I have been watching Korean Dramas for almost a decade. And over the 10 years, I’ve seen countless dramas ranging from comedy to melodrama and to quirky. You name it. But when I gave it a deeper thought the other day, I actually never got to watch a drama which was completely devoid of all the usual and typical K-drama cliches. You know, the poor-girl-falls-for-rich-guy story, the cancer-stricken-almost-dying story, the stepbrother-sister-falling-in-love story, and the most rehashed theme of all time, the live-together-and-fall-in-love story. It’s like I’ve been watching the same type of dramas for so many freaking years. And it’s not to say that I detest all those dramas (because I still love watching them, up until this very moment. Who doesn’t love to indulge in fantasy, right? ), but at one moment in time, I suddenly felt like I’d wasted so much time on those dramas and missed out on those quieter yet meaningful dramas. You know? The kind of dramas which, apart from the entertainment value, allows you to really relate to in deeper and more emotional way?
Alone in Love falls in that category. Definitely.
It took me a whole month to actually finish Alone In Love, what with the over-powering Chuno airing at the same, and with other unfinished dramas to get rid off. Time management got really out of hand. T_T But I’m so glad I didn’t rush thru this drama, and instead, I took the time to actually feel and understand it. There were times when I only watched an episode a day, sometimes half an episode – just to replay and process the scenes in my mind. There were times when I just laughed out loud in one particular moment, and teared up in another. And there were times when I just sat in front of my TV, dumbstruck and just blown away by how silently engaging, emotional, and powerful the drama was.
Little did I know, that by the end of it, I would feel so euphoric, and so emotionally satisfied.
I remember the first time I watched the first episode of AIL online 2 years ago. I heard a lot of rave reviews about the drama, and decided to give it a try. And shockingly (now that I think of it), after having seen only 45 mins, I got turned off by how boring and slow it was. I immediately moved on to other dramas, and AIL just became history…at least for 2 years. So you would have known by now, that I totally, utterly regretted that. How could I possibly have regarded AIL as “boring and slow”?!! >.< I must have zoned out or something back then.
I did a research on the writer and director who made the drama, and whilst I found nothing much on the latter, I was super surprised to find out that the writer Park Yeon Seon had actually written My Tutor, Friend (starring Kwon Sang Woo and Kim Ha Neul), the Korean romantic comedy on film that I’ve ever ever loved! And I was even more surprised when I went on to discover that the writer had also penned the quirky Evasive Inquiry Agency. You know, the drama with the quirkiest and strangest ensemble cast ever? All about a team hunting for a mysterious treasure? They’re genres so different in comparison to AIL, and yet, they all managed to hit it BIG! I never got to finish EIA, not because I didn’t like it or anything (in fact I LOVED it), but because life just moved on too quickly in 2007, with too many dramas to watch (and that said, a lot of them were super quality dramas), and I just left EIA hanging (all episodes still in my HD, phew.. lucky!).
Okay, back to AIL before I stray away for too long.
What I loved about AIL, I cannot put into exact words. I don’t think my writing or thoughts would ever do justice, or ever reflect the goodness and heart of this drama. But I’d love to try, and I hope it would make others appreciate this gem ever than before.
This drama struck a chord with me because it was real. It was fun. And it was touching. A simple story about a divorced couple going thru ups and downs in life together as friends, and the same time, finding out that they still have lingering feelings for each other. That’s it, it’s just that simple. For once, the main guy wasn’t super rich, and the main girl isn’t super poor or ugly. For once, there wasn’t constant bickering, fighting and screaming. And for once, everything just seemed…so ordinary, and so normal. And YET even without those overbearing cliches, this drama managed to touch my heart like no other drama (save for MISA and Thank You) has ever ever done before.
The simplistic story-telling was no doubt a touch of brilliance. All the drama needed was just a simple melody to accompany the storyline and the top-notch acting by Son Ye Jin, Gam Woo Sung and the rest of the actors. Nothing else. At times the drama didn’t even require any dialogue, and yet you could just pretty much feel what’s going thru each and every single character. Every episode seemed like a frame of life surrounding the characters, giving us insights into what and how normal people live, regardless of whether they’re rich, poor, single, married…etc. There were no evil characters, no far-fetched and overbearing sub-plots (you know, go figure..hehe..), no OTT humor, no emotional-breakdown crying scenes, and the most important thing of all (in K-drama land rom-coms), no kissing scenesbetween the couple! What was needed – a simple story of faith, and good inner acting by the actors, all of which were nailed brilliantly from tip to toe.
If I were to describe the essence of AIL, I would call it a lesson of faith and a journey depicting one’s realization of love for another. So simplistically portrayed by the director, but yet it encompassed feelings and emotions so complicated and complex, that one would need some time to digest and savour. Eun Ho (played by Son Ye Jin) and Dong Jin (played by Gam Woo Sung) share with each other this very odd relationship, after having been divorced for some years due to a misunderstanding that never came to light until the very late into the drama. They have breakfast together, they meet each other up a few times over the week with their friends, they joke with each other, they tease each other, they care for each other (albeit unknowingly)… In short, they do things that you normally wouldn’t expect from a divorced couple (at least in K-drama land). However, the brilliance of their story really came from within. How they emoted and expressed their feelings thru unsaid words, thru small glances, thru heartfelt thoughts of each other, and most of all, thru the simple yet unnoticed acts that they do for each other. All of which accumulated into a story of two persons who’re alone but in love. All of which makes falling in love not just a simple case of “love at first sight” or “attraction of the personalities”, but more of a journey of discovering happiness which you yearn for.
