Heartless though it may be for me to write this, I really don't care about Soon-jin's dead daughter. In narrative terms, the daughter is only relevant to the extent that she caused Soon-jin's trauma, creating the Soon-jin that exists in the present. The daughter has never been a character in her own right for us to care about. Indeed, by centering so much of the action around the lawsuit, "Shall We Kiss First" actually makes it more difficult for Soon-jin to let go of the past.
Well, that's only important because I always interpreted "Shall We Kiss First" as being the story about how Moo-han and Soon-jin are able to let go of their past failures, real and perceived, through loving each other. That's how melodramas are supposed to work anyway. While the melodrama is an inherently depressing format, we're still supposed to be able to see a bittersweet lining in the tragedy. That symbolizes change for the better, even in awful circumstances.
The change for the better doesn't have to be terribly impressive. Note the scene where Moo-han teaches Soon-jin how to drive, and is constantly terrified of her crashing the car. Observe the irony of how Moo-han is planning to kill himself, yet still responds to the situational comedy set-up like a normal relatable person does. That's good melodrama, because it provides us with hope that maybe Moo-han and Soon-jin aren't broken. That they can just recover.
That scene is all too short. Elsewhere we're just left with the usual endlessly depressing and pointless scenes wherein Moo-han and Soon-jin discuss mortality. To make matters worse, other characters also just keep talking about Moo-han and Soon-jin's problems in the third person. There's never a moment's rest from the doom and the gloom. The closest we have to a subplot is just Mi-ra lashing out at Ji-min, mostly angry that Ji-min got a daughter from an extramarital affair while Mi-ra earned her husband the proper way and can't have any children at all.
Honestly it's not a bad subplot. The main problem is that it's hard to feel sorry for Ji-min when Soon-jin is dealing with all these monstrous problems that never get any better. More than being depressing, though, the real cardinal sin of "Shall We Kiss First" is just how dreadfully boring the drama has become. The emotional catharsis has nothing to do with actual ongoing character action anymore. So it's just not engaging at all.
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 29-30"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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