Commentary

No zombies here, just Choi Woo Shik to hook you

…and V’s song, but there’s more than that in Our Beloved Summer

Choi Woo Shik and Kim Da Mi in 'Our Beloved Summer' (Official poster from Netflix)


Credit: Netflix Asia/YouTube

Our Beloved Summer
16 Eps Netflix
Starring Choi Woo Shik, Kim Da Mi

Our Beloved Summer (Top 10, Netflix, as All of Us Are Dead hogs the top slot) has been the buzz the last two weeks and not only because BTS’ V (Taehyung) sang Christimas Tree, the drama’s OST, which, of course, topped the charts. Apart from that, people love the drama series because it is a very ordinary love story that unfolds in a most extraordinary way, told like a story streaming on the internet.  So GenZ and millennial, yet so age-inclusive in its human-ness.

Comments from our chat groups:

“OBS (Our Beloved Summer) is at its core, a healing, coming of (late) age drama.”

“It’s so layered. Scriptwriting masterpiece and masterclass of how a seemingly common story can be told in an exceptional manner.”

“Am back to OBS, as much as I was completely blown away by TRS (The Red Sleeve). It is OBS, especially Ep 11 that made me cry….Choi Woo Shik (CWS) is such an underrated actor whom I strongly suspect is even more talented than his best buddy PSJ (Park SeoJun)… Woo Shik’s eyes doing all that damage, ripping apart the collective heart and soul of viewers.”

“And Da Mi, who has such tiny eyes that seem to move only one way—can magically express 100 or so different emotions.”

From those comments alone, you know that OBS is an actors’ masterpiece. It is not an earth-shaking plot or action series (no zombies), nor is it a cheesy romcom. Rather, you get immersed in how the two main characters evolve and struggle one episode after another, not superhumans, just young, hilariously vulnerable and cute.

The series begins with two students whose daily lives are filmed, one summer, for a documentary on high school life—that ordinary. The laughter comes when the docu captures how weirdly opposites they are: Yeonsoo, played by Kim Da Mi, is the top in class, the achiever; Ung, played by Choi Woo Shik, ranks #247th in a student population of 247. The camera follows them around—Yeonsoo acing her schoolwork and Ung…dozing off. He’s always drawing or sketching when, to Yeonsoo’s frustration, he should be reading. They’re like cats and dogs, always at each other’s throat, because their personalities are studies in contrast: she is driven, snooty and inscrutable; he is her doormat, the bullied to her bully. Nothing would ever come of him, she loved to say to his face.

You’re hooked as early as the first episodes because Choi Woo Shik and Kim Da Mi are so funny in their antipathy towards each other, as the documentary captures these two students representing school life—the “best” and the “worst” students of their school. She wants to achieve; he wants to lie down and watch the sky. She devours books, he just doodles.

From the get-go, the chemistry between Choi Woo Shik and Kim Da Mi is what makes this series addictive

From the get-go, the chemistry between Choi Woo Shik and Kim Da Mi is what makes this series addictive. The tension between the two characters is captured by acclaimed director Kim Yoo Jin to the max, even as he gives the series a soft texture, an engaging lightness. (By the way, Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being is the book covering the face of a hibernating Choi Woo Shik’s Ung, on camera, before it is thrown aside by an irritated Yeonsoo.)

Fast forward to a decade later when, out of the blue, their high school documentary is re-streamed and goes viral, and netizens become incurably curious about what happened to the odd duo from high school. The network producer had no choice but to do a follow-up documentary, this time to be filmed by the third wheel in the high school trio of Ung and Yeonsoo. The young director Kim Ji Woong, played with endearing empathy by Kim Sung Cheol, is talked into shooting the follow-up documentary now that the three of them are done with school and starting their careers. To be specific, he would now film his best friend Ung (Woo Shik) and his first and secret love, Yeonsoo (Da Mi).

