January 17, 2018 [In Defense Of] My inexplicable fondness for Love Rain

By Ally

Love Rain is not a drama that will make you into a better person, cause you to figure out who you are and what you should be doing with your life, or even give you anything to ponder over. It’s a drama that we watch when we want an escape from our own lives, stressful as they may be, if we’re sick, tired, or just need a story to make our own lives seem bit more livable and a lot more sensible.

So before you judge me and the rest of my family for loving this story, I actually did some research before writing this. Yes, actual research, which amounts to doing a literature search online and formulating this mini-thesis. Fun fact: Although this drama wasn’t well received in Korea when it came out, did you know that it was sold to Japan for the highest price for a K-drama at the time? Not a small feat for a mediocre drama.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Love Rain starred Jang Geun-seok and Yoon-ah in dual roles. They played both the parents and then their offspring over 30 years later. And as an OTP, I feel they were absolutely adorable and believable. The story first follows their characters (In-ha and Yoon-hee) as college students in a very uncertain time in Korea in the 1970s where socialism and communism were just a stone’s throw away, and anyone sympathizing or even just wanting to educate themselves was seen as subversive, punishable by imprisonment, and in In-ha’s case, mandatory military enlistment.

After the required separation, these unfortunate and in-love souls eventually find others to marry and have children (Seo-joon and Ha-na), whom we meet over 20 years later, again played by Jang Geun-seok and Yoon-ah. The tone is a 180 degree turn from the subdued dialogue, warm colors, and blanket-snuggling initial four episodes when we catch up with their progeny in the 21st century. The difference is so jarring that I was wondering if I was watching the same drama. The pacing is totally different—faster, modern, and the stark white of the snow gives it a colder feel as well. Jang Geun-seok is the jerkiest jerk, but endearingly hilarious at the same time. Yoon-ah says more in four minutes than in previous four hours combined. This was the first drama I had seen either of these two in and it made me do a double-take.

However, with 2012 also being the year that gave us King 2 HeartsFaithGaksitalThe Moon That Embraces the SunQueen In-hyun’s ManReply 1997 (should I go on?), Love Rain was bound to be at the bottom of the barrel. On top of this, Dramabeans only recapped the first episode. Imagine my surprise when after this one episode, there were 333 comments, with several of them imploring Dramabeans to continue recapping it! That doesn’t sound like a bad drama at all.

I mentioned that everyone in my family likes this little drama. My mother likes it, my husband likes it, and I like it. Some people really like the first four episodes set in the 1970s. My mom was reminded of her own courtship with my dad, the styling of the day, and she mentions how natural it felt. Back when she dated, no one would have the audacity to state whether or not they actually liked someone else. They were from the era of arranged marriages. I know, archaic, and I have no idea how anyone dated anyone with that mentality. Asian boys were much more innocent than they are now, apparently. It was just a simpler time where being blunt was seen as rude and coarse, and actions spoke louder than words.

There’s the non-dramatic drama of the first four episodes, how quiet the angst is, and then when it comes boiling to the surface, it comes with the fullness of the loss of love. It would have been fine had the whole drama adopted the same muted feel and sepia tones throughout. And the circle of friends was too precious. Seo In-guk sings so, so sweetly, setting the musical tone of that period (and I’ll mention the soundtrack later). The beach and water scenes are gorgeous and one of my favorite scenes is them just enjoying being together sitting on the beach, holding hands, leaning against one another. The cinematography is really well done, and the makeup is subtle (no guyliner, thank the Lord Almighty) and just feels real. I also liked the fact that the guy falls for the girl first and is infatuated with her from the first scene, because I do think this really happens (at least it did for me).

The acting is also very organic, even in 2012, when fashion and photography set the tone for the remaining episodes. There are no cringe-worthy performances. Absolutely none. It was also where I fell for a young Kim Young-kwang, as a clueless-about-love-puppy-chaebol who played our second lead in the present.

How Jang Geun-seok starts out as the over-the-top-diva-a-hole everyone hates to pining for a girl so intently is just so satisfying. I don’t even know why I like him in this, but I do, inexplicably. Yoon-ah is just plain adorable to watch. And I’ve read it’s really because this is how she is and she’s not really acting here. She is bubbly, happy, and mischievous (until the angst and noble idiot separation sets in) and it makes the drama. She just embodies this character and it suits her to a T.

The ensemble cast for both time periods complement each other. The gay guy friends in 2012 are also over-the-top, but entirely entertaining. The second and even third leads really never have a chance, nor do they try very hard, and they don’t need to here. The OTP is just that good.

And what’s a good drama without a good soundtrack? This one is very nostalgic. As a child of the ’80s and ’90s, these songs literally hit all the right notes for me. I actually played the theme from Love Story for my aunt’s wedding at 10 years of age. From the acoustic guitar riffs to a simple piano ballad to the minor key violin melody of “Song of Rain,” which reminds me so much of the iconic Itzhak Perlman violin in Schindler’s List that I superimpose those intense feelings when I hear it. I can’t imagine that this is coincidental.

Okay, so there is a really contrived plot. I don’t disagree. However, because this was one of the first dramas I watched, I just chalked it up to cultural differences and left it at that. So it’s a bigger deal in Korea to date each other if your parents end up getting together. Then there’s the deal about divorce and how bat-crap crazy his alcoholic mother is and how distant his father is. Then the continuation of the love story with the original OTP in the future. Aghh, their conversations were slow and too deliberate. I’ll agree with that too.

And the rain, that cursed rain—does it really rain in Korea like it does in Seattle? But I really didn’t care as long and Yoon-ah and Jang Geun-seok were able to to snuggle up with each other secretly in the rain, under an umbrella, soaking wet or otherwise. It was my crack for several months as I watched and rewatched them just being cute and thoughtful to each other.

The ratings in Korea were abysmal at the time, but I really wouldn’t worry about it because it made about $50 million in worldwide syndication, and the director’s company made a 4,100 percent profit in one year because of it. Even if no one else watches it, I know it really was filmed well, the acting and cinematography were excellent, and the feels it gave with the lovely soundtrack lasted long after the rain stopped. Oh, and there was that kiss too. That was worth the price of admission.

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