I’m really liking Flowers For My Life a lot. It’s hard to describe the tone by comparing it to other kdramas — it’s not a melodrama. It’s not thriller, action, or family drama. It’s not a trendy drama. And it’s not even a straight “dramatic” drama. It’s hilariously funny — I find myself laughing out loud a lot — but it’s not jokey. It’s more of a witty, dry humor. My favorite!
And despite this being Cha Tae Hyun‘s big comeback drama, I don’t think this is a star vehicle either. I’m not watching for any actor, but the writing and directing are so solid that I’m hooked.
It is also the first drama in a long, long time (or ever?) where I love every single character.
SONG OF THE DAY
MC the Max – “사랑이 끝나면” (If Love Ends) [ zShare download ]
An interesting bit about Hana’s name: Na Hana is a perfectly normal Korean name. Na is a common last name, and Hana is a common first name — but when you put them together, it also reads as “I’m Alone” (or “only me”).
EPISODE 2 SUMMARY
Alone in the deceased Wang Dae Bak’s spacious mansion, Ho Sang decides to call an old friend, one who hasn’t yet heard news of his “death.” Oh Nam Kyung is glad to hear his voice after so many years, and Ho Sang wishes her a happy birthday. She can’t believe he still remembers, but his voiceover tells us, “I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve just never had the courage to call to congratulate her. But today’s different. If I can’t have real courage, at least I can be daring. Because on the day of her birth, I died. We must be fated.”
To undercut the touching sadness of that sentiment, we see Hana diligently watching a stack of old dramas with titles like “Fateful Encounter” (“운명적 만남”) and “Short-Lived Romance” i.e. with a short lifespan (“시한부 연인”). Because she’s studying! Oh, Hana.
She analyzes her first encounter with Ho Sang, thinking she didn’t get it quite right, but muses, “It’s okay. In shopping there are refunds, and in driving there are U-turns.”
Hana investigates around Wang Dae Bak’s neighborhood, asking residents about him, pleased to hear that he’s a recluse without family or friends (“Nobody to fight over an inheritance with! Very good.”). Meanwhile, Ho Sang debates very briefly over whether to spend Wang Dae Bak’s money… But he gets over it and decides to spend it, promising to pay him back later. For now, he needs a spiffy suit to see Nam Kyung, who’s invited him to visit.
All the while, he’s being observed by Hana, who interprets his actions as a dying man going on one last voyage… If he should happen to meet his fateful love on this trip, how beautiful it would be! They would spend time together on the beach, and he would tell her:
Ho Sang: “Thanks. For coming with me on my last trip.”
Hana: “There’s nothing to thank me for. We just happened to meet by chance.”
Ho Sang: “No. This is fate. I want to spend my remaining days with you. I want to give all of my remaining belongings to you.”
Hana: “Shh. Enough. Let’s just listen to the waves.”
(Hana should be a writer. Her fantasies are hilarious.)
Ho Sang is briefly unnerved imagining Mr. Wang behind the wheel of his expensive car. Mr. Wang has sadly realized, “I’ve got nowhere to go.” Ho Sang responds, with compassion for Mr. Wang, “I guess it’s good then, that I have somewhere to go.”
Just as Ho Sang is leaving to visit Nam Kyung, Hana leaps into his car and tells him, in a panic, to hurry! Go! She’s being followed!
Seeing a black car following, Ho Sang takes off… not realizing that Hana is faking. Ho Sang pulls off lots of fancy maneuvers to “evade” their followers — who merely think he’s some psycho driver. HAHA. Hana lets him believe she’s being chased by loan sharks, explaining that she has no money now that she got fired for helping him. She apologizes for locking him in the morgue and tells him, without awareness that it’s a little weird (and soon) to be thinking this way: “I’ve thought it over, and I think we must be fated.”
Ho Sang kicks her out of the car.
However, he comes upon a police checkpoint and realizes he’ll get caught for driving someone else’s car without a proper license (since “Ho Sang” is technically dead). He gets Hana to drive.