The odd couple now have lost touch with each other—even if, it is revealed gingerly in the series, they dated actually in school after doing the documentary. And the breakup apparently was tough—which the two have tried to put behind them, rather unsuccessfully. Both never really move on from the pain of that high school romance (“You ruin my life!” Ung tells Yeonsoo) especially since Ung never really knew the reason Yeonsoo dumped him so suddenly—a reason that would be revealed in episode six— a turning point in the series when hilarity turns into serious business enough to make you tear up.

 Now both in their 20s, the girl is a driven, successful marketing executive, but still stuck-up; the boy—surprise!—is one of the most sought after young artists in Seoul, but still painfully detached from the world—and passive. Woo Shik’s character is insomniac, anti-social and prefers to garden. He hides behind a pseudonym in his paintings that are so in demand—he prefers to draw buildings, not people.

An only child, he now lives alone, away from his doting restaurateur parents. His bachelor’s pad is a triumph of production design—industrial minimalist, chic wood-and-concrete mix, too cool for the anti-social painter whose following now includes a popular idol. Ung’s digs alone—a prominent mainstay in the series—proves Yeonsoo wrong that Ung’s life would amount to “nothing”.

How Ung and Yeonsoo cross paths again is the highlight of the early episodes. By agreeing to do the follow-up documentary, they re-enter each other’s life, with the third wheel Kim Sung Cheol in it. The series revisits each one’s childhood and its secrets (why does Ung have nightmares of being abandoned?), even as it shows how the three come to terms now with their young adulthood—how “one is alone with a friend who is also alone.”

The series is relatable especially to the GenZs and millennials because like these generations, the characters live in a digital aquarium—24/7 in social media. But beyond that, these generations grapple with family responsibilities, society’s expectations, and alone-ness in the noise and crowd of high-tech living.

He proves how good an actor he is, even as his global fame overshadows his craft—he is popular as a close buddy of BTS V

In this series, Choi Woo Shik proves how good an actor he is, even as his global fame overshadows his craft—he is popular as a close buddy of BTS V and as the actor in Parasite. (Watch him also in the reality show Youn’s Stay, with Oscar Best Supporting Actress Youn Yuh Jung.) But to me it is his early series Boy Next Door with actor Jang KiYong that proves how versatile and bold an actor Choi Woo Shik is. In that series he and KiYong are suspected as flamboyant same-gender lovers by the entire neighborhood.

In Our Beloved Summer, Choi Woo Shik crafts a new soft image of the Gen Z’s romantic hero—he doesn’t sweep the woman off her feet, self-effacing, almost like an antithesis to your stereotypical K-drama romantic lead. Introvert and lethargic, his character seems to have been written for Choi Woo Shik’s shy face. Insecurity is written all over it, that intimidated gaze, that reluctance to smile. His acting is so nuanced and natural. And as the drama comes to its finale, Choi Woo Shik evolves from a sheepish guy in love to a boldly independent man in love. Coming of age.

Kim Da Mi—well, the viewer has yet to get over her quirky character in Itaewon Class, opposite Park Seojun (another of Choi Woo Shik’s close friends). She is that memorable in her roles. In Our Beloved Summer, her gaze is enough to neutralize Woo Shik’s Ung—and the viewer too. Her Yeonsoo is pert, cocky, the alpha female in the jungle—whose eyes can give way to tears.

Such underacting—you don’t want to get over it.

BTS’ V  shares an IG story of him and his friend Choi Woo Shik on his visit to the set of
‘Our Beloved Summer,’ in this story from SOOMPI.

Read more:

Hellbound: A thrill (even for non-Yoo Ah In fans)

Hard to move on from Red Sleeve—not only because of Junho (2PM)

From eye candy Rowoon to compleat actor Kim Soo Hyun

About author

Articles

She ends her pandemic day watching K-Drama, from period series to idol teen drama, and wakes up sane.

Newsletter
Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign up for Diarist.ph’s Weekly Digest and get the best of Diarist.ph, tailored for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *