Writer Lee Mi-na-I is so determined to not allow for any possible solutions to the character problems in "Bubble Gum" that even a straight-up fistfight accomplishes little more than maintenance of the status quo. From there it's on to grumpy people using slurred words to discuss their problems with same-sex friends. And this too has mostly the same effect. All anyone is able to say for sure is that they don't like anything about the current situation, with no real idea of how to change that.
This helplessness is really the main thematic point of "Bubble Gum", although at times it's definitely a little frustrating how little progress is really made. Not to mention dull. "Bubble Gum" is staking itself almost entirely on the appeal of its characters, but they're only ever really appealling in the occasional moment of genuine intimacy. The playground is, this episode, the best case of this. More significantly it's also a direct interaction between the lead characters, which are always a highlight even bearing in the mind the lack of romantic immediacy.
For this kind of storytelling proper mood is essential, and credit absolutely must be given to the strength of the musical score. The chords are always moody and ambivalent at just the right moment. Haeng-ah is frequently stuck in moments of careful contemplation, especially when she's alone. I-seul also falls into the trap of trying to analyze or overanalyze what another characters says in the hope that some sort of insight will be provided to the present situation. The music always accurately reflects these sentiments.
That such insight is never actually forthcoming is, well, just another part of life. "Bubble Gum" frequently manages to feel romantic without ever actually being romantic. It's a matter of tone I can't help but find perplexing at times. People who overcontemplate tend to be rather annoying. But at the same time, I'm also one of those annoying people. Watching "Bubble Gum" is kind of like being forced to face the limitations of intelligence and analytical ability in approaching real life situations.
...Or maybe the cliches are just organized in just the right way that it's difficult to recognize the drama's more melodramatic elements. It's really hard to tell. I wish the moments of comic relief had a more pronounced impact, because watching "Bubble Gum" often feels like wafting through a dream. Even a kiss- does that actually mean something, or is it just another desperate grasp at trying to solve a problem through more logic and analysis?
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 4"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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