Ri-hwan (played by Lee Dong-wook) works in oriental medicine and is Haeng-ah's childhood friend- a position that has persisted in the present day. One part of their relationship that's really caught me off-guard is that Jung Ryeo-won and Lee Dong-wook don't really have much romantic chemistry. What they have is friend chemistry. This is very significant, because they do have romantic chemistry with the second leads in this drama.
Take Seok-joon (played by Lee Jong-hyuk). The guy is, for lack of a more diplomatic word, kind of a jerk. But he's not aggressively a jerk. Seok-joon is soft-spoken and keeps his emotions, to the extent he has emotions, very close by. It's easy to see how Haeng-ah got entangled with him. She's a very forward kind of woman and that kind of attitude puts a lot of guys off. Seok-joon, when he wants something, is aggressive enough to move past that.
The problem is that Seok-joon's personality is such that he's not a terribly satisfying partner. Stoic people are often like that, because they're not willing to open up emotionally. The big beautiful rooftop scene, with all those dreamy clouds, really typifies this. Relationship post-mortems tend to be unsatisfying because when it gets right down to it, any relationship breaks down because at least one person admits that they simply don't want to put in the necessary effort to fix it.
Ri-hwan's love interest, I-seul (played by Park Hee-bon) has the exact opposite problem. She's shy to a fault, and willing to interpret any random accident as being a kind of romantic comedy moment. And this, I realize, is the main thematic point of "Bubble Gum". It's about characters who seem, on the superficial level, to be persons involved in a romantic comedy. But if we scrape away at their past, it becomes clear that when their lives have had these kinds of dramatic moments, there's no satisfying catharsis. Life just moves on, like the next stage in a dream.
The closing moment of this episode, with the flashback to Haeng-ah and Ri-hwan as kids, especially typifies this. These scenes are so powerful and sad they could probably air as short films themselves with no relationship to "Bubble Gum" whatsoever. These characters undergo traumatic moments less because their personality is flawed so much as it is their life outlooks seem destined to bring them ever closer to inevitable disappointment- an enduring problem that remains with them all well into their thirties, and probably beyond.
Review by William Schwartz
"Bubble Gum" is directed by Kim Byeong-soo, written by Lee Mi-na-I and features Lee Dong-wook, Jung Ryeo-won, Lee Jong-hyuk, Park Hee-bon, Bae Jong-ok, Lee Seung-joon and more.
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] "Bubble Gum" Episode 2"
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