KDRAMALOVE KOREAN DRAMA REVIEWS

It's Okay, That's Love
(괜찮아, 사랑이야) - SBS


Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

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A cutting edge and revolutionary Korean drama in every way possible, It's Okay, That's Love (2014) is a game-changer, unlike any other K-drama you will ever see. Heck, unlike any American television drama you will ever see! Forget your usual sappy K-drama love stories; this show will shake you up with realism, it will surprise and excite you constantly, and perhaps even educate you as well regarding human behavior and mental health issues, which are at the core of what this drama is about.

When I finished this drama I missed the characters so much, and also the brilliant writing, that I have actually re-watched it two more times since then and I now consider it a masterpiece
. When I first watched it I didn't know what to expect, I just watched it because I loved the two lead actors. I thought I would be watching a romantic comedy at first, but boy oh boy, was I mistaken! Little did I know that by the end of episode four I would be knocked out of my seat with shock at the story's sudden surprise revelation about the main character. On my additional viewings I clearly saw the signs of what was wrong with him that I had missed the first time I watched it. The writers were amazing!

I also just adored the eclectic music soundtrack and loved that a lot of the songs were in English, like the song Hero from the group Family Of The Year. "Let me go! I don't wanna be your hero." (The song was featured in the 2014 American film Boyhood as well). When people can barely take care of themselves properly they are not in any shape to be someone's hero. Trying to force them to be can do more harm than good.

 

Gorgeous to look at and admire, actor Jo In Sung, especially, just blew me out of the water with this performance. I didn't think anything he did could beat That Winter, The Wind Blows (2013) but I think he may actually have topped it here with his beautifully intelligent and moving performance of a man with a tragic past and undiagnosed compulsions because of that past; his character is one of those people who keep a lot hidden about themselves from others, who keep you guessing what they will do next. (And by the way, how in the world does Jo In Sung's skin look so perfect at his age? He has better skin than most women do, including the actresses he works with! Amazing man).



Popular actress Gong Hyo Jin from Master's Sun (2013) turns in the best performance of her career in It's Okay, That's Love. It's a strong female role, a doctor, the kind she is attracted to the most. You cannot possibly be her true fan and miss her in this drama. It's an essential. She has abundant personal chemistry with Jo In Sung and it's obvious they became very close to each other while filming this show (both broke up with long term significant others after making this show). Miss Gong was quoted that filming It's Okay, That's Love was "grueling". It was a demanding drama, and even the first episode is filmed more like a movie than a drama, with amazing aerial shots and crazy car chases that made me scream with delight. I think the first episode of this show and the first episodes of IRIS and Doctor Stranger are the three most impressive first episodes out of the 120 Korean dramas I have viewed as of this writing. 

Also in the middle of shooting, Gong Hyo Jin was in a frightening 3 car collision on a busy highway after leaving the set late at night, needed surgery, and she herself admitted she developed psychological problems related to that accident, and learned much about how important psychiatric treatment is after suffering from a trauma. The mind can become ill just like the rest of the body can, and it often manifests itself in mental illness symptoms that need to be treated, just like you would need to be treated for a broken arm or breast cancer. 



We start the show with a wild white haired man named Jae Bum (Ik Joon Yang) leaving prison, to the congratulatory whoops and cheers of his prison mates, and then we switch to an even wilder birthday party at a swimming club, with bikini clad girls strutting around to loud rock music. "O......k....." I thought to myself, "This is different." Usually most K-dramas are very circumspect about sex because they air in family hours, and the women dress pretty modestly. It can often take half a series before characters even kiss each other, and even when they do it's stiff and formal looking and often quite laughable. This drama breaks the mold on all these fronts.

The birthday party is for a famous writer and pop disc jockey named Jae Yeol Jang (Jo In Sung) and he seems to be quite enjoying himself with all the scantily clad girls having fun all around him. The crowd urges his current girlfriend Pul Ib Lee (Jin Yee Yoon from A Gentleman's Dignity) to kiss him and they kiss passionately.



Then suddenly the white haired man who had been released from prison arrives at the party carrying a fork and proceeds to stab Jae Yeol in the shoulder. The men at the party tackle him down as Jae Yeol sinks to the ground, bleeding, surrounded by his crying girlfriend and a young man with a baseball cap who calls him "Mr. Author!" over and over again. Jae Yeol looks over at the angry white haired man and whispers, "Hyung!" (brother). His brother has been in prison for many years and bears a grudge against him, for reasons we are to see later in the drama. So after leaving prison he is immediately charged with assault, re-arrested, and brought back to prison for three years, although Jae Yeol tried to get his second prison term shortened, ostensibly due to his mental frailty -- but really for another reason entirely.

