Saturday, December 17, 2011

Secret Garden Review (2010)

Drama Rating: *****
Personal Rating: MUST watch!!  One of my all-time favourites!

Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin) is a somewhat eccentric CEO of a department store with rather peculiar habits who happens to meet Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won), a stuntswoman, in a minor mixup. Their chance meeting kicks off the start of a turbulent relationship made all the more rocky when the two strangely swap bodies.

*Spoiler warning*

Screenwriting: A-

Having watched my fair share of rom-coms from Long Vacation to Full House to Fated To Love You, this kdrama is undisputedly among the cream of the crop. The screenwriter Kim Eun Sook did a great job with the script and most the series was planned quite well. The only thing I had an issue with was the ending which felt a little concocted given the fantasy situation - that could probably have been done a bit better. Otherwise, typical drama cliches such as the expected Cinderalla dinner/ball were turned on its head as the scriptwriter masterfully reinvented and rejuvenated those sequences. To top it off, the unique plot device of having the two main characters swap bodies, which can sometimes be tricky to handle, was used to great effect, ensuring a richness of comedic material. One other aspect which elevated this drama above all others was the witty dialogue, which was perfectly delivered by the wondrous pairing of Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won.

Hyun Bin as Kim Joo Won: A+
Ha Ji Won as Gil Ra Im: A-
Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won chemistry: A

Hyun Bin's Kim Joo Won was one of the finest, most memorable drama performances I've seen. From his monologues to his dialogues, he came across very convincingly as the quirky Kim Joo Won.  Ha Ji Won's Gil Ra Im was certainly no less impressive - the expressions given by her eyes being enough to melt your heart. Both of them nailed the mannerisms of both their characters with ease, particularly when it came time to do the 'swapped bodies' sequences. To add to that, the chemistry between the two leads was virtually unsurpassed by any other drama I have seen. Yoon Sang Hyun's playful Oska, Kim Sa Rang's pining Yoon Seul and Phillip Lee's dour Im Jong Soo rounded out a strong supporting cast which, while never detracting from the main story, added much flavor to the series.


The music used for the drama was no less impressive than the story and acting. Pieces were carefully chosen and matched well with the scenes. From excitement to bewilderment to sadness, the whole range of emotions was covered by the drama soundtrack.

This drama clearly raised the bar to which all rom-coms will be compared. It was an impressive drama all round - the cast was exceptional, the dialogue was witty, the music memorable, it felt as though no stone was left untouched to make this an winning production. This is unquestionably one of the finest dramas IMHO and will certainly rank among my all-time favourites.

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