A very pleasant, gentle, and often inspiring, thought-provoking Korean drama, Twenty Again (2015) was designed as a vehicle for Korea's premier actress Choi Ji Woo, of Winter Sonata fame, who was forty years old when she made this drama, having worked in the industry for over twenty years. She has had her share of great dramas over the years as well as her share of mediocre dramas, but then any actor or actress over a long career will experience the same ups and downs. Apparently she received a record salary for each episode of Twenty Again .... maybe that's partly why she looked so thrilled to be making this drama! (Article: Her net worth is estimated to be $215,000,000). This makes her the highest paid actress in the world! Move over, Angelina Jolie!
I enjoyed the warmth of this show and also enjoyed seeing Choi Ji Woo playing the mother of a college aged son; usually she plays single ladies in her films and television dramas. Her primary co-star in Twenty Again, whom she had great romantic chemistry with, was Angel Eyes actor Lee Sang Yoon, affectionately called Mr. Dimples by his many fans. I will watch both Choi Ji Woo and Lee Sang Yoon in anything, they are both consummate professionals at their craft and bring a lot of depth to the characters they portray.
I'd smile like this too if I
were worth $215 million!
The writer was the famed author of 49 Days, Two Weeks, Shining Inheritance, Prosecutor Princess, So Hyun-kyung, who has a knack of creating hit shows with an often spiritual dimension focused on family relationships.
The Story:Middle aged wife and mother Ha Nora (Choi Ji Woo) dreamed of becoming a dancer when she was in high school, but she became pregnant out of wedlock in her teens after being swept off her feet in a teenage romance, and had to get married to the father of her child, Kim Woo Chul (played as an adult by Choi Won Young from Love In Memory, Heirs, and Three Days). Nora had been raised by her loving grandmother named Woon Hae (Ban Hyo Jung from Shining Inheritance), and when her new husband took Nora away from Korea to Germany for a few years, so he could study abroad, Nora grieves when she hears her beloved grandma is dying. Her husband makes excuses about why they cannot fly back to Korea to see her before she dies: apparently a conference is more important to him than her grandma's life. Nora never gets over the fact that she couldn't be with her grandma when she died. Her husband had lied to her and told her there were no airplane tickets available, a fact she doesn't discover until age thirty-eight! All these scenes are shown in flashbacks during the course of the story.
For the next two decades her life revolved around being a loyal housewife and caring mother to her son Kim Min Soo (Kim Min Jae), though when we first meet her she is in a lawyer's office with her husband, being forced into a divorce she doesn't want. Obviously her life had taken a downward spiral somewhere along the way, and she later finds out why: her husband Woo Chul had been cheating on her with a co-worker, Yi Jin Kim (Park Hyo Joo from I Need Romance 3). The couple no longer sleep together and basically have nothing in common anymore except their love for their son. Their divorce agreement states that it will take effect in three months' time, at the husband's convenience. (Bully!).
Nora is mistakenly diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer (another patient with the same name had entered the hospital on the same day and the doctor had read from the other Nora's medical records - which isn't unheard of there since many Koreans have the same names), and she is given a six-month prognosis to live. She decides to go to college to expand her horizons and to try and do some things she always wanted to do before she died, like dancing and theater. She hides her prognosis from her family.
Over her husband's strong objections (and her son's eventual embarrassment) she is admitted to the same college where her husband is now working as a teacher of Psychology (yikes! watch out for these blokes!), and which her son will soon attend. At first she tries to keep her acceptance and enrollment secret from her family but of course it eventually is revealed. Her son and his girlfriend Oh Hye Mi (Son Na Eun) are embarrassed by her. Nora tells her son that she will try and avoid him on campus so no one will realize he's going to college with his mother. Obviously the son has a lot of growing up to do; instead of being proud of Mom he's embarrassed by her. In that respect his personality favors his cold father too much. It's rare to see the neglect of a Korean son toward his mother. In most Korean dramas sons simply adore their mothers. Another drama I am watching presently, D-Day, shows a doctor son pushing his comatose mother in a wheelchair through miles of earthquake damage to save her. "How about you and I go on a date, Mom?" Now THAT is loyalty.
