There’s plenty of love and plenty of rain in KBS’s new-vintage drama offering, Love Rain, which enjoyed some considerable hype before its release due to its popular stars. It’s not out to transcend its genre, and works well to deliver an atmospheric, youthful vibe and a core love story with all its requisite entanglements. There might be as much to like about it as there is to dislike, and this drama seems like one of the more polarizing options – either you enjoy the throwback to the season dramas of yore, or you don’t. I found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would, but maybe I’m just in love with how snazzy it all looks.
[Watch the series at DramaFever]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
We open on a college campus in the 1970s as two students pass each other for the first time. As he sees her approaching we hear him say in amazement, “One, two, three. In just three seconds, I fell in love.”
The soothing sounds of an acoustic guitar segue us over a view of an evergreen campus and into a cafe, where a bespectacled KIM CHANG-MO (Seo In-guk) sings for the restaurant-goers. There’s a DJ/MC for the stage proceedings, a smooth-talker that plays the well-known theme song from the movie Love Story.
The song continues to play as our 1970s hero (there will be two versions of him), SEO IN-HA (Jang Geun-seok), sees the girl he fell in love with sitting outside his art studio window. Grabbing his supplies in a rush and never letting his eyes stray too far from her, he takes up residence by the window so he can draw her.
Back in the cafe, the DJ/MC LEE DONG-WOOK (Kim Shi-hoo) joins Chang-mo and another girl at a table to discuss an upcoming fight he’s scheduled with In-ha. Why? Because of a girl that In-ha claims he loved at first sight.
They’re all friends of In-ha’s, and no one can believe it – they’ve never even seen In-ha with a girl before. In fact, put him on a deserted island with a girl and he wouldn’t even talk to her. Dong-wook just shakes his head and attempts to convince them that the story is true.
In-ha continues to sketch the girl of his dreams, but becomes so engrossed that she’s gone by the time he looks up. He bolts out of the studio to find her, and eventually runs into her (literally), which sends the contents of her purse flying.
He helps her pick everything up, and thinks to himself while he looks at her, “All of a sudden, my heart started beating like crazy.” He awkwardly attempts conversation but backs out at the last moment, unable to speak when he’s so flustered.
Everyone stops for a campus-wide pledge to the flag. In-ha takes the time to try and edge closer to her, staring like a puppy. While the pledge calls for devotion to the glory of the country, In-ha thinks that funnily enough, he can’t help but feel that the reason he was born was to devote himself to love her.
She leaves right after the pledge, though In-ha finds a diary she accidentally left behind. Here’s where we learn her name, written on the inside cover – KIM YOON-HEE (Yoon-ah).
Dong-wook challenges In-ha to a game of tennis, with their friends watching from the sidelines. The girl in their group, BAEK HYE-JUNG (Son Eun-seo) cheers for In-ha on the basis that Dong-wook always tries to take what’s In-ha’s. In this case, it’s a girl. (Seriously? Dong-wook already seems like a crappy friend.)
Girls are screaming over the two good-looking men going at each other in good sportsmanship, and Yoon-hee happens to pass by. Any joy she feels at learning In-ha’s name from a friend disappears when she realizes her diary has gone missing.
In-ha sees her go, and in yet another inner monologue he says to himself, “On that day when I missed her so many times, I was already in love.” (I’m really glad for your love, In-ha, but we geddit.)
He makes it home by nightfall and shamelessly opens Yoon-hee’s diary. Along with all her various entries is a pressed flower with a famous quote from Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Her parents loved to watch the movie, but they’ve passed away. She still doesn’t understand the meaning of the quote.
Back on campus the next day, a nervous In-ha waits with Yoon-hee’s diary in the hopes of spotting her. Just as he puts it away she approaches him and asks for it, but preempts him returning it by whispering her hopes aloud that she hopes no one will read it. Probably feeling guilty that he’s read it, In-ha doesn’t end up returning the journal.
His friends join him just as Yoon-hee leaves, but she’s waylaid by a man who suffered her rejection and doesn’t want to accept it. The boys are gobsmacked over her beauty and ask Hye-jung if she’s in the same class – and it’s with a scoff that she says yes – but she doesn’t know her well because she hates girls like Yoon-hee. Clearly she’s used to the attention Yoon-hee receives from the opposite sex, and no girl is without her envies.
Yoon-hee is known as the class “Madonna,” another term that sends Hye-jung sulking. For everything that is praised about Yoon-hee, Hye-jung has a return. (Chang-mo: “She looks so innocent and classy!” Hye-jung: “And stuck-up.”)
The boys even appreciate her nice but firm rejection to the man who even got on his knees to beg her. Dong-wook looks intrigued, and asks, “Three seconds?” Oy. He knows without In-ha telling him that this is the girl he fell in love with, but it looks like he isn’t going to care one bit.
