[Friday Flashback] 49 Days
Genre: Melodrama, Romance, Supernatural
Synopsis: Ji-hyun has the perfect life, but just before she’s set to walk down the aisle and enter marital bliss, she’s involved in a car accident. With her body in a coma, her spiritual form is presented with two options: willingly pass on into the great beyond, or spend the next 49 days collecting tears shed by three non-relatives who truly love her. If she can collect three pure tears by her deadline, she’ll wake up from her coma… but she quickly learns that it’s not as easy of a task as she initially thought. During her quest, she’s allowed to borrow the body of Yi-kyung, a convenience store worker who has lost her own will to live.
Why You Should (Or Shouldn’t) Watch 49 Days:
This is one of the very few dramas that has made me ugly cry, so if you haven’t seen it, I’m warning you right now: watch with a box of tissues and some of that cookie dough that’s conveniently packaged like a burrito — you know what I’m talkin’ about. You’re going to need it because — unless you lack a heart or tear ducts — this drama packs one hell of a wallop.
Although it’s a more melodramatic approach to the ghostly body-snatching trope that often skews towards comedy (e.g. the currently airing Ghost Doctor), 49 Days does have its share of laughs. Our leading lady Ji-hyun (Nam Gyuri) is a spoiled-but-endearingly-naïve-and-slightly-dumb rich girl, so when she enters her 49-day contract with the flower boy Scheduler (Jung Il-woo), it’s hard not to chuckle at their interactions. It’s uncommon that the leading lady doesn’t fall in love with the handsome fantasy creature, but even without a romance bringing them together, this odd couple still presents the audience with some great onscreen chemistry. Admittedly, most of it can be credited to the Scheduler’s tsundere personality and facial expressions, which give away exactly how he’s feeling whenever Ji-hyun demonstrates her complete lack of critical thinking skills.
While there are romantic undercurrents to this drama in the form of a second — or is he a first? — male lead who has had a long-time crush on Ji-hyun, I wouldn’t seek this drama out if you’re in the mood for a light-hearted romance. As I stated before, this drama sucker-punched me in the feels, and part of it is because the romance is more of the what-could-have-been variety. The romantic story arcs are also a bit passive, taking a backseat to our leading characters’ individual growth.
49 Days is more focused on the characters healing from trauma and the loss of a loved one. Characters such as Yi-kyung (Lee Yo-won). Ji-hyun not only
borrows hijacks Yi-kyung’s body on her quest, but Yi-kyung also serves as Ji-hyun’s foil. While Ji-hyun is — occasional pity-fest aside — optimistic and chipper, Yi-kyung is depressed and suicidal. After a tragic accident left her grieving, Yi-kyung has voluntarily closed herself off from the rest of the world. But Ji-hyun won’t let her wallow in solitude with unwashed hair for long. These two women need each other, and the story is about their connection — both spiritual and emotional.
That said, 49 Days is kind of like a soft-core makjang. Once you move past the initial fantasy set-up for Ji-hyun’s journey, many of the challenges she faces are makjang-like: affairs, love triangles, birth and death secrets, hostile business takeovers — oh my! I think what prevents this drama from going full-blown soap opera, though, is how the story weaves all the drama together. Instead of driving the narrative and dropping the twists randomly to add suspense, the majority of the makjang tropes are revealed within the first couple of episodes, allowing the rest of the story to focus on Ji-hyun’s journey to collect tears and prevent bad things from happening to the people she loves.
And instigating those bad things is a devious, backstabbing fiancé. Although his character lacks originality, his presence is less eye-roll inducing because he’s utilized fairly well to provide conflict and sidetrack Ji-hyun from her quest. There wouldn’t be much of a story if she collected all three tears in under ten days, so she needs some reason to drag her feet and stave off trying to emotionally manipulate people into crying tears of pure love.
So does this Friday Flashback stand the test of time? I like to think so. While some of the acting can be a little lackluster, the writing makes up for it. It’s also one of the few fantasy dramas that has concluded and left me feeling satisfied. I mean, I may have looked like someone hosed my face down with a pressure washer afterwards, but 11 years after my original viewing, I’m still coming to terms with how much 49 Days completely wrecked my emotions. That’s gotta count for something, right?