is a delightful little drama. The first episode was a little shaky - choppy editing strung together a bunch of scenes that weren't really connected, and I didn't emotionally connect with the characters until the very end. It's all set-up as it brings our leads together in the requisite paths-almost-crossed-but-not-quite first meeting, then brings them together again at the music school where both are students. Both characters are right out of the drama handbook: Kyu Won (Park Shin Hye) is a bright, cheerful, impetuous girl, a student in the Traditional Music department, while Lee Shin (Jung Yong Hwa, and is anyone distracted by thinking of Goong's Shin
every time his name is uttered? Just me?) is your traditional icy, arrogant hero, a student in the Practical Music department.
Yong Hwa's character, refreshingly, at least knows
that he's popular with girls, unlike most Kdrama heroes who, while arrogant, tend to ignore the existence of entire female race until the heroine pops up under their nose and won't leave them alone. His acerbic personality falls away only when he sings the love songs that he himself has composed, though even then he maintains a blank expression thoroughly at odds with the passion of his lyrics. (Can I just say also how thoroughly refreshing it is to have a musical character played by an actor who actually can and does
sing, and write his own songs? Mm).
Jung Yong Hwa in this drama is essentially Kim Hyun Joong in Playful Kiss
. He can't act - maintains the same wooden facial expression that he did for all of You're Beautiful
- but it hardly matters because his role fits him like a glove. As with Kim Hyun Joong, when you're wildly popular, eerily good-looking, and musically talented, whether you can act or not is really a moot point, especially when you're cast an an emotionally-distant jerk who glowers and smolders instead of showing the full range of human emotion.
As for Park Shin Hye, well, she's adorable and has good screen presence, but we already knew that. What I didn't realize is what a terrible comedic actor she is. You're Beautiful
was certainly a comedy, but her role in it was as a terribly-earnest former nun, so she was mostly submissive, hardly ever angry. The first two episodes of Heartstrings
require her to vary between annoyed, frustrated, and very angry for much of her screen-time - and she is very very bad at it. Whenever she attempts to show anger, it comes across an an unconvincing pout (and it's not because her face is too cute to show anger - Ariel Lin in It Started with a Kiss
and Jung So Min in Playful Kiss
were both perfectly well able to show anger with their baby faces).
Oddly enough, however - and this is what convinced me that, youth and baby face aside, she's better suited for dramatic roles - she's perfectly able to show intense emotion. In the closing scene of episode one, Kyu Won glares at Lee Shin with an icy, furious anger - and Shin Hye is completely convincing and compelling for the first time all episode. Based on my vivid memories of her wonderful scenes of hurt and heartbreak in You're Beautiful
(especially that one where she finds out her mother is dead, still my favorite scene of that drama), I'm gonna say that the girl is just not at her best with light comedy.
I'm glad, given that, that Heartstrings
is billed as a "youth melodrama," then, rather than a romantic comedy. So far it's very light and fluffy, and I hope it doesn't lose that entirely, but at the same time, I see some potential for delicious angst in the story thus far and the relationship between Kyu Won and Lee Shin. I don't think it's too much to ask, drama, for us to get lots of scenes of Kyu Won breaking down and Lee Shin coming to her rescue/comfort, and Lee Shin angsting (yes this is a verb, in drama-world at least) and Kyu Won being the only one to understand him.
We haven't been given the full backstory yet, but it's clear in episode two that there's something going on with Lee Shin's family. While Kyu Won's grandfather is subtly tyrannizing her, and I think she's starting to realize it, though that break will be incredibly difficult. I like that the drama doesn't portray her grandfather as evil, or beating her or working too hard, but tyrannizing her in all the other ways that lie on that subtle line between what should and should not be required of a grand-daughter: making her run all his errands, iron his clothes, stay up all night practicing, etc. I wonder whether Kyu Won will break free of her grandfather herself, or whether Lee Shin will be involved in the process.
The cinematography is fairly similar to Playful Kiss
- warm with lots of bright colors. Overall, the drama is flawed, but I'm loving the vibe, and it strikes that tone so necessary for youth dramas - light, but with the magic and heady emotions of young people colliding.
Finally, it is so wonderful, as I briefly mentioned before, to have the actors playing students at a music school be actual gifted, successful musicians. There's a rumor floating around that Jung Yong Hwa has promised to write a new song for each episode of Heartstrings
, and I certainly hope so, because not only does he have an amazing voice, but the songs featured in Heartstrings
so far are actually good
- melodic pop songs with really good lyrics and catchy choruses. So, so much better than the music in either You're Beautiful
or Marry Me Mary
, which also featured youthful bands. (No offense, Jang Geun Seuk, because I like your voice too, but I think I see why Jung Yong Hwa is the leader of an immensely popular band while you're primarily an actor). Park Shin Hye also of course has an absolutely fantastic voice, and I drool at the thought of future musical showdowns, particularly if, as hinted, she's drawn in by the dangerous world of pop and modern music... Dream High
with the romantic pairing of Playful Kiss
? Oh yes. I can do that.
One last note. Something about this drama felt weirdly familiar, and it finally struck me. What other
drama have we been watching recently in which the hero conscripts the heroine to be his slave and run errands at his beck-and-call?