In-ha reads Yoon-hee’s diary in class and finds out that one of her desires is to see the movie Love Story, which is making a return to the theaters. He finds out other predictably adorable things from her past – like the habit of applying saliva to a bruise because her grandma used to do it. And of course, whatever hurt her always healed because it was Grandma’s love.
Her inner monologue/diary entry continues, “Someday, I want to fall in love like the actors in the movie, and like my parents.”
In-ha reads her diary over and over, wanting to know everything about her. The entries lead him to a movie theater the next day to buy tickets for Love Story, and a library to find her father’s favorite book, “The Little Prince.”
He’s unaware that Yoon-hee’s in the library, and their eyes meet from two different sides of the shelf. In-ha’s flustered and bumps into a book cart – and when the librarian asks if he wants to check out “The Little Prince,” he loses his nerve and denies it right in front of Yoon-hee.
Her friend sees her with In-ha and immediately sets to questioning Yoon-hee – does she not know him and his two friends? She goes into descriptions, with Dong-wook being a womanizing med-student with rich parents. Next, Chang-mo, a country boy with a golden voice.
Most importantly, though, there’s In-ha – a mysterious art student with a soft kind of charisma, a winner of numerous painting contests and the son of an insanely rich family, to boot. But the rumor is that he has a fiancée.
In-ha interrupts their conversation, having unwittingly overheard. He informs them that he doesn’t in fact have a fiancée before nervously scooting out of the room.
It’s raining outside (we all knew this would happen, it was only a matter of time), and both In-ha and Yoon-hee are caught without an umbrella. After a few moments of awkward silence In-ha instructs her to wait while he rushes inside the school to scrounge around from an umbrella.
He runs back outside, umbrella in hand, and unfolds it in a grand romantic gesture… except that it’s broken, and folds sadly in on itself on top of his head. Ha. The only way to keep it up is for him to hold the umbrella near the top, which is enough to cover her but leaves half of him prime for rain-soaking.
As they walk together she brings up the topic of the fiancée, and In-ha assures her that it’s all untrue. She seems happy to hear it, although she worries once she sees him getting rained on. He assures her that he’s okay in that shy manner of his, and after a small back-and-forth she tells him to come in closer so the umbrella covers more of them.
He does, even though he seems nervous each time they accidentally brush against each other. Aww, cute.
By the end of their walk he’s pretty much only holding the umbrella over her while he gets soaked from head to toe. They share a common affinity for rain and feelings, and she shares a stanza from “The Little Prince” that talks about love having two faces of happiness and sadness. She thinks love and rain are similar in that regard.
When he claims he has to leave Yoon-hee stops him to ask when she should return the umbrella. It takes In-ha all his courage to ask her what she’s doing on Sunday – and he suggests going to see Love Story, all while trying not to seem like he hasn’t read her diary.
She’s shocked, because it just makes him seem more in tune with her feelings. She agrees to the date with a shy smile, and In-ha giddily runs off alone in the rain. He cheers to himself once he’s alone. (Aww. Resistance to this kind of cute is futile.)
Dong-wook is waiting at the same bus stop as Yoon-hee, and immediately starts laying on the charm despite her seeming indifference. She thinks the first time she saw him was on the tennis court – but he corrects her in that this isn’t their first meeting.
He acts hurt when she doesn’t seem to remember, but recovers quickly when he notices her looking at the poster for Love Story. He asks if she wants to see it together with him, earning a puzzled response in return. He backs off enough to tell her that if they see each other again, it’s a date. Regardless of whether she’s explicitly agreed or not.
Still soaked from the rain and filled with artistic inspiration, In-ha sets to painting a portrait of Yoon-hee. (Ah, so that’s why he was in a rush.) Dong-wook back in the cafe, dedicating a song to all those who have fallen in love on a rainy day like him.
Dong-wook finds In-ha composing a song later, and has brought drinks to share. He guesses right that In-ha is composing because of “Three Seconds,” the girl he loves. Dong-wook is happy to report that he’s found his own “Three Seconds”, and we flashback to Dong-wook’s first meeting with Yoon-hee (the one she didn’t remember) at the bus stop.
She’d noticed his finger was bleeding, and helped him to place a bandaid. Because she reminded him of his mother, he fell in love instantly.
He notices the movie tickets In-ha’s laid out to dry and notes that it’s such a strange thing – he got rejected by his “Three Seconds” for the same movie. (And neither of them thinks that any two “Three Seconds” are the same.) Dong-wook wonders why that quote so popular with girls, you know, the one about love means never having to say you’re sorry?
“I don’t know,” In-ha replies thoughtfully. “Because love comes from your heart. You know each other’s hearts. I guess you don’t need to say it.”
Later that night In-ha reads over Yoon-hee’s diary, learning about all the girlishly adorable things she likes like libraries and [insert random generic interest here].
