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While You Were Sleeping
당신이 잠든 사이에
SBS 16 Episodes, Grade: B
Romantic Comedy / Fantasy / Melodrama
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA


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While You Were Sleeping (2017) is a pleasant and well acted Korean drama, written by the same scriptwriter, Park Hye Ran, who wrote the masterpiece I Hear Your Voice, and both dramas starred the same attractive young male lead actor, Lee Jong Suk (Pinocchio, Secret Garden, W, Dr. Stranger). Both dramas had elements of fantasy about them -- in one Lee Jong Suk's character could read people's thoughts when they looked into his eyes, and in the other he could enter the dreams of his soon to be girlfriend, played by Bae Suzy (Dream High, Big) and learn about and protect her from negative events that could potentially harm her or cost her her life, or that of her friends and loved ones.

While You Were Sleeping was a fully pre-produced television series. Filming began in February 2017 and Lee Jong Suk joined the cast in March. The drama finished filming on July 27 at Paju, after five months of intense shooting.
 
Despite the fantasy-themed similarities of both dramas, written by the same writer, it is
I Hear Your Voice which remains the superior of the two dramas by far. Although I love Lee Jong Suk to bits as an actor it's very clear to me, as each of his new dramas go by, that it will be practically impossible for him to top the superiority of I Hear Your Voice in his drama repertoire. I have hopes for that eventually to happen, given the general excellence of Korean drama productions, but so far? No go. His chemistry with Bae Suzy was nice here but could not compare one iota to his superb chemistry with the far better actress Lee Bo Young in I Hear Your Voice. Theirs was a sexier relationship as well; maybe Lee Jong Suk simply does better when the actresses cast opposite him are several years older than he is -- they cause him to come up to their performance levels in maturity and to improve as an actor. This was the case in the short drama special he made in 2012, as well, titled When I Was The Prettiest: the actress he starred opposite there was much older than he was, but their passionate chemistry in that drama was far juicier than his chemistry with Bae Suzy here. 



To be sure, While You Were Sleeping has a lot to enjoy about it, especially in the first four episodes, which breezed along at a great pace, but the action suddenly seemed to lag and become more conventional and predicable when certain supporting or cameo actors disappeared for quite awhile, like when my favorite teen actress Kim So Hyun (The Suspicious Housekeeper, Goblin, Page Turner) suddenly up and disappeared, or when the young actor Nam Da Reum (The Suspicious Housekeeper, Pinocchio), who played Lee Jong Suk's character when a teenager, vanished for long stretches except for flashback scenes. I've loved watching this kid actor for years, to me he is the next Seung Ho Yoo on the K-drama horizon, and every time he appeared in a crucial scene, like this one, below, I was riveted to my seat.



Speaking of Seung Ho Yoo, his performance as a lawyer / prosecutor was far more seriously contemplative in Remember (2016) than Lee Jong Suk's here in While You Were Sleeping, and Seung Ho Yoo is several years younger than Lee Jong Suk, to boot! I really think the writer was between a rock and a hard place here considering the casting of Bae Suzy, who seems to be better at comedy than drama. Given the seriousness of several of the situations in this drama it may have been a finer drama if they laid off the comedy to a large extent and focused more on melodrama, just like the superior Remember did. In that respect even I Hear Your Voice achieved a far better blend of melodrama with comedy than While You Were Sleeping. The occasional comedy never overwhelmed the main serious theme of that drama.


The Story: Jung Jae Chan (Lee Jong Suk) is a young, new prosecutor who, despite being a bit cold on the surface, has a good heart and a good eye for bringing righteousness and justice to various legal cases, and he lives with his younger brother who is still in school, Jung Seung Won (Shin Jae Ha,
Page Turner).



Brothers Jae Chan and Seung Won

Jae Chan quickly and inexplicably takes a liking to his new, pretty and perky neighbor Nam Hong Joo (Bae Suzy), an inexperienced, often unemployed reporter living with her mother Yoon Moon Sun (Hwang Young Hee) who runs a pork restaurant, and whose disturbing dreams serve as a reflection of future events to warn her about potential dangers to her life.

 

Soon enough this newly attracted young couple begin to realize that they are meeting in dreams and they combine their potent, mysterious talents to solve various criminal cases that come up, like the one affecting another mother-daughter pair (Kim So Hyun and Jang Soo Yeon), who are the victims of an abusive husband-father (
Eom Hyo Seop), who keeps avoiding the legal consequences for his abuse because of fast-tracked, ambitious, immoral lawyers like Lee Yoo Beom (Lee Sang Yeob). Eventually the corrupt Yoo Beom loses that case, his client goes to jail, and the mother-daughter pair are set free. This does not inspire the increasingly criminally insane lawyer Yoo Beom to favor Jae Chan (whom he used to tutor in his youth), and his new love interest Hong Joo, whom he had tried to make his own girlfriend first. He carefully plans his revenge against them.
 


Cutie Pie Jung Hae In as cop Woo Tak

As time goes on, however, Jae Chan becomes a stronger human being and prosecutor, and wins more and more respect from his co-workers, like his sunbae
Choi Dam Dong (Kim Won Hae, below right) and Shin Hee Min (Ko Sung Hee), a wise female prosecutor who often gives Jae Chan useful, worldly advice to help him win his cases. Jae Chan and Hong Joo also become fast friends with a young cop named Han Woo Tak (Jung Hae In, above) who also seems to have the ability to read dreams, after their paths cross in a car accident that could have been a lot worse for Hong Joo if Jae Chan hadn't stopped the real culprit (Yoo Beom) after seeing the scary results in HIS dream.



Corrupt Yoo Beom and Gentle Sunbae Dam Dong
Both Have Secrets

It is soon revealed that this young couple Jae Chan and Hong Joo have something else in common besides dreams -- both of them lost their fathers to a criminal, a military deserter (Hong Kyung), when they were teenagers, one on a bus, and one in a convenience store, both had died protecting their children and others, and there might just be a tragic connection there with sunbae Dam Dong.



A lot of the drama having to do with the scary villain Yoo Beom was frustrating to me; I couldn't understand why it took so long for others to catch on how evil he was, and that he should have NOTHING to do with the legal profession at all. He is fully capable of murder and seems like a total sociopath. A more savvy prosecutor team SHOULD have been able to have him fired and arrested long before so many brutal cases came to a head, especially a prosecutor who could see what he really was in his dreams! This was the weakest link of the writing to me.

I think they suspected that young people would be their primary audience for this drama, so certain legal plot devices could have been glossed over more easily, but those of us who are older, and have seen hundreds of K-dramas know when we see messy writing and know when we see brilliant writing.

During most of this drama I was FAR more enamored of a K-drama running concurrently on tvN: Because This Is My First Life. It almost came to the point where it was like pulling teeth for me to stay involved with While You Were Sleeping, because the other drama was clearly so superior, and I only did so out of respect for Lee Jong Suk. I really hope his next drama wows me like his masterpiece
I Hear Your Voice did!!!

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