If the writer was said to have produced a gem in Alone in Love, can we not NOT give a special mention the Director who had added so much finesse to the drama as a whole? I don’t know much about the director, and can’t seem to find any other works prevailing AIL or even that after 2006. But this drama ALONE gave me a reason to raise fiveeee thumbs up for his simple yet artistic portrayal of Eun Ho and Dong Jin’s relationship. I loved how every shot was presented to us slowly and quietly. I loved how the past and present of EH and HJ interjected in between each other seamlessly. So effective was the direction that even without music, the scenes still fell into place perfectly. So engaging was the direction, that no matter how slow it progressed, you could still feel that you’re going somewhere. And most of all, the utilization of repeated shots of certain scenes from different perspectives also gave the drama a different feel altogether, allowing viewers to explore the depth of each character from different perspectives, allowing us to understand why and how decisions are made by certain characters, and the consequences that come thereafter. Allowing us to just observe how normal couples, married, unmarried, divorced live. How they go thru life with and without each other.
So if the writer and the directors were the ones who’d touched up this beautiful gem, I would say that the actors were the ones who had owned the show for what it’s worth. Right down from the supporting cast up to the main cast, everyone gave a splendid performance. Gam Woo Sung, albeit not the most good looking or most handsome out there, gave his character Dong Jin a lot of heart. He may not be the perfect “husband”, he may have all those annoying traits that irritate you to no end, but he endeared and endeared, to no end that is. Jun Pyo and Ji Hoo, the oddest and quirkiest couple of the show and played out so amazingly by Gong Hyung Jin and Lee Ha Na respectively, added a touch of hilarity and amusement to the show, making it not just a show about the divorced couple, but also about the odds and whims of life. The rest of the supporting cast, Lee Jin Wook , Oh Yoon Ah, the wrestler Yoo Ri, the silent and mysterious owner of the restaurant DJ and EH always goes to, the professor, his wife, and down to the littlest played by Jin Ji Hee. All of them were wonderful~ Each had a story to tell, and each had their own shining moment.
BUT, the biggest honor and mention of the show HAS to go to its leading actress, Son Ye Jin. Hands down the stealer of the show. SYJ’s a popular name in the industry, I’m sure that’s a fact known to all. I first got to know her thru her movie Classic (co-starring Jo Seong Woo and Jo In Sung), and my initial impression of her was that she’s sweet, petite and demure. That’s all. Then came A Moment To Remember, a love story that touched hearts of many. Followed by the Art of Seduction, April Snow , Open City…etc. To count it all, I’ve only seen some of her movies, and never really got to finish any of her dramas! So my impression of her being an actress – pretty much good. Not excellent or mind-blowing, but enough to make me like her.
So what of Son Ye Jin in AIL? She was downright, utterly AMAZING in here. There were times when I was just so intrigued by her character Eun Ho, as well as SYJ’s portrayal of EH, that I just wanted to slap Dong Jin for not noticing how beautiful and precious his “ex-wife” was. How could he not have treasured such a wonderful wife? One who was loving, endearing and fun? =O Sometimes tears would just roll down my face, when watching the silent and quiet EH reminisce her life with and without DJ, with the voice-over of her monologues playing thru the scenes. And there were times when I would just laugh out loud at EH’s amusing antics, smile, giggle and laugh because she’s just so downright adorable. Everything about EH was truly precious.
The thing about SYJ’s acting is that she’s really really good when it comes to quieter and emotional scenes. She doesn’t need to tear up, and I know she’s aching inside. And when she smiles, I know it’s not without pain as well. Moreover, there’s this really elegant and calm grace about her that makes you really really want to root for her. All in all, it’s just acting so brilliantly delivered that I cannot describe correctly and accurately in any word forms It’s the type of acting that you need to sit down, watch and feel. And rest assured, you will be touched ~ immensely.
There are a lot more GOOD stuff on the drama worth mentioning, but I believe if I were to point em out one by one, I’d never ever finish writing this review. Given that this drama had actually aired back in 2006, I’m sure a lot of you would have either seen it, or would have come across it somewhere in Soompi. For those who haven’t seen it, or for those who, like me, got turned off by the 1st episode the first time, please please do continue watching it. For you will be lured into a silently moving journey that will warm and touch your heart for a very very long time.
Like a reviewer said of Alone In Love in an old review, you can miss all the popular dramas out there (eg. MNIKSS, Goong or even Dae Jang Geum), but you most definitely CANNOT MISS Alone In Love.
It’s one drama that everyone, old and young, single and married, guys and girls – should watch. Just to fall in love. And to find the happiness that you yearn for~~