Record of Youth (2020) First Impressions

Finally perhaps I have found a Park Bo-geum drama that I can sink my teeth into. Sadly for me I haven't liked anything he's been in since Hello Monster. None of them have really been my cup of tea but this might be the one to break the PBG drought. And it's conveniently available on Netflix.

I wasn't going to take this one up initially but it has the advantage of being a mid-week drama. (The weekends are overcrowded currently) Plus the added attraction of the PBG factor. It occurred to me after Episode 4 that what I've probably been craving for is a villainous PBG. Let's hope there's much more of that in the offing.

The premise although not exactly original has the benefit of being relatable. I'm of the age now that the family scenario played out here hits close to home. The family conflict has some semblance of authenticity going for it even if the intra-family feud cranked up a few notches for dramatic purposes is rather over-the-top. I don't have difficulties understanding where everyone is coming from and I agree with Dad to some degree that there comes a time when a person needs to come to grips with the harsh realities of life. I myself have been a part of these sorts of conversations minus the unnecessary shouting and hostility.

Sa Hye-jun (Park Bo-geum) is doing it tough (working multiple gigs as a model and waiter) but he has a dream of hitting the big time in showbiz. I imagine he's not the only one of his generation wondering what the future holds for them. It seems unfair that he has to struggle as much as he does while his childhood buddy, Won Hae-hyo (Byeon Woo-seok) seemingly has everything handed to him on a silver platter because his mother has the time and the resources to work things behind the scenes on his behalf. While Hye-jun longs for his first acting break, he receives his military enlistment notice. Much of the first four episodes see him mulling over this predicament of throwing in the towel and enlist or continue pursuing his lifelong aspiration.

It's not clear if Hae-hyo knows that his mother has been pulling strings behind his back but he can't be so clueless as to not be suspicious that things seem to go so smoothly for him. The message is loud and clear that no one can succeed entirely on their own merits whatever that may be. It's commendable that he wants to be his own man but the reality is that with the way the world works that in order to catch a break, a person needs support from different quarters although the individual has to decide what kind of support they are willing to accept and under what terms as Hye-jun has had to contend with. There are always trade-offs. Always. There is really no such thing as a free lunch. Sponsorships are as much transactional as they are building relationships.

While on one of his jobs he bumps into An Jeong-ha (Park So-dam), a make-up artist who is a fan of his. The two hit off quickly and become friends. They are both drawn to each other partly because the struggle for them is real as they navigate the difficulties of achieving their goals. Moreover they fall naturally into these long honest conversations about how life sucks... for them. Gradually Hye-jun seeks her out and shows increasing preference for her company.

Whether or not romance is on the cards for them (this being a K drama I imagine that would be a given), their friendship has great value and they seem to be a great comfort to each other. Jeong-ha doesn't seem to have much of a support network and she constantly battles the unwanted attentions of an insecure, jealous senior colleague who seems to make it her mission to get on her case. I am often reminded of many a Taiwanese drama while watching this especially when these two people talk to each other but also in the way the show is executed and paced. Long chunks of dialogue, hugely introspective and waxing philosophical. At times it works against the show's interests but in the long run I suspects that it will help the audience get behind their blossoming relationship especially when it goes to the next level. Already in their rapid repartee they feel like kindred spirits. Two lonely souls finding their way to each other during hard times.

Of course a show like this can't be all about romance. Hye-jun still lives at home and shares a room with Grandpa. Fortunately they get on like a house on fire although he doesn't enjoy a lot of privacy. In fact, Hye-jun gets on much better with Grandpa than anyone else in the house. Mum (Ae-suk) tries to play mediator between the warring factions in this divided household but as she struggles as housekeeper under Hae-ho's mother's watchful eye, she comes to the conclusion that she wants better for her son. I also love Hye-jun's relationship with his new manager, Min-jae (Shin Dong-mi) an old colleague from the agency who is now firmly part of his cheerleading squad. Little by little, she's doing what his previous agent failed to do for him, finding small but significant opportunities. One gets the feeling that with all these people around him, barracking for him, maybe just maybe, Hye-jun might have a shot at seeing his elusive dreams come true.

As the show grows from strength to strength, I'm encouraged to press on with it. It's early days yet and things can still go off the rails down the track. But for now, this looks like it could go somewhere.