The opening title of this episode is "Christmas in August", a fairly explicit reference to the classic nineties South Korean film. So instead of thinking about the plot this time, I decided to ask myself- what's the title supposed to mean? It obviously isn't just a random pop culture reference. Viewed by that rubric, as being sort of a mystery, "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" ends up being quite a bit more watchable, as we're fed several snippets of backstory that eventually culminate in a satisfying explanation.
Those flashbacks, incidentally, are a lot more engaging and emotionally powerful than the main plot. Writer Lee Seon-hye knows how to whip backstory, build-up and nostalgia into a compelling emotional center. That is, after all, what she did in "Answer Me 1994", and this past writing credit explains quite a bit. "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" makes more sense structurally if we simply see it as an Answer Me style drama where the modern day portions are way too long, and also unresolved.
Consider how even though we have seen a lot of Ji-won, we know almost nothing about him because adult Ji-won's scenes consist of his speaking business English and not coming on to Jin-jin. Whereas the scenes with Ji-won's dad, and the black noodles? That hits close to home because there obviously has to be some sort of dark side to that happy childhood memory, as we quickly discover.
Likewise, the harassment we see of Jin-jin during her years as a student feels far more real than the whole paparazzi storyline if only because we see a lot more emoting from the relevant actress. Han Ye-seul in general is a problem here. I know she's a good actress, especially comedically, because I have seen her from other dramas. But director Lee Dong-yoon just doesn't give Han Ye-seul anything to work with. It's never clear what Jin-jin is supposed to be feeling in any given scene.
The bigger problem, though, is that it doesn't matter what Jin-jin is feeling in any given scene, because she lacks any kind of character arc. Jin-jin doesn't want anything. Her main personality trait is a lack of interest in a boyfriend. While I can appreciate the feminist angle in that, the practical effect of this is that Jin-jin is a very boring character. I want Jin-jin to date Ji-won mostly so that they have something to do.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl from the 20th Century" Episodes 7-8"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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