This is a Korean drama that has to grow on you - slowly. You need to be brave to watch The Wind Blows (2019), starring beloved Kim Ha Neul (A Gentleman's Dignity, Stained Glass, film Ditto) and intense Kam Woo Sung (Alone In Love, film The King And The Clown), who both give profoundly emotional performances which are unforgettable. The subject matter is a difficult one - early onset Alzheimer's Disease - and how it affects a marriage. It's been covered in a few K-dramas before, like A Thousand Days' Promise, but I liked this K-drama best, after the 2004 classic Korean film A Moment To Remember, starring Ye Jin Son and Woo Sung Jung, which I feel is the definitive Work of Art on this subject matter. I tend to be rather picky about the dramas and films touching on this subject, since my own father died from Alzheimer's.
The writer of The Wind Blows, Hwang Joo Ha, did an excellent job weaving in flashbacks with the current day story, and then skipping ahead six years, showing us little by little how the two main characters came to make the important decisions they did about their marriage, and ultimately the disease that inflicts harm on both of them, and later, their child. Where the story slipped up a bit, in my estimation, and went from a potential A+ grade to an A instead, is the occasional attempt to bring some wry humor into the story; I felt that this drama would have been a literal masterpiece if they hadn't tried to incorporate strange humor into a subject matter where it was entirely inappropriate. Usually I am all for adding a mix of humor with melodrama in my K-dramas, but here I felt it was a misfire. That being said, when there were melodramatic scenes (90% of the story) they were often so powerful that they made you forget the earlier uncomfortable attempts to make some scenes farcical. Then, too, there was always my total love for actress Kim Ha Neul to keep me going, even in some rough spots -- I knew that she wouldn't have accepted this script if it didn't appeal to her intellect and her emotions. This was the first drama she made after having her first baby with her businessman husband, and you couldn't tell she had ever been pregnant! She was just as gorgeous as ever.
Lee Soo Jin (Kim Ha Neul), a successful professional artist, and Kwon Do Hoon (Kam Woo Sung), an executive in a snack food company, have been married ten years, and while their marriage started out happily for the first few years, lately some mysterious strain has been causing them to drift apart and become angry with one another. Do Hoon often comes home very late at night, instead of promptly coming home after work; he often arrives drunk, collapses on a sofa instead of their marital bed and can't - or won't - be awakened. Soo Jin has a miscarriage at one point and doesn't feel as if her husband even cares, although he does show up to at least one doctor appointment. He never seems to want to take her out to dinner, or otherwise spend time with her alone to nurture their marriage. He forgets their anniversary. When she recovers from the miscarriage and expresses her longing to her husband that she wants to try for another child right away he adamantly refuses. "A child is too much work" he says to her. "You'll have to give up your job and we'll miss the income." This is the final straw for Soo Jin. She tells him she wants a divorce, and if she has to she will have an affair with another man to get pregnant, since she wants a baby so much because her biological clock is ticking. He goes a little crazy over this threat, and follows her when she goes to dinner with a sunbae named Moon Kyung Hoon (wonderful actor Kim Young Jae, who had blown me away playing Rain's disabled brother in A Love To Kill - so great to see him again!).
A Wedding Portrait Hangs In Their Home
But The Happiness Didn't Last Long
Soo Jin knows her husband is following her on her dinner date. She has no intention of having an affair, she just wanted to make him jealous. When nothing much changes after this event, Soo Jin sadly goes forward with the divorce proceedings.
Eventually it is revealed to the audience what Do Hoon's real problem is: he has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease and out of true love for his wife he doesn't want her to be saddled with a dying man to take care of, and he is terrified of having a child he knows he won't be around to take care of. He keeps this a secret from his wife, and worse, even deliberately tries to make her hate him so she files for divorce. Talk about your noble idiocy! For a man who didn't want to hurt his wife he was doing a fine job of it anyway!
He does end up telling the truth about his illness to his best friend Choi Hang Seo (My Love From Another Star) who is more like a brother to him than just a friend. Do Hoon's estranged rich father dies and leaves him a building in the heart of Seoul that he can sell, which can help pay for his extended care eventually with a paid nurse in a hospice type of care. He enlists Hang Seo's help with all these preparations. He's already forgetting things, like his age, the pass-code to his home, his cell phone number, places in Seoul he had frequented quite often before, and soon people's faces are next. In his cognizant moments he is aware of how quickly his disease is progressing. (The actor did a great job getting mannerisms down of the typical Alzheimer's patient, for instance the frequent staring off into space).
Soo Jin becomes desperate to try one more time to find out why her husband is turning from her, and to save her marriage, despite the ongoing divorce proceedings. With a friend of her brother's, named Bryan Jung (Kim Sung Cheol from To. Jenny), a movie producer, and his girlfriend, a make-up artist named Son Ye Rim (Kim Ga Eun from Because This Is My First Life), they come up with elaborate schemes to make Do Hoon think an attractive new woman is enamored of him -- but it's really Soo Jin in disguise! She is further encouraged to do this crazy thing by her best friend, an often divorced woman named Jo Mi Kyung (Park Hyo Joo from I Need Romance 3). She keeps the true situation of her dying marriage from her loving mother, played by Jeon Guk Hyang, who loves Do Hoon like a son.
At first Do Hoon doesn't seem too interested in this new woman, but we soon start to realize that despite his Alzheimer's he knows exactly who this woman is -- his own wife! He's onto her game but doesn't let on to her that he knows her identity. They end up going to bed together one last time, at a hotel. Soo Jin thinks he's clueless as to her real identity, and thinks he committed adultery with this persona she created! - but in his heart he's giving himself to his wife one last time before he disappears to go into hospice out in the country, away from Seoul altogether.
The divorce goes through, Do Hoon disappears, Soo Jin finds herself pregnant and gives birth to a daughter. She grows closer to her colleague Moon Kyung Hoon and he becomes a father figure to her daughter as she grows up. When the daughter is six years old and starting school, one day they are about to cross a street together, and there in front of them is Do Hoon, who walks right by them on the street and doesn't even recognize his ex-wife, and certainly not his daughter.
This shakes up Soo Jin to her core, and she eventually learns the truth about the Alzheimer's disease, and Do Hoon's sacrifice to let her have a free and unencumbered life away from taking care of a dying man. She becomes determined to become Do Hoon's caregiver in his last days, instead of the hired nurse, but Do Hoon's surrogate brother Hang Seo is having none of it, since that would be against Do Hoon's last wishes.
Can Soo Jin possibly make him change his mind? Is it even a good idea for Do Hoon to meet his daughter when he might not even know who she is, and she might be hurt to understand she has had a father all this time and he's been very sick? Is there any hope they can be a loving family together, despite his terrible disease, and the limited time they might have together? All in all, to me, the most beautiful parts of this drama come in the second half. The humor is put aside and the value of human beings undergoing dramatic transitions in their lives is showcased in an almost poetic way.
~~~~~~~~The Wind Blows is a drama that will last in your own memory for a long time, and make you appreciate every day you spend healthy and happy and sharing love with your own loved ones. Never take that for granted. Enjoy the drama, and here's hoping some acting awards are headed in future to these wonderful thespians.