I can actually mostly empathize with Moo-han's unwillingness to tell Soon-jin how sick he is. I kind of wish I didn't know either. Knowing the full extent of Moo-han's illness creates a fantastically depressing undercurrent to everything Moo-han and Soon-jin do regardless of how outwardly cheerful they are. Their whole trip to the countryside is actually pretty fun outside of that one factor. And then there's the ending. I mean yikes.
The closest we get to levity is a scene with I-deun taking offense to the way a horrible customer treats Ha-min. The irony is obvious. I like the moral here about how all rich teenagers should be forced to work retail to teach them a basic sense of empathy. Unfortunately the purpose of the scene is so obvious, and for that matter short, that this is but only a temporary distraction from Moo-han's inevitable mortality.
Reactions to mortality in general, instead of Soon-jin's blissful ignorance prove pretty strong. I like I-deun's blowing up at her mother about they waited so long to come visit Moo-han that her childhood dog died, probably unaware that I-deun had even come back. The retrospective in "Shall We Kiss First" is always a high point. For the first time we see what Moo-han's normal personality is like, absent immediate depressing calamity, and the guy's actually kind of a jerk.
The generally blissful marriage between Hee-min and Choong-geol hits a low point though. Their problem is of the inevitable variety, so it seems likely that they'll pull through. I'm more worried about Kyeong-soo and Ji-min, who seem completely incapable of just letting Soon-jin go to live her own life. Ji-min's poorly timed meltdown in particular is cause for concern. These two really need to think about each other more than they do Soon-jin.
None of these character relationship dynamics are meaningfully different than what we've seen so far. I'm feeling crestfallen mostly just on account of the fact that "Shall We Kiss First" has veered into serious melodrama territory. Granted, "Shall We Kiss First" was always a melodrama, but Moo-han's gloomy poetry always just seemed to reflect the mood of old age, not the mood of impending death. Of course, that's how Soon-jin interpreted Moo-han's personality too. It's why she was attracted to him. Yeah, increasingly I can see why other characters interpret Moo-han's refusal to tell Soon-jin what's really going on as being cruel.
Review by William Schwartz
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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] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 19-20"
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