Almost three years later Jae Yeol has moved on with his life and written another novel, focusing on a violent murderer. A lady doctor psychiatrist named Hye Soo Ji (Gong Hyo Jin) is called in to be on a television talk show where Jae Yeol is the host so that she can discuss the mental condition of a murderer's mind, and she reluctantly agrees because her boyfriend Sam (Ki Yong Chang) works at the station. She doesn't quite understand that the purpose of her being on the show is to make Jae Yeol look better so that his book will sell. She's a professional and expects to talk about mental illness but he wants to drum up controversy to sell his work. When she figures it out she rebels and gets in a few digs of her own against him while the show is being broadcast. Her critical attitude piques his interest in her, and he tries to talk to her afterward but she runs off, highly offended. "He's nothing but a narcissist!" she grumbles as her taxi takes off with Jae Yeol running behind in a vain attempt to get her attention.

 

Jae Yeol ends up breaking up with his girlfriend when she plagiarizes his work and humiliates him professionally, accusing him of doing what she herself has done. Reporters are mobbed at his apartment door day and night in an attempt to get a statement, so he decides to move in temporarily as a tenant in a privately rented out home he owns as an investment ... however, who should be living in the home but Doctor Hye Soo, the woman he butted heads with on the television show, and two of her long term friends, including a fellow psychiatrist named Dong Min Jo (Dong Il Sung from My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho) and a young man named Soo Kwan Park (Kwang Soo Lee from the reality show Running Man) who works at a coffee shop and who happens to have Tourette Syndrome. Hye Soo is not at all pleased that this seemingly arrogant guy is going to be renting out a bedroom in the house with them, but she has no choice since he actually owns the home.



One night when they both notice they are at the same nightclub Hye Soo is attacked by one of her mental patients, a schizophrenic, who had neglected to take his medicine. She runs after him after he runs outside and steals someone's car to get away before the police can arrest him, and Jae Yeol offers her a ride in his car. They end up wildly chasing him across the city and to the end of a cliff near a factory. Police arrive, she tames him with a tranquilizer shot in his rear end (resulting in a  funny quip by Jae Yeol, "How quickly you pull down a man's pants!" lol) and he is taken away by police ambulance.

Jae Yeol and Hye Soo are left alone and both are injured. He is bleeding from his head, she is woozy from having been kicked in the shoulder, and she ends up fainting in his arms. He calls 119 (the 911 signal in Korea) but in the interim time Jae Yeol discovers that his humanity and chivalry toward women is not dead.




One night when everyone is gathered to watch sports at the house, Jae Yeol lets it be known that he happened to see Hye Soo's boyfriend kissing another woman, and the sparks fly. She ends up breaking up with him, leaving the field open for Jae Yeol to zoom right in since he's becoming more and more interested in Hye Soo. However, Hye Soo is afraid of intimacy because of an incident in her childhood when she saw her mother (played by the wonderful Mi Kyung Kim from Master's Sun) kissing another man after her father had become profoundly incapacitated by illness. She needs therapy herself but she keeps putting it off.

Slowly she starts to feel closer to Jae Yeol and they even progress far enough in their relationship to go on a brief vacation together in Japan - but are to stay in separate rooms - of course! Secrets about themselves are slowly revealed, for instance due to a trauma in childhood Jae Yeol has to sleep in the bathtub every night, and Hye Soo reveals she's still a virgin in her 30's because she cannot trust men. He tries to get her to unwind, and at a waterfall they frolic in the water together and end up passionately embracing.

Later they even come together on the beach at night and open up even more with each other. Jae Yeol tells Hye Soo about a young boy he is worried about named Kang Woo (played well by young actor Kyung Soo Do aka D.O. from the group EXO), who is the boy at the beginning who cried out "Mr. Author!" when he was stabbed, and that Kang Woo is being beaten by his father, just like Jae Yeol was beaten by his father and the various men who lived with his mother after his father's death. Even after intimacy on the beach Jae Yeol dreams about Kang Woo and fears he's dying; he wakes up crying in Hye Soo's arms. By this time the audience is on to the primary secret of Kang Woo's existence, but Hye Soo has no clue. 



The rest of the drama deals with Jae Yeol's brother Jae Bum getting out of prison, his continued hostility toward his brother, long hidden secrets being revealed, the possible restoration of his family that would help his frail mother (played by Hwan Yun Cha) who has grieved for years about the destruction of her family, the discovery of what really ails Jae Yeol, and the beauty of seeing Hye Soo's true friends and family ultimately rallying around and supporting her during a huge emotional crisis. You will see a tremendous amount of personal growth in all the characters of this series.

The second half of this drama is some of the best and most beautiful television you will see in your life. One "smaller" scene that touched me deeply came out of left field and I wasn't expecting it. Hye Soo and her professional mentor and best friend Young Jin Lee (Kyung Jin) -- who happens to be Dong Min's ex-wife -- talk privately in the hospital they both work at, discussing Hye Soo being intimate with Jae Yeol and how hard it was for her to get to that point where she could trust another human being to that extent. That "simple" scene makes me cry every time, it was so brilliantly performed between the two ladies. I suspect that every woman watching this drama could relate to what they discussed. In fact I think it's the BEST scene that Gong Hyo Jin has ever played in her entire career. For Jo In Sung his best scene comes at the end of episode fifteen and the beginning of episode sixteen, the final episode. How I cried!!!

Don't miss this tremendous Korean drama. I know I will go a long time before I ever see something as meaningful and unforgettable and as exciting as this show!