Hana’s mildly alarmed to hear they’re heading for Chun Cheon, because that’s her hometown… but she’s MORE alarmed to hear him mention Nam Kyung. In a moment, her beautiful beachside fantasy is dashed when she imagines her position as beneficiary being usurped.
She cannot let them meet. She can’t lose her inheritance to another woman! At a loss for a better idea, Hana purposely runs the car into a stopped truck.
And how gorgeous is this? >>
Ho Sang takes one look at the other driver and realizes he’s screwed. Although I don’t know anything about actor Kim Ji Hoon, and he’s not my typical idea of good-looking, all I could think seeing him for the first time was: Man, is this guy gorgeous. It’s more than just his look — he has this calm, cool, unaffected attitude that’s really appealing. Phew.
Ho Sang prepares himself to blame the other guy, telling himself, “In a traffic accident, the guy with the loudest voice wins.” Even though the other guy turns out to be really cool, asking first, “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Ho Sang blusters on about how the other guy can’t drive. Ho Sang yells at Hana to call for the police to handle this lawfully…
…and is shocked to see the cops immediately pull around the corner. He asks confusedly, “They’re here already?” Mr. Cool says HE called the police. Ho Sang leaves Hana to deal with the mess and runs off. Hana attempts to follow, but Mr. Cool stops her — somebody’s got to straighten this out.
Hana gets away from Mr. Cool and runs after Ho Sang, but is caught by the police and taken to the station. She insists that the cops find Wang Dae Bak (she still doesn’t know his real name), because it’s a matter of life and death. But everyone just thinks she’s a spurned lover who’s gone crazy over being left for another woman.
Mr. Cool’s guarantors arrive at the station — and we learn two things. First, his name is Go Eun Tak, and those are HER PARENTS. Hana makes a quick escape from the bathroom…
…but it’s no good because she runs right back into them.
Meanwhile, Ho Sang finds himself at the mercy of a ferocious guard dog, and is rescued by the emergency response team (not quite paramedics or firefighters, they respond to 119 calls, which is Korea’s equivalent of 911).
Lucky for him, they’re armed with tranquilizer guns and good aim. And, the pretty one happens to be his friend, Nam Kyung (actress Gong Hyun Joo). I like her immediately because (1) she’s laid-back and friendly, (2) and accepts Ho Sang’s flowers even though he tries to hide them because all the petals have fallen off. He thinks to himself how she hasn’t changed at all — warm, brave, bright. She tells him, “Good to see you, friend!” and he thinks, “Good to see you, my love.”
At home, Hana’s parents put her in the coffin for a while to reflect upon her sins as Eun Tak observes with amusement (he’s an employee and helper, who seems to have a great relationship with Hana’s parents). They question her about Ho Sang, asking what he does and how deeply they’re involved. Hana says he’s rich and they’re in a very serious relationship. Her father orders Hana to stop seeing him.
Ho Sang and Nam Kyung reconnect over dinner. Ho Sang doesn’t know how to explain what he’s doing these days, so he lets Nam Kyung think he’s the owner of his own business. She tells him the night he called, she was happy to hear his voice — she’d been feeling a little lonely. He admits he was feeling a little lonely, too.
They go out to karaoke, and Ho Sang remembers how he fell in love with her years ago. He thinks with contentment, “It’s like heaven gave me a new chance. Maybe it felt sorry for me, and brought us together again.”
But, Nam Kyung talks on the phone to someone that night, about how she met an old friend and had a good time: “He’s just an old friend who makes me feel comfortable. When I’m with him, I remember the old days. Because Ho Sang only knows the old me.” And we see, on her dresser, her wedding photo.
Hana runs away and receives the aid of a neighborhood ajumma as she looks for Ho Sang. “Wasted On the Way” by Crosby Stills & Nash plays — the director seems to really like their music. They’re not my taste, but they do fit the scenes really well. [ Download ]
Hana’s chase leads her to a funeral, which is being managed by her father’s business. It’s the funeral for the lead elder in an ancestral clan (those who have watched Hello! Miss will get the general idea), one of the most prominent elders in Chun Cheon. Ho Sang also arrives with Nam Kyung, who’s dropped by to pay her respects.