Nora weeps after getting a cancer diagnosis.
Personally I would have sued a hospital who
told me that I was dying when it was not true!
Despite all the stress in her life, thinking she's dying, going to college, and having to put up with a non-supportive home situation, Nora spreads her wings, trying to find joy in the small victories in life. She finally begins to realize how much she had subjugated her own interests and talents over the years to care for two people who now neglect her shamefully, husband and son.
Then another stressful situation develops: her handsome but overly-emotional theater arts professor, Cha Hyun Suk (Lee Sang Yoon) turns out to be a former high school classmate of hers who had had a silent crush on her all those years ago when they were both young. He had resented for years the fact that she had abruptly disappeared from his life to marry another man and move to Germany.
Sigh! Mr Dimples Lee Sang Yoon
makes fans all over the world melt
with that beautiful grin of his!
At the time they were in high school together Nora had been the outgoing one, and Hyun Suk had been the introvert -- now the roles are reversed, Nora is the introvert and Hyun Suk is the extrovert. He had had twenty years to explore his interests and talents and to make his own career, and Nora had not; Hyun Suk is both annoyed and intrigued that he has run into the one girl he could never quite get over. As is typical in K-dramas there is much friction between them in the beginning when they first see each other again, and then Hyun Suk inadvertently learns that Nora is dying of cancer and he makes an effort to be nice to her. Old feelings come back to the surface as he starts to care for something other than his career
Meanwhile, Nora's husband begins to find his own wife attractive again, as she matures at the college, makes new friends, lives her own life (even going out drinking with classmates -- horrors!), and slowly becomes a more assertive personality. Woo Chul the husband is basically a narcissist type of guy and had never thought his wife on the same level mentally and socially as his own lofty self. (Watch out for these types, ladies, they might as well have a poison label glued to their foreheads!).
Woo Chul's renewed interest in his wife ticks off his mistress Yi Jin, who plans her own revenge against him. Meanwhile, theater arts teacher Hyun Suk's renewed interest in Nora disturbs his female assistant who has had her own crush on him for years, Shin Sang-ye (Choi Yoon-so from Love Frequency 37.2). Her attempt to break up the relationship backfires on her, but at least she has the grace to own up to her mistake.
Through all the personal romantic intrigues going on, Nora finds out she does NOT have cancer and is going to live. When Hyun Suk finds out the truth what will be his reaction to Nora? Was his renewed interest in her based on pity, or true affection? Nora confides all her emotional secrets to her best friend since childhood, Ra Yoon Young (Jung Soo Young), and her daily diary.
However in K-dramas, secrets do not remain secrets for very long. Will the divorce go through as planned for Nora and Woo Chul, or will Nora and Hyun Suk's relationship take second place in her life and heart? Is it wise to jump into another relationship as soon as another one might be ending? Or if there's a divorce, how long would Nora's time of healing take place before she can love and trust anyone again? The show explores many issues having to do with the break up of a marriage and how the people involved cope with the difficult situation. In that respect, since the divorce rates are so high in today's world, this story can touch on a lot of people's hearts.
I enjoyed the pace of this story and the wisdom it espouses. The only thing I would have changed about this story is that I would have shown the son bonding with his mother a lot sooner than he does. It takes till episode 10 out of 16 until he apologizes to his mother and starts to restore his relationship with her. Audience members get weary of seeing characters being mean to each other, they want to see forgiveness and reformation starting to take place earlier rather than later in a story. Watching Nora taking charge of her life, both professionally and romantically, is the highlight of this Korean drama. If you're a true fan of Choi Ji Woo this is a must watch Korean drama to see her luminous performance as Nora. Proof positive that being a great actress does not stop at age 40!
Twenty Again Picture Gallery