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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 6

2017/12/26 | Permalink

There's a common trope in a lot of romances where the male lead, in the name of defending the female lead's honor, will react violently or at least with implied violence to some form of verbal slight. "Just Between Lovers" is not satisfied with merely following genre conventions though. We get that scene here, and far from feeling at all chivalrous, the outburst is just emblematic of Kang-doo's rage issues. The moment is explicitly frightening, and it's surprising Moon-soo doesn't just ditch him right there.

The willingness of the production team to highlight flaws without romanticizing or demonizing them is one of the big strong points here. Kang-doo's overall mental health and how well it can be managed in the future is an obvious pratfall for the future of the relationship, but Moon-soo has consciously decided, for now anyway, that Kang-doo's more positive qualities outweigh that. While the sentiment is sweet it doesn't feel realistic- in the long-term sense. In the realist sense the relationship is extremely realistic.

Also note how Kang-doo's violence is exclusively directed against men. He seems capable of tolerating nearly any level of abuse from a woman. Indeed, one important moment features Kang-doo calming down entirely for that reason. I see that as further being emblematic of Kang-doo's self-hatred and guilt. In Kang-doo's mind, his being a man was an integral part of past personal failures because a woman, somehow, would have reacted to that situation differently.

Moon-soo comes to mind, obviously, since she suffered in the same accident yet maintains a much sunnier disposition toward life. But this idea obviously can't be applied universally, because all of the other women in "Just Between Lovers" have much more diverse personalities, ranging from cynical to sleazy to catty to just plain broken down. Kang-doo observes all of this, yet never is able to accept the obvious conclusion. People are flawed in general, and there is no such thing as pure evil.

It's an excellent juxtaposition with Kang-doo's more objectively correct frustrations, like the violence inherent in capitalism and masculinity. The larger point being served is that with any trauma in life, a person has to learn to let go and live in the present rather than simply fight battles indefinitely with whoever happens to be physically nearby. That's really the best influence Moon-soo has on Kang-doo. Her very presence encourages him to be nice, and it's never as out of character as he thinks.

Review by William Schwartz

"Just Between Lovers" is directed by  Kim Jin-won-I, written by  Yoo Bo-ra, and features Lee Junho, Won Jin-ah, Lee Ki-woo, and Kang Han-na

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