What with all the sexual propositions and the preview where Soon-jin is blurred out and naked, you'd think "Shall We Kiss First" was taking a turn for the raunchy. Actually the intimacy is more subdued and weird than that. To start out with, Moo-han and Soon-jin end up going to a themed love hotel and make fun of the generally peculiar devices other people apparently use to arouse themselves.
"Shall We Kiss First" has a refreshing lack of mystique when it comes to sex. This is mainly because the main characters are old enough that nothing especially shocks them anymore. It's one of the ways you call tell "Shall We Kiss First" was made by actually middle-aged people. Younger ones, or even older ones in insular subcultures, simply assume that older people are flabbergasted by everything. Incredible how every successive generation thinks they invented sex.
I-deun has not gone that far, obviously. But we can still see shades of this philosophy in her character, as I-deun explicitly says that she is acting out for attention from her absentee father. I-deun is a fascinating character, because no matter how much sympathetic backstory we get...I still really don't like her. Plenty of people grow up to resent their parents and resolve to become better people because of that. I-deun isn't even trying. To the contrary, she makes life miserable for other people out of sheer spite, and willfully refuses to show even the slightest sense of remorse.
In that light Moo-han's sense fatherly abandonment actually comes off like a karmic punishment. Moo-han is so fundamentally disappointed in I-deun he doesn't even bother to try and lecture her. While this is entirely a consequence of Moo-han's own psychological issues, it's gratifying that I-deun instead interprets Moo-han's actions as a vicious personal slight. Especially since I-deun naturally assumes that the whole situation is Soon-jin's fault. Soon-jin did not force I-deun to steal a truck filled with expensive equipment.
Other fundamentally unsympathetic characters are equally interesting. Soon-jin finally loses patience with Kyeong-soo, and explicitly spells out why her life is none of his business anymore. Ji-min is so selfishly obsessed with her own happiness that she similarly fails to realize that Kyeong-soo's continuing obsession with Soon-jin is an obvious sign that he regrets their affair and subsequent marriage. The poor woman talks to Kyeong-soo's portrait more frankly than she does to the real Kyeong-soo- and yet, I feel no pity.
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 7-8"
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