Q3 Pitstop: The Kdramas of 2016

 

Uncontrollably Fond
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The gist:

Shin Joon-young is a Hallyu star at the peak of his career, when he is suddenly faced with a life-changing ordeal. Noh Eul, a struggling PD who does everything for money, takes on a filming project centered on Shin Joon-young.

The good

– The stunning visuals. This drama maximized the seasons’ scenery with picturesque shots and melancholic cinematography. The attention to editing quality was a well-used advantage of being 100% pre-produced. The actors also were a huge part of the drama’s visual appeal. Kim Woo-bin and Bae Suzy (Im Joo-hwan and Im Joo-eun as well) were just radiant onscreen, despite the dark premise and the gloomy winter backdrop (and let’s not forget about Woobinnie’s abssssss). If it weren’t for DoTS airing in the same year, they’d be uncontested as the best-looking onscreen couple of 2016.

Supporting the visuals in creating the overall mood of the drama was a pretty solid music scoring and OST.

– Kim Woo-bin’s moving performance. KIM. WOO. Friggin’. BIN. While his filmography so far can be summed up as Fifty Shades of Jerk, his nuanced portrayal of Shin Joon-young’s arrogant, moody, and conflicted character is one of the best parts of this drama. Joon-young’s motivations were unclear and he’s downright exasperating, but those didn’t stop me from caring when he’s hurt. He made the audience feel his pain. Kim Woo-bin did a good job on his first leading role, and his performance was a nice addition to his body of work. *slow clap*

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The bad

– The crazy loop of cliché and angst. I don’t think this was a full-on makjang drama, but I was surprised at the cliché bombs it dropped as early as the first half hour of the show. The characters were prone to self-torture (which tested my patience), and the circumstances (aka misfortunes) were lined up in the most dramatic fashion. Not to mention how angsty and twisted it could get at times (or always)! Going back and forth and back again on the same dilemma can make you tear your hair out. This dramatic premise usually works especially with the older, TV-viewing demographic, but the writing made everything hard to swallow. There was a lack of emotional payoff as our characters were trapped in endless misery.

– The viewers’ strong disapproval of Suzy. As soon as episode 1 came out, the internet broke with criticisms on Suzy’s acting – her unconvincing expressions, high-pitched whining, bad line delivery, cringeworthy emoting, you name it. Some were valid and constructive, while most were obvious attacks by haters. And it snowballed into overall discontent with the drama. Consequently, she took most of the blame for the show’s declining ratings (before people realized it was more on the writing). Not at all a Suzy fan, but c’mon people, it’s not entirely her fault. And considering her track record, one should only expect as much from her. To Suzy’s credit she had her moments and I think she internalized her character; but honestly a drama like this – where emotion was the meat of each episode – demanded a certain level of expressiveness that goes beyond acting pretty. A more experienced actress could have handled the role better.

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The verdict

In the teasers, Uncontrollably Fond looked like a light romance with an equally harmless title (the Korean title literally meaning Lightly, Ardently), so the drama is bound to have disappointed viewers. Being 100% pre-produced and headlined by hot Hallyu stars like the formula of Descendants of the Sun, it was pegged to be the next megahit. The ratings declined but averaged at a decent number for me not to consider it as a total flop; although the excessive hype and the misaligned expectations factored in to the overwhelming negative sentiment. I feel kinda bad though that the actors took most of the blame so early into the drama, and the show was easily dismissed as a failure.

Admittedly, it took me a few episodes before getting into the groove of the show. I should’ve taken the overexposure of the winter setting as a giant cue of its melodramatic tone, just like in Winter Sonata and That Winter, the Wind Blows. But once I got used to the heaviness reminiscent of an old school melo, it went okay moving forward – though it wasn’t easy-breezy, with the drama’s highs and lows (it had many of the latter). It’s a beautifully-directed show and its angst can either be addictive or just plain crazy, sending me uncontrollably weeping on the painfully-sweet last two episodes (why wasn’t it like this from the beginning? It was capable of being touching after all). I personally didn’t mind the slow burn of the drama, as it set itself apart from the fast-paced, suspenseful shows airing at the same time. And I think others wouldn’t have minded as well if the writing was fresh enough or gripping at least. If it weren’t for the last two episodes I would have demanded KBS to bring 20hrs of my life back. So this may not be the best drama to randomly pick up or re-watch, unless you’re in it for Kim Woo-bin.

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