KDRAMALOVE KOREAN DRAMA REVIEWS



Love Alarm
좋아하면 울리는
CJ E&M (2019) 8 Hour Long Episodes
Science Fiction, Romance
Derived from Webtoon
Grade: B
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


OST Piece: Trauma
I chose to watch this short Korean drama Love Alarm (2019) because of its lead actress, Kim So Hyun, whom I've watched grow up from a little girl in multiple dramas over a decade's time. She is always worth watching, and always makes a show better by her very presence. She never over-acts and always gives thoughtful, intelligent performances. I am quite her fan.

This show had some Netflix money behind it, so the cinematography and other production values reflected the big budget spent on it. While I don't ordinarily gravitate to teenage themed subject matter in K-dramas, when the writer adds something extra -- in this case an interesting science fiction take on a specific phone app that can change millions of people's lives -- I am more likely to tune in.

 

Fair warning, though: this drama has an open ending, which leaves you guessing about a major romantic choice the lead female character will make (and I HATE open endings the most, and immediately lower the grades on any drama that I see having them, because I consider them big teases). I really wish Korea would knock it off with these open endings, they do this way too often and it's frustrating to the viewer, to invest hours of their precious time and then not to receive closure on the characters' lives; very few K-dramas get sequels, and even in the rare instances they do they are always inferior to the original series.

The Story: Kim JoJo (Kim So Hyun) is an upbeat high school student, an orphan who lives with her maternal aunt (Park Sung Yun) and female cousin Park Gool Mi (Go Min Si), though they often give her a hard time, forcing her to work in the family's convenience store when she's not at school, to help pay for her room and board. Her grandmother (Kim Young Ok) is still alive but in a coma in the hospital. When she finds time JoJo visits her and cuddles with her in the hospital bed. "Don't leave me granny or I'll be completely alone," is a common sentiment JoJo expresses to granny, even though it's not clear if granny hears her words of love.

 

When a new male student arrives at the high school, named Hwang Sang Ho (Song Kang), he causes quite a stir because he is handsome, rich, and the son of a famous actress
Jeong Mimi (Song Sun Mi) and an often absent politician father. JoJo seems attracted to him but she's on her guard because she's never been in love before and he seems to be rather pushy in his pursuit of her.

What complicates matters is a new cell phone app that many teens seem to be downloading, a Love Alarm app, that can tell a user if someone is in love with them if they are 10 meters or less away from where they are standing. Although it can easily be abused, this app causes a revolution among the younger generations in Korea pretty quickly, and the app becomes partly responsible for bringing JoJo and Sang Ho together as a romantic couple, an event that causes lots of gossip in their school.



Sang Ho, while at home, is closer to the home's housekeeper (Shim Yi Young, The Suspicious Housekeeper, Fates and Furies) and her son Lee Hye Young (Jung Ga Ram, Bing Goo) than he is his own estranged mother. Hye Young was given that name by his loving mother because it means "Eternal Grace" and she liked the sound of it.



Interesting Love Triangle:
Sang Ho, JoJo, Hye Young

Maybe there is something in a name after all, because Hye Young is kind, patient, loving toward his friend, a young man of excellent character (and of course he was my favorite bias in the show!). Hye Young also falls in love with JoJo, though he keeps his feelings to himself for quite a long time. Nevertheless, JoJo can sense he's a good person and is warm to him whenever they are together, although Hye Young keeps his distance once he finds out Sang Ho likes her, too. How noble! However, Sang Ho is no dummy and soon realizes his best friend has romantic feelings for JoJo too. JoJo's Love Alarm on her cell phone goes off when she's around Sang Ho, but not when she's around Hye Young (more's the pity, in my opinion).



Further complications result when JoJo's ornery, self-absorbed cousin Gool Mi steals 3000 dollars from JoJo that the girl was saving for her future college tuition once she graduated high school. Gool Mi gossips viciously about JoJo at school, due to her jealousy because she likes Sang Ho, too, causing JoJo to lose friends and eventually to question her relationship with Sang Ho. JoJo mysteriously breaks up with Sang Ho, without being honest about her real reasons. Her quiet male high school friend Chun Duk Goo (Lee Jae Eung, good performance), who seems to be the secret developer of the app) puts a "shield" on her cell's Love Alarm app (and tells her only the app developer can remove it), so that it will prevent anyone from knowing if she has love feelings for them. When she stands next to Sang Ho it no longer goes off like it did before, upsetting the young man terribly. Their break up seems permanent.

We cut to three years in the future and an important update to the Love Alarm app is about to be introduced to the nation by its mysterious developer (only JoJo seems to have the knowledge of who he really is). JoJo, Sang Ho, and Hye Young all end up meeting again. JoJo seems to be softening to Hye Young, and he confesses his true feelings to her, finally, but Sang Ho is also still on the horizon, convinced JoJo never got over him.

What choice will JoJo make? At the end it's not revealed, we are left hanging, and that's why I hate open endings. I can take sad, I can take happy, but I can't take open endings! Perhaps there will be a season two, but I won't hold my breath.