[Drama special review] 2:15 PM
At 2:15 PM, an unlikely friendship blooms between two young girls who seem to have nothing in common and yet everything in common. In a seemingly ordinary story about two girls, this O’PENing showcase drama explores child abuse, apathetic parents, working mom struggles, friendship, flowery metaphors, and finding a forever home.
DRAMA SPECIAL REVIEW
Like its title, this one-episode drama opens at 2:15 PM. Elementary school is out, and we’re introduced to IM HYUN-SOO (the amazing Park So-yi) who comes across a baby snail on her path. She finds it cute and takes a picture of the snail before placing it out of harm’s way. And this first scene serves to highlight two important details about Hyun-soo: her love for photography, and her concern over the wellbeing of others.
Hyun-soo’s next muse is a dandelion blooming outside one of the rundown houses on her way home from school, and as always, she stops to take a picture. But this time, she’s startled by the shattering of a window and angry noises coming from inside the house — a man is being violent around his wife and daughter. The little girl — who we’ll come to learn is JO MIN-HA (the equally amazing Ki So-yoo) — has her back to us, and the wife just sits there in resigned silence. Clearly, this is a regular occurrence in their home.
The dysfunctionality of the dandelion household is in contrast to the environment Hyun-soo grows up in. The difference in financial capability of both families aside, Hyun-soo is raised in a single parent household as opposed to the dual parenting style of the dandelion house — but at least, Hyun-soo is raised with love and she’s not trapped in an abusive home.
But despite these differences, both girls live similar lives. Circling back to the parenting styles, the presence of a father in Min-ha’s life is just as bad (if not worse) as the absence of a father in Hyun-soo’s life. Aside from the fact that he left when she was a baby, we learn nothing about Hyun-soo’s dad. But Min-ha’s dad is a violent bum who blames everyone but himself for his lot in life, and he leaves the entire household responsibility on his wife’s convenience store worker paycheck. And just like Min-ha, Hyun-soo can also relate to having a working mom — who, admittedly, does love her, but is often too stressed out after work to spend quality time with her.
Perhaps recognizing that Min-ha is just as lonely as she is, Hyun-soo begins to drop by Min-ha’s house on her way home from school. Min-ha is initially wary and hesitant to see the older girl, and she keeps the windows closed on Hyun-soo’s first visit. But on the second visit, the window is slightly open — indicating a growing interest — as Hyun-soo comes with a book (Doggy Poo) to read to her new friend. And by the third visit, Min-ha opens the window all the way.
At the start of this friendship, Hyun-soo was always the one looking forward to the closing bells at school to rush over to Min-ha’s. But as the friendship deepens, it’s Min-ha who eagerly waits at 2:15 PM for Hyun-soo’s arrival — standing on her little pink stool and poking her head outside the window. It’s cute how she ducks out of sight when Hyun-soo approaches, and we also begin to see more teeth in her smile.
On a subsequent visit, Min-ha opens the door and lets Hyun-soo come into the house, which is a huge step in their friendship because it takes a level of trust for an abused child to let someone else into their space. Hyun-soo takes the opportunity to tutor Min-ha on the alphabet — which Min-ha continues to practice in secrecy since her father has refused to send her to kindergarten and squanders the child support payments he gets from the government.
Soon, Min-ha ventures outside of her house with Hyun-soo, and it’s exciting to be free from her stuffy house for even just a while. The girls run around the neighborhood, stop to check on the dandelions, and end up in an abandoned house in the neighborhood which they make into their safe house. And it is in this safe house that Hyun-soo sees, for the first time, bruises from child abuse on Min-ha’s body.
Hyun-soo tells Min-ha that she doesn’t have a dad, and asks if Min-ha is happy because she has a dad. “Dad hates me,” Min-ha replies, and further emphasizes this by spanking herself repeatedly on the arm. Hyun-soo recoils, on the verge of tears, and stops Min-ha from hitting herself. She lovingly brushes over Min-ha’s arms instead, and this scene is incredibly sad. Even more so, by Min-ha’s admittance that despite all of it, she doesn’t hate her dad.
