Record of Youth (2020) Thoughts after Episodes 5 and 6
I like this show although I'm not exactly wowed by it. There are things I like about it but there are also things that don't exactly grab me. I don't mind admitting that if it weren't for Park Bo-geum, I'd probably have been more tentative about continuing with it. I like what he brings to the Sa Hye-jun character and I like his dynamic with Park So-dam's Jeong-ha. While they don't exactly sizzle, I like that they are confidants and are both doing it tough together. In other words, we aren't seeing the usual power dynamics of a rom com. Their blossoming romance is fairly ordinary to say the least, giving off an innocent almost random "first" vibe. It's one of the reasons why I like the piano scene at the end of Ep. 6. One feels that it's strange not to be witness to any major push and pull before the confession. Hye-jun likes what he sees and goes for it. Jeong-ha can't say no to him despite her resolution. So I am absolutely certain that we're in for an ominously rough ride ahead regardless of what third party Hae-ho has in store.
It's not exactly all that surprising that a love triangle has emerged because the show certainly foreshadowed it some time ago. What is puzzling me about this love triangle is why Hae-ho is so eager to jump on board the Jeong-ha bandwagon when the time he's spent with her is largely limited to make-up repartee sessions. My own impression (and that's just my opinion) is that his interest in her seems to stem primarily from the fact that Hye-jun likes her. I could be reading him wrongly because in all honesty, I find him a rather one dimensional character so far. To me he's written as Hye-jun's childhood bestie who grazes on the side where the grass is greener. I haven't warmed up to him but I don't particularly dislike him either. To me he's more window dressing or prop to point us in a certain direction. That could change of course but I'm not exactly eager to care about him or his well-heeled family.
The other reason why I don't feel especially enthused about Hae-ho's family is that they're so obviously designed to be a contrast to the Sa household. They argue and banter with half-hearted petulance but there's a lack of warmth. Everything feels sterile verging on pretentious virtue signalling. Some of it is due undoubtedly to mother, I-yeong. There are glimpses of authenticity but for me, they are few and far between.
Not all's well with the Sa household either. Dad yells far too much for my liking, as if that actually resolves anything. But then I don't think he's interested in resolution as he is in coercion and holding the moral high ground. At times he borders on being a caricature. It diminishes anything useful that might come out of his mouth. He's a bitterly resentful man who plays sides too much. The Sa family functions as two warring sides mainly because of him. I would appreciate the family dynamic a lot more if he was less prone to flying off the handle. As it is I enjoy the dynamic in spite of his tendency to run Hye-jun and Grandpa to the ground at the first opportunity. The family meeting about Gyeong-jun's desire to move out was hilariously entertaining. Grandpa's implication that Gyeong-jun was a con artist in the making was probably not too far off the mark.
As far as the Sa household is concerned, my favourite bits have to be between Hye-jun and Grandpa, and any scenes involving mum, Ae-suk. Ae-suk is a character I really like because she feels well-rounded. There's a balance to her that I find relatable. Life isn't easy but she's carved out her own little niche and pleasure in it. Roomies Hye-jun and Grandpa find little moments of joy where they can. The world out there arguably isn't kind to creative, artistic types. Not only is the competition fierce and there's very little room to move in certain industries but there are also the terrible tactics to get ahead which are supposedly par for the course in these industries.
I thought I had seen the last of agent Lee Tae-su but apparently he's destined to be the thorn of Hye-jun's side for a little while longer as he wreaks petty vengeance without any acknowledgment and recognition of his own failings which led to the exodus from his agency. His attempts to normalize dog eat dog industry behaviour had the odour of an insecure man playing the victim card.
All of the pile on from external forces experienced by Hye-jun is all part of the struggle either before he hits the big time or goes off to the army. It's meant I'm sure to make us root for him. Which I do. Of course this also has the effect of drawing him closer to her because everything apparently seems to be working against him. She has become another scarce good thing in his life. It does beg the question of whether he will hold on to her if more good things or even bad ones start pouring in.
I suppose what I worry about is that when things get better for the two of them they will start to drift apart. Some of Hye-jun's retrospective internal dialogue portend unpleasant things to come. It doesn't have to come to that but they'll have to cross that bridge when they come to it.