Dong-wook has decided that he isn’t going to wait for fate to bring him and Yoon-hee together, so instead he drags In-ha and Chang-mo along for a sogaeting (a group blind date). Some hints that Chang-mo drops leads In-ha’s face to drop as he slowly comes to the realization that Dong-wook’s “Three Seconds” is the same as his.
This is only reaffirmed when Hye-jung arrives with Yoon-hee in tow. She’s surprised to see In-ha, who can only look away and fidget the moment he sees her.
Upon seeing Yoon-hee, Dong-wook is all like, Oh what a coincidence that we ran into each other againlet’sgoseeamoviedatemealready. But they’ve still got the whole group date to sit through, which includes listening to one girl talk about her prestigious family lineage.
She’s clearly got her sights set on In-ha, and exclaims that she wants to be the wife of an artist (hint, hint). In-ha just looks even more uncomfortable than usual as a result.
After Yoon-hee introduces herself, Hye-jung asks about the movie. Dong-wook doesn’t give Yoon-hee a chance to answer as he says that they’d practically promised to see the movie together if they ever ran into each other again.
In order to score points, Dong-wook steals the romantic lines In-ha spouted earlier about love coming from the heart. This does earn him points, because Yoon-hee is touched.
As an icebreaker, all the men secretly put down an item of theirs, to be paired with whichever girl picks their item. When it comes to Yoon-hee, she’s faced with the choice of a charcoal pencil or a bandaid – and she picks the pencil.
In-ha’s face lights up – that’s his! – but Dong-wook kicks him under the table and exclaims, “That’s mine! I guess we really are fated.” Urgh.
Yoon-hee and In-ha can only exchange glances, the distance between them growing by the moment.
In-ha ends up taking a backseat while Dong-wook romances Yoon-hee with all the things she likes – baby’s breath (the flowers, not the actual breath of babies, which would not surprise me in her case), classical music. He tells himself that this is now the girl his friend likes, and only watches from the sidelines as she’s slowly stolen away.
He thinks to himself that he was happy because of her, and sad too. (Just like love, and rain. Love rain! It all makes sense now!)
The friend that had her eye on In-ha, HWANG IN-SOOK (Hwang Bo-ra) shares her disappointment in In-ha’s flightiness while shopping with Hye-jung at a boutique. She gets the sense that In-ha’s avoiding them – is he doing it because he thinks Yoon-hee likes him?
Yoon-hee finds herself unintentionally eavesdropping on their conversation, until she’s caught by In-sook. Whoops.
I was wondering how Dong-wook found out about everything Yoon-hee liked – it turns out that In-ha was enough of a
doormat good friend to tell him everything he needed to know out of what he gleaned from her diary. Dong-wook asks his friend for more hints, because he’s feeling like he has to cement something with Yoon-hee before an upcoming festival or risk being friend zoned.
“Don’t try to do something,” In-ha advises. “Just show your heart.” Dong-wook: “So what is that?” You literally see In-ha facepalm.
Yoon-hee and the girls emerge from the boutique, but they’re in for a scary surprise. (The serious musical cue got a good laugh out of me. It can’t be explained, you have to see it.) There are policemen nearby with rulers and scissors – rulers for skirt length on women, and scissors for hair length on men. They’re literally curb-checking anyone that walks by for inappropriate dressing, and cutting hair in the street if they deem it too long.
In-sook worries about being caught for her short skirt, but thinks ahead and unrolls it so it’s less offensively short. Hye-jung marvels at her resourcefulness and wonders if In-sook ever thought to apply her brain to her studies as much as her skirts.
Alone with Yoon-hee, Hye-jung asks how she feels about Dong-wook. Yoon-hee admits that she really liked it when he repeated In-ha’s lines (she doesn’t know that, of course) about the meaning behind the Love Story quote. “I liked it because I thought he was like me,” she says. Oh darlin’, if only you knew.
Hye-jung is relieved to hear it, because she was worried that Yoon-hee might have something going on with In-ha. But now that she doesn’t, Hye-jung is free to admit that she likes In-ha. Yoon-hee looks troubled, now finding herself put into a similar situation as In-ha was with Dong-wook.
We get a funny, albeit meaningless, foray into Chang-mo’s life. He’d been stealing staged fruit meant for still-life artists to paint, and when he’s caught by one of the students he’s forced to repay his debt by posing in the nude for the art students. Haha.
Chang-mo is shocked to learn that women also get to pose nude, and surmises that In-ha must have some nude paintings, then. So he goes through In-ha’s locker for some porn and ends up finding paintings of Yoon-hee instead.
Dong-wook has no idea that Yoon-hee was In-ha’s first love, and so he thinks In-ha’s recent ire is directed at his playboy attitude. He assures his friend that he’s serious about Yoon-hee – but by the way, whatever happened to In-ha’s “Three Seconds?”
