblings eventually grew to include aromantic emotional dimension which was fun. I really disliked the love triangle between the two brothers and the female lead. It was disturbing because the oldest brother was their teacher and also he had dated her sister previously. It just felt icky and hard to believe a man a decade older could be attracted to a teenager. The family scenes with the heroine and her parents as well as the two brothers (who were practically adopted in) were the highlight and so much fun! They showed their love by arguing with each other. This show shined when the group of friends were together living out their teenage years, but dragged a bit in the later episodes when the focus was on the love triangle.
Soundtrack #1 (2022) – Despite a slow start in this friends to lovers story, the unspoken emotions in the last half had my heart literally aching. Since this is four episode mini series the story is kept simple focusing on two long time friends who wrestle with changing feelings. At times I wondered why the guy did not reveal his long held feelings, but I also respected that he realized that she did not feel the same and didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. He simply wanted to love and support her quietly. Even though I was frustrated a bit at their separation, I was glad they both had the chance to pursue and realize their dreams, because it makes their longing for each other all the more poignant and touching. This is a visually beautiful series, particularly the way it films the light.
Fight For My Way (2017) – What a great modern love story. The lifelong friends to romance trope has been done before, but not always this well. The leads are absolutely endearing and two people who really seem to belong together. The hero is a bit dense but is a softie at heart, while the heroine is fierce, but also kind and compassionate even to those who haven’t treated her well. I love that the plot isn’t just about their love story but also focuses on their pursuit of their dreams despite the challenges and rejections they face as average people. It’s rather funny that despite the male lead being a competitive fighter that it is the heroine who has the personality of a fighter and is quick to come to his defense. I couldn’t care less about the secondary couple who were pretty dull, although I liked their role as friends to the leads. I wish their had been more scenes of the four of them together, because they were a highlight. I was very disappointed that the epilogues have been cut and I had to track them down on Youtube or read about them in recaps.
Oath of Love (2022) -A doctor and music student initially clash over her father’s treatment, but eventually develop feelings for one another. Such a beautiful romance between two flawed, but kind people, I could watch these two flirt and play all day. Their relationship develops naturally and credibly thanks to their mutual respect and clear communication with each other. I love how they bring out the best in each other despite being opposite personalities and also support and challenge each other when necessary. The other highlight of this series is the close relationship the heroine has with her parents. Despite her father being very strict, it’s clear that they really love each other. The exploration of that love between them adds some gravitas and bittersweet moments to an otherwise sweet story as she supports her father’s battle against cancer. Having lost my father in recent years, I was emotionally affected by their scenes together. It’s also always nice when the conflict in a drama stems from realistic life challenges and not an evil antagonist. Since the female lead is a cellist, this drama features a lovely classical music score which really added to the mood of each scene. While Chinese dramas have been hit or miss for me, this one is definitely worth watching.
Joseon Attorney (2023) – Although it started strong, this historical drama lost it’s momentum for me. I was instantly intrigued by the male lead, an attorney who serves the people but who is secretly working to avenge his loved ones through the law. He’s definitely one of the more interesting characters I’ve seen lately with a playful personality, but a man who is also wily, smart, insightful and not above using trickery to his advantage. It’s rare to see a middle class character in a historical drama and I especially enjoyed seeing the law used to defend and improve the lives of the common people. The heroine was a bit bland but definitely more interesting in her initial identity as an innkeeper, before stepping back into her true identity as a royal, where she starts to lose her feisty, independent nature. With the shift from the streets to the palace and the challenges of the commoners to the politics of the powerful, the strengths of the early plot and character development were somewhat wasted. With so many other dramas that have focused on the royal court and political power plays, this show lost its’ opportunity to tell a more unique story. Not to mention, aside from the hero, the character development pretty much went down hill. Sadly, though I started with high expectation, this ended up being pretty average.
Parent Trap (1961) – I LOVE this movie. Every time I watch it, I find myself smiling and my heart happy. The camp scenes are some of my favorites.
Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) -This is a beautifully filmed picture with rich visuals, but the story itself is not my favorite. However, it’s one I rewatch often mainly for the performance of Matthias Schoenaerts as the faithful and long-suffering hero Gabriel Oak.
The Hundred Foot Journey (2014) – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this film about family, food and cultures clashing, but I never get tired of it.
Miss Potter (2006) – This is such a beautifully made film, from the costumes and music, to the indoor sets and outdoor scenery as well as the way the story is so delicately told. I’m not sure why Renee Zellweger’s character has such a ruddy face which is distracting. But other than that, this is a personal favorite.
Hallmark: Hearts in the Game, Beach House, A Brush With Love, Falling for You, A Country Wedding, Taking the Reins, It Was Always You, Her Pen Pal, Forever In My Heart