Seul-bi (played by Kim Sae-ron) is an angel who works every day observing humans, yet still thinks about human interactions in terms of television dramas. There's a bizarrely cheery attachment to her attitude, because specifically speaking, her job involves watching humans die. Yet even at a very tense moment of attempted suicide Seul-bi continues her running commentary about whether or not the situation accurately matches exciting dramatic standards.
This weird tension pervades much of "High School - Love On". Seul-bi isn't just an alien to human culture. She's a critic of it, too. When Seul-bi sees an obvious problem, she solves it. Well not really. The setting of "High School - Love On" isn't hyper realistic, but at the same time it's not much of a fantasy world either. It's the kind of place where a perfectly fun normal day at school can suddenly turn into a suicide attempt. Ever been at a school where someone tried to commit suicide? That's pretty much what happened there too.
All of this is perfectly exemplified in Woo-hyeon (played by Nam Woohyun. Creative I know). He's just a hard working student trying to scrape enough money together for school. His family's not in the best shape. Sure his grandma's there and she loves him but still. Woo-hyeon holds no illusions that love will magically fix everything. Woo-hyeon knows that he's a member of a lower economic class, and makes a point of acting like it, even as he curses behind the scenes about just how much of a jerk everybody is to him.
And yet he keeps trying. Woo-hyeon makes consistent, dogged attempts to be a good person when he doesn't have to, or even when doing so puts him imminent danger. Seul-bi, by contrast, has no sense of tact or diplomacy, and most of the time isn't even worried about how utterly ridiculous she looks or the possible long term consequences of her choices. Her view of the world is a simple one, yet there's this constant sense that this is because Seul-bi has only ever seen the shallow surface where we like to pretend dramatic gestres can solve anything.
There is a lot of complicated stuff going on in "High School - Love On", so it's fortunate that all of these elements are laced with a decent dose of goofy comedy. Kim Sae-ron is consistently charming and likable as the clueless Seul-bi. At times it's hard to believe that we're watching a thirteen year old girl appearing on screen with Nam Woohyun. She certainly doesn't act like it. It's an essential part of the drama's greater immersion that, for the moment at least, has definitely caught my attention.
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "High School - Love On" Episode 1"
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