“I gave up on her,” In-ha replies. When asked why, he simply says that it’s because she has someone else. Dong-wook is aghast – so he just gave up without a fight? Just like that? (For the first time, I don’t hate what comes out of Dong-wook’s mouth.)
In-ha’s passive nature comes to the fore as he tells him that he didn’t have the will to fight. He’s actually jealous of Dong-wook’s ability to be straightforward about loving someone, which Dong-wook doesn’t understand.
Hye-jung and Yoon-hee come across Dong-wook and In-ha, the latter of whom immediately excuses himself. Hye-jung calls him out on his behavior, claiming that the rumors must be true about him specifically avoiding Yoon-hee. In-ha doesn’t know what to say and looks like he’s about to cry at the thought of confronting his feelings, so Yoon-hee excuses herself from the awkward situation.
Alone with In-ha, Hye-jung asks if it’s true. In-ha denies it by saying that he doesn’t have anything against Yoon-hee, and manages to escape in order to brood.
It’s raining that night, and In-ha finds Yoon-hee taking shelter beneath the same building that they first shared an umbrella at. She claims that she’s waiting for a friend, but In-ha hands over his umbrella and tells her to just go.
He asks her why she hasn’t come out with them recently. She grows uncomfortable, and admits that she’s been staying away because she thought he was avoiding his friends because of her.
In-ha tells her in a completely straight tone that her worries are unfounded – in fact, he’s really happy things with her and Dong-wook are working out. She’s quick to counter that her and Dong-wook aren’t official yet.
So In-ha rephrases what he said, in that he hopes they’ll work out together then. Yoon-hee looks disheartened, since that wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear, and that’s how they part.
He watches her walk away from the window of the art studio, and collects all his paintings of her. “I thought that it could change. If only I change, I thought that we could all get along,” he inner-monologues to himself, as he shuts the paintings away in a locker.
So I’ll be the first to admit that I came into this show with pretty negative expectations, only to actually be pleasantly surprised by the end. Unfortunately I’m a pretty cheap drama date when it comes to good cinematography, so it didn’t help when the opening shots of the drama were bathed in warm sunlight and just plain gorgeous. That campus looked like paradise.
It isn’t only that the shots were beautiful, but they worked really well in establishing a definite youthful atmosphere, filled with all the whimsy of young love in bloom. The color palette was great, the costumes a treat, the premise and story easy to digest. Guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy becomes a noble idiot, cue angst.
Granted, I’m coming to Love Rain from a fairly fresh perspective, in that I’ve only seen one of the previous season dramas that gave the PD such widespread fame. Even without seeing his other work I’m well aware that nothing about this story is really new, and there’s nothing particularly exciting going on. That all sounds like points against this drama so I’m having trouble explaining the simple fact that I enjoyed the hour despite all the qualifiers. I wasn’t glued to the screen, but it was an easy watch.
It’s sort of funny that our two lead characters are the ones who seemed to talk the least, and looking back, I can’t really remember the sound of Yoon-hee’s voice. I find that most of the concerns I have (like whether we’re going to be stuck with two shy people for an entire show) are addressed in the promotional materials – we know that we’re seeing the parents of the look-alike children who will develop a relationship in the present, and who are described as opposites of their parents. This wait-and-see syndrome happens to me with dramas that spend time on their child actors – I end up wanting to stick around just to see how things will change once the adults (in this case, the children) show up.
I actually liked Jang Geun-seok in this role, since his past few projects were pretty disheartening. (You’re My Pet, I’m looking at you.) His character may be infuriating in that you wish he’d just stand up for himself, but he as an actor is not, and was believable as an endearingly vulnerable artist. He’s lacking a spine, sure, but it’s kind of nice that he’s not a Douchey McDoucherton. I tended to feel sorry for him, even when he was being a noble idiot. I can’t even be mad at the noble idiocy, because with this PD, it’s just expected.
As for Yoon-ah, jury is still out. She’s serviceable in a role that requires very little of her so far, and to be fair, there isn’t all that much to do with her character that a more seasoned actress could have done (so far). She was written as a beautiful wallflower, and she did her part. Hopefully she’ll get more things to do later, other than liking poetry and listening to classical music. Some more lines wouldn’t hurt, unless there’s a reason why she gets so few of them.
All in all, the production feels assured and my initial misgivings were slightly assuaged with the surprisingly palpable sense of tone. I’m curious to see how we move to the present, and hope that with the time skip we’ll never have to hear about Love Story again. But I’m probably getting my hopes up too high on that one.
- Love Rain premieres to low ratings
- Jang Geun-seok cuts his hair for Love Rain
- Love Rain, literally
- Love Rain holds initial script reading
- Another idol joins Jang Geun-seok’s Love Rain
- Yoon-ah cast as Jang Geun-seok’s leading lady