Our Beloved Summer’s story is simple: two seemingly opposite people fell in love, broke up, meet again, and got another chance at love. It could have ended up as cliché or trope-y BUT it became a worthwhile watch – a favorite one in fact. That’s because it ticked all the boxes to what for me makes up a great K-drama: well-written script, appealing characters, and solid performances by its actors.
From its pilot week, it was clear what tropes this series were using – opposites attract/enemies-to-lovers and second-chance-at-love. And this was important to point out because it shows that the series knows its identity from the start. But it didn’t mean they boxed themselves to what was expected out of that trope. Instead, they used it as a starting leverage before they bend and shape it into what has now become the beautiful story of Choi Ung (Choi Woo-shik) and Kook Yeon-seo (Kim Da-mi). Expounding on the script further, they didn’t exactly subvert those tropes but they pair them up with storytelling techniques and filming styles that definitely brought into life what they envisioned on the written script. They cleverly used the documentary as a plot device to put our beloved lead characters in the same space and eventually led them through a journey of individual growth and of course, romance. Even the script’s narrative structure was perfect for the story as it allowed the flashbacks to flow naturally with the present timeline. The dialogues were also effective to build a strong emotional connection between the characters and their viewers. So even though one isn’t going through the same thing as Ung and Yeon-seo, their words have the power to emphatically tug your heart.
Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-su are both interesting characters from the start. I love that they always gave both leads equal airtime. It was as if I was reading a novel with dual point-of-views. The he-said/she-said style wasn’t just used for comic value. They consistently showed us what was going on in each other’s minds so that we would understand their actions and motivations. Their individual stories could become standalone series but the show was at its strongest when they intertwined Ung and Yeon-su’s stories and build a tightly written love story out of it. It’s like watching two bright full moons – complete in itself, confident with their individuality and interest – stood and glimmer in the summer sky together.
I willingly went along with Ung and Yeon-su’s ups and downs. With Choi Ung, we watch someone who always choose to run away finally be brave and face his truths. With Yeon-su, we saw how a strong person learned that being vulnerable wouldn’t make her weak. And their stories were amazingly performed by Choi Woo-shik and Kim Da-mi as if their characters were written only for them. These two are big screen regulars who could transform into any kind of character but with Our Beloved Summer, they’ve found characters that naturally suit them well without any effort. Their characters here would definitely be a memorable part of their respective filmographies.
Complementing the stories of Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-su are secondary characters that made each episode rich with emotions – happiness, heartbreaks, and everything in between. In my First Impression notes, I kind of predicted how Kim Ji-ung’s (Kim Sung-cheol) story would go. He was secretly in love with his best friend’s girlfriend. He could have been a strong contender as a second lead. But in the end, he’s story was more than that. For me, Ji-ung’s story was more about him dealing with all the what-ifs he had been carrying since he was young. Through the lens of his camera, he realized that his feelings for Yeon-su weren’t as strong as those two feel for each other. As cliché as this sounds, “it’s not him, it’s them.” The same goes with NJ (Roh Jeong-eui). This lonely character just wanted companionship which she temporarily found with a fellow loner, Choi Ung. She could sympathize with him in some ways but just like Ji-ung those weren’t enough to get through to Ung like how Yeon-su does. It could have been nice if we got a second couple instead of second leads but oh well, these two were effective plot devices that push some progress to Ung and Yeon-su’s reconciliation.
This series felt light-hearted most of the time but when the main story becomes too emotional, we were given side stories like the blooming romance between Yeon-su’s best friend, Lee Sol-yi (Park Jin-joo) and Koo Eun-ho (Ahn Dong-goo). I actually enjoyed them bickering as “friends” but the eventual romance between them was entertaining – and hilarious – to watch. Props also to the people surrounding our leads. Ung’s parents Choi Ho (Park Won-sang) and Lee Yeon-ok (Seo Jung-yeon) were the most genuine people in that neighborhood that I wouldn’t mind if I work part-time in their restaurant. It was also nice watching Jo Bok-rae as successful PD Park Dong-il since the last time I watched him, he just was an amateur documentary filmmaker (in Navillera). I also love that Ji-ung was saved from the lonely second lead blackhole by Jung Chae-ran (Jeon Hye-won). If I actually have one soft rant about this series is that they could have developed this loveline further because it really had a huge potential. Unfortunately, we only have 16 episodes for all these interesting stories to unfold.
Some might think that the story idea for Our Beloved Summer could have been fit into a two-hour-long feature film but that would mean we would have a limited time to meet and know the details of the characters. And the detailed individuality of Ung and Yeon-seo was what I actually appreciate the most in this series. Watching it felt like spending a beautiful summer with your first love – hopeful, romantic, and definitely memorable.
-Kim Dami and Choi Woo-shik join my long list of K-drama pairings I want to see together in a project again
-We noticed that the series used yellow hues in its film color scheme to stay true to its summer feels theme
-The series’ OST is golden!!!