A beautiful picture that is, right?
“Friendship” painted via the smiles on their faces.
The question is: “Will it last?”
Thanx to Mister X’s review in Soompi, I discovered yet another criminally underrated gem-like drama of year 2009. A dark and sad drama about the friendship of 4 guys, transcending from their childhood and adolescent years up until adulthood. A drama which I thought deserved a lil bit more attention than all those cheesy slap-stickish teeny bopper stuff out there.
Why do good dramas always get trampled in the ratings/attention battle (eg. Tamra, The Island) and the crappy ones get all the divine attention (eg. MFL “ooppss…sorry”)? I have no idea. But that feeling resonated with me the most when I watched Friend, Our Legend.
I love dark dramas and dark characters. Dramas which boast of characters with flaws and imperfection. Dramas which tell stories of emotionally deranged or socially inept characters And dramas which actually explore the depth of human weaknesses. Friend, Our Legend is something or sort of like it.
The drama starts off in quite a depressing mode, totally incoherent or incompatible with the title of the drama. It starts off with the breakdown and gradual dissolution of the friendship which the drama purports to explore on. A sad and glum prologue to what’s gonna happen in the future episodes. We all say that friends are forever, but in reality, it may not be the case.
I have only seen 6 episodes out of 20 episodes. And I once wondered in amazement about how a movie spanning only up to 2 hours something (Movie: Friend) could be prolonged up till 20 episodes. After all, if you want to talk about friendship, wouldn’t 1 or 2 episodes do? I was proven wrong, after having seen the 6 episodes – which elaborated in detail, on how the 4 friends came together, on how they forged their friendship, on how they encountered trials and tribulations in life and yet still supported each other from tip to toe… and most importantly, on how and what they had to sacrifice just to keep their friendship alight.
Now this sounds really cliche right? A friend giving up a girl or something for the other best friend, but the other girl likes him instead… blah blah blah. In essence I think the drama IS about that one girl whom the friends have a crush on. Pathetic huh? But at least the drama places a lot of emphasis on the individual development of the characters all across the board and does not just shine the light on Hyun Bin, who happens to be the main lead of the drama. Of course we know he and the girl loves each other… but hey what’s new? Everyone has their share of screen time to shine, and everyone has a story.
I can’t really give a thorough judgment or opinion on the storyline itself as I’m barely half-way thru the drama. But I can definitely say for sure that I’m liking it a lot right now. There are some awkward joints in between (especially with the transitions from glum to comedy as such) but I’m not so bothered by it. What I can say is that the story itself is intriguing, and tho illustrated in shades of grey most of the time, it engages and connects from the beginning till the very end. I think this caused a lot of viewers to veer away from the drama, not giving it a second chance. BUT I’d say it’s sad case for those who turned away, cos they’re so missing out on treasure.
The thing that makes Friend, Our Legend so intriguing for me – is none other than the direction and visuals incorporated in certain scenes of the drama. I mentioned earlier about the grey-ish colored mode that turned away some viewers…but that’s exactly what I like about it. It’s not just some romantic comedy or cheesy teenage flick, whereby vibrant colors would actually help set the mood. Friend, Our Legend is darker and more complex than that. It’s dark and glum because it’s about a friendship long forged but later turned sour. It’s grey all thru out because there is no definite point of right and wrong encompassing the actions of the characters. In short, the drama’s not all colorful because each character, each story – is complex is its own way.
Not only does the Director Kwak Kyung Taek zoom in on details of the characters, no matter how insignificant or menial they are, he also uses a lot of slow-motion sequences (and appropriate music) to highlight the mood of the drama – at the same time showing to us how every single take matters. How every single drop of rain, every single glance, every single word bring about meaning to certain scenes, or even, the whole picture. That’s what’s so good about this drama.
Acting wise, the 4 guys are great. Not perfect, but convincing enough for me to feel for each of them. All of them, Dong Soo, Jun Seok, Sang Taek and Jung Ho are all characters with obvious flaws, painted with some negativity and imperfection amidst their decent looks. The good thing about having characters marred with flaws is that there is more space for imagination, more leeways for us to understand them. We can relate to the characters more, and we’re able to feel for them easily. We don’t blame them or criticise them to the core because we know how bad it feels to be judged by the world when they really cannot choose who they are or where they come from. We know for characters like them, nothing comes easy. And we know they’re just human – just like everybody else.
All 4 actors, Kim Min Joon, Hyun Bin, Seo Do Young, Lee Shi Un play out their characters wonderfully. Again to reiterate, not perfect thru out, but with so much heart and passion. Not stellar, but endearing in their own ways. A standout from the rest, I must say, is Hyun Bin. I’m not a great fan of his, and I used to wonder why people love him so much (cos IMO he’s just a good actor, that’s all). But here, he gives his best acting performance to-date. An acting performance so raw and gripping, so intense and emotionally rivetting – that all my past judgments of his acting skills completely went out of the window. An acting performance which I would say is near to that of So Ji Sub’s awesome take of Cha Moo Hyun in MISA/I’m Sorry I Love You. And I love SJS and MISA to death (it’s NO. 1 in my Fav K-drama list), imagine that.
The sad thing about this drama is that it didn’t receive the attention and appraisal it deserved. I read that the ratings were really poor when it had its run in Korea a few months ago, and MBC did even consider cutting off episodes to minimize all the losses and such. But I guess it’s either Korean viewers are oblivious to good quality dramas, or that this drama just reminded them of the dark period they had to endure in Korea back then and they just couldn’t bring themselves to go thru the same process again.
But for those who love dark dramas, and Hyun Bin, don’t miss this one out!
Before I leave, a short clip/MV of the drama – theme song by Tae Yang featuring TOP of Big Bang.