It is almost an inexplicable thing, the relationship that exists between parents and children. And perhaps it is the innocence of children that makes them willing to forgive and stick beside their parents through thick and thin. Because just like Min-ha doesn’t hate her dad, Hyun-soo also prefers to remain in Korea with her mom — despite Mom’s busyness — than move to Canada to be with her aunt and siblings.
Hyun-soo is still a child, but around Min-ha, she’s like an adult — teaching Min-ha how to cross the road, standing up for her against a bully at the playground, and taking her home to give her a bath. Somehow, it feels like Hyun-soo is subconsciously being to Min-ha the type of parent she wishes her mom was to her. In the same vein, Min-ha is receptive to Hyun-soo’s nurturing in the absence of it from her own mom. And it’s no wonder that she says she wants to live with Hyun-soo.
This is the first time that Min-ha expresses a desire for a better life than the one she currently lives, and it’s where the drama, through Hyun-soo, makes a comparison between Min-ha and the dandelions that she is all too familiar with. “The dandelion can grow beautifully even with little soil. And when it blooms, a white spore appears. And if those spores meet the wind, they will go find a place for them to grow properly on their own.”
Min-ha’s dad soon finds out about the girls’ friendship, and after an incident occurs that leads them from the emergency room to the police station, the dad reads the riot act to Min-ha. Since Destination Canada is a done deal, Hyun-soo’s mom also advises her not to worry too much about Min-ha because, “The more you care about [Min-ha], the more she will become increasingly sad when she’s left alone,” and this puts a strain on the friendship. So, 2:15 PM comes around again and Min-ha waits, but Hyun-soo doesn’t show up.
I could wax lyrical on the performance of the child actresses throughout the drama (excellent, all through) but it was these separation scenes that really drew me in. There were no over the top wailing scenes or overt display of emotions — Min-ha didn’t even cry, she was just numb. Yet you could feel the angst, their sadness, and longing for each other. Gah! Sucker what? Sucker punch.
It’s interesting to note that in all of this, Min-ha’s mom doesn’t do much to protect Min-ha from her dad. I get that she’s probably also scared of him. But whatever her reasons are, silence is complicity when it comes to child abuse. And this is one of the reasons I scoffed when Min-ha’s dad taunted her with, “At least you get to live with mom and dad forever.” He was throwing shade at Hyun-soo who’ll have to live separately from her mom when she moves to Canada. But what’s the point of living with both parents when not a single one of them is a proper parent? Thankfully, as a sign of hope for Min-ha, spores begin to form on the dandelion outside the house.
Where there is a will, there is always a way, and the girls’ safe house ends up serving as a mailbox for them to drop off letters and gifts for each other. Their friendship has become one that transcends time and space and it’s no surprise that Hyun-soo’s last letter to Min-ha before she leaves for Canada turns out to be the wind that pushes Min-ha’s sails towards a better life. Just like the dandelion spores now flying in the wind, Min-ha leaves home and runs off into the night — almost getting hit by a car in the process. And as she sits on the asphalt clutching the books Hyun-soo gave her, she tearfully begs the driver to help her.
Ultimately, Hyun-soo ends up being Min-ha’s savior — because aside from giving Min-ha the courage to run away from her abusive home, Hyun-soo also documented pictures of Min-ha’s bruises in a diary which her mom finds while cleaning out her room. And Mom submits the diary to the police as evidence of child abuse on Min-ha.
We skip ahead to two years later and see that Min-ha is doing well under foster care. She has a picture of Hyun-soo in Canada on her shelf — an indication that both girls are still in touch — and it’s her turn to play big sister and read Doggy Poo to her foster sister. On this very satisfying and full circle note, we anchor Min-ha’s story that started out with loneliness and ended up in liberation. Like Hyun-soo wished, our dandelion has indeed bloomed and found a place where she can grow properly.
- TVING x tvN’s O’PENing series drops posters and airdates
- tvN x TVING unveils their lineup for O’PENing 2023
- [Drama special review] Underwear Season
- [Drama special review] Do You Know Ashtanga
- [Drama special review] Let’s Meet in an Unfamiliar Season
- [Drama special review] Like Otters
- [Drama special review] Stain
- [Drama special review] Crevasse