A Thousand Kisses: Episodes 1-5
A Thousand Kisses is a delightful, low-key drama. At first it's simply a refreshing change of pace from all the histrionics and over-the-top romantic and dramatic action in other dramas, from City Hunter (which is amazing but very definitely intense) to tearjerkers like Scent of a Woman to even recent rom-coms like The Greatest Love. As it goes along it switches from enjoyable to addicting, however, and my only regret in starting this drama is that it is 50. episodes.long. It's still surprisingly fast-paced for a 50-episode weekend drama, however. The first episode is admittedly slower than a snail on a hot day and I would never have made it through had I not been promised romance in the future. Just grit your teeth and get through it, because it does pay off. Episodes three to four really introduce us to our characters and set up the character dynamics.
Woo Joo Mi (Kim So Eun) is a sunny, determined girl who was raised by with her older sister Woo Joo Young (Seo Young Hee) and their grandmother, since their mother walked out on them at a young age. A magazine writer, she falls for Jang Woo Jin (Ryu Jin) at first sight when she runs into him (literally) while running one day. Woo Jin is a cold, socially awkward businessman who lives a lonely home life with a domineering father and a stepmother.
Joo Mi's older sister, meanwhile, Joo Young, at first appears to be a happily married woman with a young son. A devoted wife, she's contantly cooking for her mother-in-law and is taking an Italian cooking class because her husband and son's favorite dish is spaghetti. Ji Hyun Woo, meanwhile, plays Jang Woo Bin, a former national soccer player who became a sports agent after getting injured on the field.
The "theme" of the drama, by which it marketed itself, is a story which plays with age couples: Joo Young's soon-to-be-divorced housewife is older than Woo Bin, while Woo Jin is much older than 20-something Joo Mi. There's also apparently a romance later in the series between chaebol/grandpa Byung Doo (Lee Seon Jae) and his caregiver Ji Sun (Cha Hwa Yun). Thus far, however, the age difference really hasn't mattered, which is all to the good in my opinion. When Ji Hyun Woo first came onscreen, I admit all I could think is "how ugly!" But the upside is that he does have a decent amount of screen presence and most importantly plays someone with a good deal of maturity and cool-headedness. Which means that his pairing with Joo Young doesn't feel odd at all - in fact if I hadn't already known that he's a good deal younger than her, I wouldn't have been able to tell.
Episode five is when the emotional connections are really made, when the drama really comes home I think. I was expecting to watch this solely for the Ryu Jin/Kim So Eun storyline, but surprisingly, it's the Seo Young Hee/Ji Hyun Woo storyline that is more affecting in the beginning part of the drama, partly becuse it's more developed, but more because it's so real. There's heartbreaking truth to the way Joo Young, a devoted wife, forgives her husband multiple times when he cheats on her, each time hoping desperately that it's the last time - and yet he always does it again until finally she snaps and can't take it anymore. It's easy to see why she forgave him before - partly for her son's sake, but also because he's willing to do and say anything to placate her and keep her in the marriage, and each time apologizes profusely, telling her it will never, ever happen again and confessing his wrong. He's the quintessential weak-willed, self-centered jerk who's so hard to cut off, eager to have everyone around him be happy, but unwilling to make any sacrifices to make that actually happen.
The scene in which Woo Bin silently follows Joo Young in his car as she walks along the road weeping, having found her husband cheating again, was particularly effective. Not because we haven't seen a similar scene in multiple other dramas, but because Woo Bin doesn't have to be here. Unlike most other drama heroes, at this point he barely knows this woman, has no particular designs on her, and certainly no responsibility toward her - and yet here he is, silently following her to make sure she's okay and feeling desperately sorry for her.
It's achingly real as Joo Young stays locked in a silent prison of misery. And then the flashback, which should feel forced but somehow doesn't, explaining why Woo Bin understands, how he can empathize with her at this moment better than perhaps anyone else.
As for Woo Jin and Joo Mi, well, their problems are all about personality clashes and less about age gap - she's upbeat, forthright, and cheery, and he's uptight and entirely unsure how to deal with her constant intrustions on his life. They have one of the most adorable meet-cutes ever (I unfortunately couldn't screencap it because too much motion happening): surely a classic. Tiny girl running backwards crashes straight into the tall, quintessentially offended businessman, and instead of turning around like a normal person she just slowly tilts her head backward and looks up, as he looks down in complete confusion. The cute doesn't end there though - these two really do have the cutest scenes.
I really like their pairing because I actually see it working for both of them - it's not just the chemistry, though they certainly have that, but Joo Mi needs someone calmer and more stable because she can be a little flighty, and Woo Jin certainly needs someone to soften him up and bring some happiness and
social functionality laughter to his life. I am also really, really hoping that later on in the drama Joo Mi gets herself in some sort of trouble and we get to see Woo Jin, having fallen for her, sweep in and protect her with all the strength of his adult-ness and money and position in life. That would be delicious. Joo Mi is just exactly what he needs because he'd never let anyone in easily, he needs someone who will fight for him and not be easily disuaded, and Joo Mi has tons of both determination and warmth to spare, just begging to be poured out on this icy, slightly messed-up man. It's not coincidental that his mother died some time ago - he's been lacking both a woman's warmth and a woman's guidance in his life which is probably why he is the way he is. He's not a jerk, however (Joo Won of Secret Garden provided us with enough bastardry to last for at least three years of dramas thank you), so on the whole, I'm entirely behind this pairing and can't wait to see it develop some more.
On a final note, can we agree that Joo Young's husband (whom I refuse to dignify even with a name) is one of the most despicable drama characters to ever
walk the earth scar our eyeballs?