Angel Eyes (2014) is
a haunting, beautiful Korean melodrama, created in a
bittersweet, old-fashioned, classic style of
drama-making that I have missed a lot lately. I promise
this drama will have you crying at least once per
episode. Even those of you who rarely cry at Korean
dramas will cry at this one. I guarantee it.
There are many simply unforgettable scenes in this
twenty episode weeper. Also the OST is one of the most
exquisite I've heard in years; both vocal songs and
instrumental background pieces do a lot to bring even
more sweet pathos to the story of a blind girl who is
given a second chance at life and love, although
someone's priceless, unselfish mother ends up dying and
giving her those precious gifts.
The Story: We start the
drama in the first two episodes following the lead
couple as teenagers, and then in the third episode we
begin to follow them as adults after a twelve year
separation. This is a common story structure arc for
many classic Korean dramas, but here in Angel Eyes
this story set up is the most poignant I've ever seen in
my long history of K-drama watching. It was a big jolt
at first for me to transfer my affections from one set
of actors to another, but both sets of actors did such
an outstanding job that I ended up loving both equally.
THE STORY: As a nice,
responsible, smart, and well brought up teenager, Park
Dong Joo (incredible actor Kang Ha Neul from the film Dong-ju:
Portrait of a Poet, dramas Missing
Noir M, To
The Beautiful You, Two
a young man who lost his firefighter father tragically
in a tunnel collapse, falls in love with a motherless,
beautiful blind girl named Yoon Soo Wan (Ji Hyun Nam
from Will It Snow At Christmas?), a sad and
neglected girl whose doctor father (Jung Jin Young from
Rain) ignores her and lets her live alone in
a big house by herself, so she has little human contact
until she begins to fall in love with the kind Dong Joo,
who home delivers his mother's porridge to her door
every morning. It turns out Soo Wan's mother had been in
the process of being rescued by Dong Joo's father during
the tunnel collapse but neither had survived. It's many
years later that our couple discover the truth that
connects them from their childhoods.
Both boy and girl love the
stars; Soo Wan has a part time job at a planetarium
giving lectures, and several meetings they have there
bring them closer together. There's even an incredible
bungee jumping scene, where Dong Joo and Soon Wan jump
together as part of her birthday gift. He teaches her
how to ride a bicycle and when she falls off and into
his arms she feels his face for the first time and
jokingly calls him ugly.
Dong Joo is blessed in
that he has a mother and little sister who love him
devotedly. The love and respect between mother and son
is the most beautiful mother-son relationship I've ever
seen in a K-drama. It's almost to the point that the
real love story in this show is between mother and son,
on a sort of metaphysical, mystical level that's
extremely rare in K-dramas. He doesn't even call her
mother; out of respect for his late father, who always
called her Mrs. Jung-hwa
Yoo-shi, he also calls her by that name too.
The mother character is
played brilliantly by actress Yeo Jin Kim (from Trot
Lovers and Pride
and Prejudice) who conveys a loving warmth
in her role that is unequaled in K-drama history (most
K-drama fans know that the vast majority of mother and
mother-in-law characters are bitchy in these stories, or
simply just not that involved in their children's lives
to any great extent). How refreshing it is to see a
completely devoted and sacrificial mother, who can love
not only her own children, but a motherless child as
well, Soo Wan, her son's blind girlfriend.
In one heart-tugging scene,
when Soo Wan is notified that she lost out on a possible
eye transplant surgery, she goes into the mother's
bathroom to cry, and Mrs. Jung-hwa Yoo-shi follows her
in and tells her that she is pretty and that she still
has people who love her. It's so touching to see
someone's blind eyes crying and a mother saying "If it's
what it takes, I want to give you my eyes."
For the first time Dong Joo calls
his Mother "Mom" in grief ...
but she can't hear him....
The unthinkable happens
and the Mom is struck by a hit and run driver while
making deliveries for her son who was home sick with a
fever; she is brought to the hospital to have surgery,
and before it occurs she signs an eye organ donation
form that says if she dies that Soo Wan should get her
eyes. The mentally troubled doctor-father of Soo Wan is
tempted to do something nefarious to his patient to make
sure that the Mom dies so that his daughter can receive
the eyes, but unknown to him someone had injected her
first with a lethal drug in an attempt to cover up the
hit and run crime that person had caused, and at the
last moment the father's conscience seems pricked and he
struggles to save her life instead, but it's useless.
She dies and Soo Wan, unaware of Dong Joo's personal
tragedy and his mother's donation to her, agrees to
immediate eye transplant surgery so she can see again.
Dong Joo is now a
grief-stricken orphan at 18 years of age, but he has to
take his little sister to America for some pre-planned
medical treatment that she needs. He leaves a note for
Soo Wan in her hospital room, and promises to return to
her as soon as he can, but twelve years go by before he
can fulfill his promise.
Unknown to both of them, any notes or letters Dong Joo
writes to Soo Wan are confiscated by her troubled
father, who feels guilty over the death of the mother,
so Soo Wan
grows to maturity able to see, but never knowing what
happened to her first love. She felt betrayed and
abandoned by him, but moves on with her life as a seeing
person, becoming a paramedic to save others, and getting
engaged to a nice doctor at the local hospital, Ji Woon
Kang (played by Kim Ji Suk from The
Vineyard Man and Personal
Taste). Soo Wan as an adult is played by the
winsome Gu Hye Sun from Boys
Over Flowers fame. It was delightful to
see her again.
Dong Joo (Lee Sang Yoon) looking
Mother's eyes for the first time in 12 years ...
only they're now Soo Wan's eyes (Gu Hye Sun)
In the meantime, the adult
Dong Joo (now played by cutie pie Lee Sang Yoon who has
some amazing scenes in this drama!) has returned to
Korea and has become a successful surgeon with a new
American name. He is employed at the local hospital.
When the couple's paths cross twelve years later, he
recognizes her with joy, but she has no idea who he is.
When he learns she is engaged to another man he keeps
quiet about his true identity, so whenever their paths
cross when she brings in new emergency patients they
interact on a professional level more than a personal
one. At first.
Favorite Scenes from Angel Eyes
Little by little the smart
begins to suspect the truth. Will they ever have a
second chance at happiness, with so many obstacles in
their way? Will they ever discover who killed Dong Joo's
mother? How will Soo Wan react when she learns about his
mother's supreme sacrifice for her? She may live her
life as an adult now but she's still dealing emotionally
with all the trauma that befell her when she was young.
Actor Lee Sang Yoon, who
was new to me when I first watched this drama, turned
out to be the biggest highlight for me in Angel
Eyes. When he smiled he was radiant - as far as I
am concerned HE had the "angel eyes". Those charming
dimples of his could warm any woman's heart!
Don't miss this magnificent drama. I know I will
re-watch it again in future, and ten and twenty years
from now it will still be considered the classic that it
truly is, for any age.