Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Friends Review (2002)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: Loved it!

Tomoko, a Japanese salesperson, is on tour in Hong Kong when she happens to bump into Ji Hoon, an aspiring film director. Ji Hoon was originally filming her for his movie when he realizes she's mistaken him for a thief. After the unusual introduction, they begin to get to know one another further and end up exchanging emails before departing for their respective countries. Little did they know where their chance meeting in Hong Kong would eventually take them.

*Spoiler warning*

This short four episode mini-series is written more like a movie than a drama. Aside from the shortened episode count, one of the most notable aspects of mini-drama is the almost exclusive focus on the main storyline. Supporting characters were mainly there to supplement the two leads and their situations. Given the sole focus, the pacing was slower than most dramas, likely to ensure that the audience was following along. Typical plot devices like love rivals and family opposition were expected although all hurdles and tensions seemed to be more easily overcome compared to your regular dramas. To be a bit picky, I'd say the only questionable aspect of this series was how a short movie that was basically about running could win an grand prize award. Aside from that, most of the story was fairly enjoyable, providing the audience with a heartwarming love story.

Won Bin puts in a fun relaxed performance as the main lead Ji Hoon. His charming demeanor and very likeable personality makes it fun to watch. I'm not generally a huge fan of Fukada Kyoko as her usual slow stare and awkward clumsiness usually impedes her acting performance. However, in this short series, her characteristics fit quite well with her character description since her naivety, which in this case didn't require much extra effort, certainly made aspects of the drama quite believable and actually lovable to an extent. Lee Dong Gun and Yada Akiko were great as the main supporting cast members, providing some solid acting chops without overshadowing the main leads. Strangely, it was the non-important extras that seemed a little stupid like the Japanese tourists who acted like children that were occasional off-putters.

The director kept to a very conservative and safe selection for this drama. Soft longing, romantic music that established a warm atmosphere were often used throughout the drama. The music rarely intruded on the series and was suitable and discreet. It would have been interesting for the director to experiment a little more with music that created a little bit more tension for some of the scenes for a little bit more variety and contrast. As it stood, most of that tension was removed in some of those scenes with soft, tender melodies.

This series could easily have gone wrong on many aspects, particularly due to the brevity but it certainly felt like they got everything right. Won Bin and Fukada Kyoko were very appropriate choices for this series and they expressed their emotions towards each other quite naturally and honestly. As this felt more like a movie than a drama, I quite enjoyed the singular focus on the main story as opposed to taking diversions on various side stories, particularly given the length. Attempts at speaking the foreign languages were quite realistically portrayed and gave the drama a very genuine flavor. This drama was definitely very well done and a great choice if you're looking for a warm romantic tale.

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