Spotting Hana, Ho Sang tries to escape, which leads him to the room where they’re keeping the dead body. He finds himself with no exit, because outside one entrance is Hana with a cop, and at the other is Hana’s father and the clan elders. His hiding spot is discovered in no time.
A brief chase ends with Ho Sang nearly dropping a priceless family heirloom — a precious vase. The elders breathe a sigh of relief when he catches it. But because Ho Sang stupidly tries to distract them, or maybe he experiences a brain fart, I don’t know, he throws the vase up into the air… It breaks.
With the entire clan ready to haul him off to jail, Hana shocks everybody by speaking up for him as the man she’s going to marry.
With no other choice, Hana’s family takes him home, where her father gravely orders Ho Sung to leave Hana. Ho Sung is soooooo relieved to hear that and agrees immediately. Hana’s father says he’ll send him off to the police, then — if he’s no longer connected to the family, there’s no reason to look after him. Ha! Ho Sang backtracks, asking Hana to help. He didn’t mean it! Hana tells her father if he sends Ho Sang to jail, she’ll follow.
Hana’s parents talk separately, and her mother convinces her father to let the kids be. The more they pull them apart, the more Hana will cling to Ho Sang. The best thing to do is put them together. Maybe they’ll break up on their own. Or get married. But they should keep Ho Sang near.
Hana’s father tells Ho Sang to live with them for the next month. If he doesn’t, he’ll report him to the police. Hana’s happy enough with the results.
Hana’s father puts him in a storeroom to spend the night among the funeral accoutrements, which freaks Ho Sung out. He dreams that he’s visited by the spirit of Wang Dae Bak, who’s angry at him: “Nobody remembers me. Nobody’s sad at my death. Because of you, even in death I’m a lonely ghost.”
Ho Sang awakes to find Hana with him — she thought he’d be scared so came to keep him company. He asks why she’s doing all this, and Hana tells him, as calmly as though she were telling him she likes apples, “Because I love you.” He can’t understand her (“Are you on any medication?”), and asks why. Hana: “Love is like a car accident. Is there any reason for a car accident? Out of nowhere, BAM! Love is like that.”
He tells her to leave him alone — he finds her scarier than anything else — and pushes her away. But when she actually gets up to leave, his fear gets the better of him.
In the morning, Ho Sang attempts to get away, only to be stopped by Eun Tak (Seriously? So hot), who’s been ordered to keep an eye on him. Hana intervenes and accompanies him to see Nam Kyung.
Ho Sang is anxious to convince Nam Kyung that he and Hana aren’t together. They just said they were getting married so he wouldn’t get sent to jail. Nam Kyung believes him, but their conversation is cut short when she’s called away to a fire.
Ho Sang follows the fire truck to the location, and anxiously watches for Nam Kyung to emerge from the building. Hearing that she’s still inside, Ho Sang rushes in with illusions (delusions?) of heroism… only to find himself the one in need of rescue.
Nam Kyung emerges safe and sound, but is alarmed to hear some guy rushed in to save her. Hana looks on in horror, and goes in (rather calmly) after him, thinking, “Wang Dae Bak, you can’t die.” Is it because she cares for him? Because she can’t bear to watch him hurt?
“Until you marry me, you can’t die. Not yet.”
Ahahahahaha. Hana cracks me up.
I’m struck with how much I like Nam Kyung and Eun Tak. Usually, the male lead is meant to look heroic, particularly in star-driven dramas. Call it actor vanity, or a reliance on conventional romantic characters, but it’s just the way things go. Therefore, in order to create an effective love rectangle without tarnishing the male lead’s image, often the second male lead turns mean, or somehow deficient.
However, Flowers For My Life has done the very untraditional thing in making our lead a wimp. I love it! Ho Sang is a little wimpy, a little lazy, a little dorky, and very flawed. Likewise, Hana is not our traditional heroine, either. And you know what that allows us to have? Very interesting second leads.
Eun Tak and Nam Kyung seem more like the familiar romantic hero/heroine characters than second leads. I love the quirkiness in flipping this situation around. I really wonder how they’ll manage this romantic puzzle.