Woo-jin (played by Oh Jung-se) is going to be dead soon. That's not much of a spoiler- it's right there in the title. But even ignoring that context, from the very opening shots this drama shows a clear portrait of a man living in quiet resignation. Woo-jin can stop to admire the scenery, be nice and polite to people who let him down, then just wanders around some more aimlessly, not having much left to do in life that he particularly cares about.
This doesn't really change that much when he meets Sa-rang (played by Kim Seul-gi). Oh sure, this woman has an adorable, almost insane degree of optimistic affection. Kim Seul-gi does excellent work here as a woman who loves the idea of love and is completely willing to give up. But Woo-jin, to his credit, resists like a stubborn sourpuss. Why, he wonders, can't everybody just let him die alone?
"Drama Special - I'll Be Dead Soon" is a romantic comedy, as odd as that may sound given the general description. For the most part jokes run the simple gamut of contrasting the personality of these two characters. And yes, Woo-jin does slowly learn to take seriously the idea that life has to be worth living, that it's not to be ignored just because everything will soon come to an ignominious end.
It's actually a pretty simple story, one that's been done countless times before, so I'm not sure what draws me so much to this drama, makes Woo-jin's situation seem so compelling. The performances are great, as is the casual scenery. The little moments between Woo-jin and Sa-rang are cute and funny. The production all around is very solid, and gives a very strong sense of optimism. The music as well is excellent, feeling peaceful, but not peaceful like a lullaby or peaceful like it's time to go to the great beyond. More like peaceful in the sense of serenity, like how even in the face of death, it's possible to find peace and not despair.
There are just enough stylistic flourishes here to make the material seem fresh and deep even if I know from a logical critical angle there isn't that much to go on. The final shot in particular is extremely sweet, begging a question Woo-jin was, at the beginning of the drama, completely unwilling to ask, let alone answer. It's nice to think that maybe logic doesn't actually hold all the answers. That maybe an unrepentant, genuine desire for love is all that really matters, and certain barriers to that happiness may not be as insurmountable as a pessimistic thinker is likely to believe.
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] "Drama Special - I'll Be Dead Soon""
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