I have been on a mega binge on several new K-Drama releases spanning the last quarter of 2020, so much so that I haven’t even completed uploading them all on my blog because of how tight the time for it has been but still I decided I will try my best!
This was the first of the many dramas I did watch and it has now finished airing which means it’s time for a spoiler free review. There are many more associated posts on this series on my blog ranging from synopsis versus expectations, episode recaps, mid run reviews, penultimate episode prediction posts all of which you can read as you watch the series at any point of time. You can check them all out by simply clicking the link here! Now onto the spoiler free review!
Title : Record of Youth (English), 청춘기록 (Korean), 青春紀錄 (Hanja), Cheongchungirok (Romanised)
Country of origin : South Korea
Language : Korean
Directed by : Ahn Gil Ho
Written by : Ha Myung Hee
Production house : Studio Dragon
Starring : Park Bo Gum, Park So Dam, Byeon Woo Seok
Number of seasons : 1
Number of episodes : 16 (each of which has a duration of around an hour)
Status : Completed
Aired on : Netflix
Broadcasted : 7 September – 27 October of 2020
Genre : Youth, Romance, Growing up
The titular character of the series is Sa Hye Jun. The story starts with him, a struggling model finding it difficult to find work, let alone make it big in the industry of entertainment. What’s worse is that his agency is not even paying him for the work he does. Hye Jun comes from a normal middle-class family and to them this career choice of his is insecure and not worth it, unlike his older brother who went to university and secured a salaried job at a bank. With lack of support at work and at home there is another problem as well.
Hye Jun’s best friend is Hye Hyo and they have been so since they were very young. However there is one difference among the two – Hye Hyo was born in a very wealthy family and although they try not to wedge that as a factor of bitterness between their relationship, Hae Hyo’s mother makes very clear and evident influence on Hye Hyo’s career giving him more opportunities than Hye Jun because of money. It is to be noted that Hye Jun’s mother also works as a house help at Hye Hyo’s home as well.
It’s at this point that the two of them meet Ahn Jeong Ah a vere meticulous, planned and practical woman, who is a make up artist. Having met on fashion shows they all become friends and the series then shows the development of their careers, their family, relationships and how they do their best to achieve their dreams.
Now let me tell you this, this drama is exactly what you think it is once you read the title – it’s about the life of youth. Those kinds of growing-up-and-achieveing-your-dreams kind of series. When I started watching this series the main concept that was highlighted was the “silver spoon/dirty spoon” concept. It basically means that those who have the resources to influence naturally get better opportunities and do well than those who don’t. For our titular character Sa Hye Jun that comes in the form of his best friend Hye Hyo, and his mother.
Coming to the good things in this drama, each of the major characters and their immediate supporting characters heavily emphasise experiences that most of us would have gone through at one point in our lives. We have the whole story of influence and success in career with Hye Jun and Hye Hyo, we see the effects of a planned lady working single handedly into her dreams in the form of Jeong Ah, we see how some parents feel that every decision they make for their child no matter how big they get is better than their child’s own personal interest in the form of Hye Hyo’s mother, we see how due to lack of resources Hye Jun’s family who may want to support his dreams can’t, and don’t, we see how it’s never too late to achieve your dreams through Hye Jun’s grandfather, we see how sometimes classes and divisions in society can overcome love between two people, we also see how important professionalism is, challenges we face in the early stages of career, who we can trust, who we can’t, and who are the people who are actually there for us.
Some of you may be thinking, after reading the last paragraph – “did she just spoil the whole drama for us?” . Well, although it seems like it, the actual answer is a no. Like I told you that the drama is exactly what you feel when you read the title, I’m sure some of the plot elements that I mentioned above had already crossed through your mind.
And that I think is the highlight of this drama – it stays as real as it can get when you think about real life. There is no added drama, or unfathomable storylines, it was a raw rendition of how the experiences that many, like you and me may have had. Be it the relationships or any factor of the drama, trust me this wasn’t the happily ever after kind of drama, and it really shouldn’t be, if it’s a drama on life, because let’s face it we don’t have our happily ever after just set out for us do we? There are a lot of ups and downs that we all go through, as we venture through life.
Throughout the series there are a lot of small nuances in the camera angles where it weighs down on a particular quote or word or instance that fits the mood of the series and sometimes even quotes that say “Keep going!”. I found that very endearing especially at some points in the story.
Coming to actor performance and favorite characters, well this drama isn’t really the best opportunity to prove your acting prowess as it doesn’t showcase any real challenges in the situations the story brings. All the characters effortlessly wove through their plotlines making us feel cosy, comfy and relatable.
However I have to mention this character and that’s Hye Jun’s grandfather played by Han Jin Hee. He is as Hye Jun’s biggest supporter from beginning to end just like how we are all doted by our grandparents and I couldn’t not enjoy the scenes and sequences with him. If anything it was his story that may have been the only one possible to be counted as “out-of-the-ordinary” because his character proved that you’re never too old to achieve what you want.
Also when Jeong Ah’s character was presented I really enjoyed her in the beginning, I loved her independence and I loved how her existence wasn’t tied to how the male lead was doing or experiencing but somehow that fundamental nature of hers was quite conflicted and confusing as the series went by. The same applies to the romance between Hye Jun and Jeong Ah. At times I felt they were trying to force it on each other with some dialogues or scenes and it didn’t kind of naturally flow in, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t really into the romance. I was really upset they were going to drive in a love triangle of all things in it too, but that confused me – did it matter or did it not in the plot at all? I will let you be the judge of that, let me know in the comments.
And honestly there was no clear cut line on whose the hero, whose the villian, depending on the situation, it turns the characters into that on and off and I really liked that actually because we all know there are no clear cut good or bad people in life, we always act based on the situation we are bound in.
Having said all that there is one thing, and a major thing that didn’t keep me glued onto this series or excitedly watch it the moment it’s available and that’s unfortunately it’s pace – I beleive, and this is my assumption, that the story writers decided to keep this pace to maintain the momentum of how life like it needed to be. However in doing so, it didn’t glue me onto the screen, wanting to know whats next, or it didn’t really have any huge turns in the story either. When I said it’s about life it was quite “ordinary” in that aspect. And let me repeat this – this is not me saying this is as bad, but rather it was good but it may have as well have been a movie rather than a series spanned across 16 hours because honestly there wasn’t that much of story to by.
Another thing that confused me was – the episode sometimes ends at one point and starts off in a whole other direction at a different time frame and somehow comes to the ending of the previous episode. I kind of understand how the makers would have wanted to weave the timelines together but it did confuse me at some points.
So wrapping up this review, would I suggest this drama? I would have strongly suggested it if this was a movie instead of a series because it’s one of those feel good stories that would have made a nice comfy movie! But it didn’t turn out that way and despite all the good things this has, the pace really put me off. But of course – that’s just me, don’t let that deter you from watching this. If you’re looking for a light watch, I’m sure this is a choice you can think about. As always all the other associated posts on this series on my blog are linked above. Let me know what you felt in the comments!