I really like the way Soon-jin flirts with Moo-han. Although...is flirt really the right word? Mostly Soon-jin just keeps trying to pick fights with him, and any time it looks like he's about to give up for good, Soon-jin simply switches her attitude entirely and acts over-interested. We can see the genuine confusion in Moo-han's eyes. He's not at all sure how to interpret Soon-jin's behavior. Really, Moo-han isn't sure he's curious enough to try either.
If nothing else the performances in "Shall We Kiss First" are top notch. Soon-jin and Moo-han are complex personalities who have absolutely no idea what they actually want in life. Interpreting their actions with any degree of correctness requires analyzing the nuance in how Kim Sun-ah and Kam Woo-sung portray the characters. Consider how they're both rude. On first glance, it seems like this is something they have in common- but then look at how radically different the motivation is.
Soon-jin's ex-husband Kyeong-soo (played by Oh Ji-ho) is a good barometer for this. Observe how Soon-jin toys with him by feigning disinterest, and doing her best to be disengaged. Naturally this drives Kyeong-soo crazy without giving him much cause to fight back. But when Moo-han rebuffs Kyeong-soo, it is for the entirely sensible reason that Kyeong-soo is acting like a dangerous nut and Moo-han fears for his safety. Kyeong-soo himself is so lacking in self-awareness he can't process that his actions are what provokes both of these reactions.
We see Soon-jin acting out with typically masculine aggression and Moo-han reacting with typically feminine passivity. Both of these make for an odd contrast to Kyeong-soo's bravado, reminding us of how far afield Soon-jin and Moo-han's life experiences have taken them from normal. Then again, nothing that Soon-jin and Moo-han have gone through really seems all that remarkable, in this day and age. The experiences have merely been alienating enough that the two don't fit in anywhere anymore.
There's also some really sharp cynicism here that can only really be explained by the principal characters being in their forties- like all the explicit discussion of how much money Moo-han makes. Or how Soon-jin stubbornly insists on interpreting everyone's actions in the worst possible light. The main conflict, really, is that these people are at a place in life where they don't care what anyone else thinks about them. Their honesty thus comes off as brutal, yet never really incorrect in any meaningful way.
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 3-4"
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