Going into "The Queen's Classroom", a re-make of the popular Japanese dorama, Joo no Kyoshitsu, I really wasn't sure what to expect, but I had high hopes. The cast boasts of seasoned child actors who are led by acting powerhouse, Go Hyun-jung as the world's strictest, scariest teacher, Ma Yeo-jin.
Ma Yeo-jin, queen of the classroom, is a cross between Matilda's Trunchbull and Roald Dahl's witches. I half expected Yeo-jin to pull off her wig and expose a bald head. She believes in the school of hard knocks: you get what you earn and if you don't, suck it up.
On the first day of school, she gives privileges based upon test scores. The top scores get the best seats and first servings during lunch. The lowest two scores get to clean the bathrooms alone, serve food and bear the shameful title of "Worst Class President".
Oh, and no one can use the bathroom during tests.
Ha-na from "The Queen's Classroom" Episode 1
The poor students allotted to her classroom are a diverse bunch. A cheerful, well-liked girl named Shim Ha-na (Kim Hyang-gi) is the first to be introduced and one of the unlucky two children who received the worst grade in the class by no fault of her own: all of her pencil tips were broken by the klutzy, but kind-hearted, Oh Dong-goo (Chun Bo-geun) who is also relegated to the unwanted position of "Worst Class President". Brilliant and quiet, Kim Seo-hyun (Kim Sae-ron) earns the top score.
These kids and twenty of their classmates suffer humiliation at the hands of Teacher Ma who is determined to teach them that the real world is no picnic - in fact, they'll most likely have a terrible life so they'd better be prepared.
Just when I'm starting to think this woman has a rock for a heart, we watch her gaze at her reflection, and it is something that she is most definitely not pleased to see. She grimaces, sighs and then slides her steely mask back into place. I hope we get into her obviously heavy backstory soon. I REALLY want to know her reasons for choosing her extreme teaching style.
Although this show is dominated by Teacher Ma's presence, the heart of it is the kids. They band together at first, then start to scatter as Ma's severe punishments make them crack. At one point, Ha-na needs to use the restroom during a test and Seo-hyun defends her against Ma's tyrannical "no-bathroom" policy. As punishment for her rebellion, Seo-hyun is made "Worst Class President" despite her perfect test score.
Ma really seems to want to break these children and she knows how to do it. She deprives them of basic needs and instills fear in them. It's very much torture in the truest sense of the word. Seo-hyun seems to be the student who will stand up to Ma based upon her defense of Ha-na. She spoke of treating the kids like human beings, despite the rules. For a second, Ma had reacted before schooling her expression back to neutral.
I want to see how the kids cope with her and how she copes with their reactions. She isn't heartless, just severely misguided. At least that's my guess....and my dire hope!
Seo-hyun from "The Queen's Classroom" Episode 1
Not only is this story powerful, but so is the directing, writing and the OST. Director Lee Dong-yoon of Best Love has the camera help tell the story. Shots of Ma Yeo-jin are limited to body parts until she is formally introduced to her class, keeping her shrouded in mystery for the first ten minutes of the show. At night, the camera work flickers, making her seem like an evil spirit. The kids are filmed with long, sweeping shots that capture the color of their clothing, brightness of their smiles and the overall jovial, social mood. It's a great juxtaposition.
The background OST sounds like a mix of John Williams and his heavy handed brass with the whimsy of Hans Zimmer. Not to mention the contributions of two of my favorite groups: J-Rabbit and SHINee.
The writing is clear and to the point. Although the reveals in the story are delayed, the dialogue is brisk and emotionally revealing.
Do I want to watch another episode? Oh yes.
Written by Raine from Raine's Dichotomy
Managing editor, drama lover, and foodie, Lisa enjoys exploring Korea, speaking the language, and soaking in all that dramaland has to offer. Lisa Espinosa can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] The Queen's Classroom Episode 1"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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