Crow, in the form of Yoon Si Yoon, tastes so delicious. Nomnomnom, please sir, can I have some more? Opinions are just that, fluid and transient, able to change and adapt to new developments. I’ve never feared altering my initial opinions for better or worse, though I may look back and chuckle at myself afterwards. Oh young Padawan, how little did you know. I’ve teased Yoon Si Yoon for being my Jun Ki-lite, back in his Baker King Kim Tak Goo days, where his acting was wide-eyed and his perfect complexion more fascinating than his delivery. After marathoning Me Too, Flower! (henceforth called M2F courtesy of the cute flower lovers in dramaland) this past week, I can safely say he’s come out from under the shadow of looking like Jun Ki’s young doppleganger and firmly establishing himself in my conscience as Yoon Si Yoon, delicious gorgeous angsy charming young actor. Welcome to Koala’s embrace, Si Yoon! Don’t worry, when your big bro Jun Ki gets out of the army in T-minus 74 days (oh yes I am counting), I’ll have plenty of room for both of you.
As for M2F, it’s a drama that starts off shaky but steadily builds it narrative, tension, and emotional connection with the viewer. There are things I love about it (namely Yoon Si Yoon and his character Seo Jae Hee) and things I can’t stand about it (namely the really choppy editing and….Lee Ji Ah and her character Cha Bong Sun). But overall, it’s a gripping drama that is heaps more intelligent and interesting than its direct competitor Man of Honor (even if I love MoH more because it’s like that puppy on Youtube who can’t flip himself over), and is vastly underrated in ratings and viewer awareness. As a romantic drama, it’s got some serious sizzling romance going on. And as a drama about interpersonal connections between people with deeply etched scars, it’s deeper than it looks on the surface.
Let me start off by saying that I don’t think M2F is a great drama (eight episodes in) by any measure of the book. It lacks polish and finesse, but what it has is heart, an attempt at honesty (though often falling into quippy retorts more drama than real life), and a really compelling leading man with a dual-natured conflicted character. That’s enough to keep me watching this drama. M2F is a situational rom-com, where there is no overarching narrative about destiny, revenge, redemption, or even transformation. It’s about connection – the threads that bind people when they cross paths. You take two seemingly random people and then have them fall into a series of interactions, and from there grows a relationship that is by turns fascinating and memorable.
Cha Bong Sun (Lee Ji Ah) is a a petty police officer at a local precinct. She’s painfully blunt because she doesn’t have time for bullshit in her life. With an unflattering short and serviceable haircut and clothes that are functional and affordable, Bong Sun is just living her life and trying her best at being a decent person, even if she tends to wave a literal or metaphorical stick at everyone. Because she’s got zero finesse and no desire for polish, her friends are few and her supporters even fewer. But she doesn’t care, because growing up with a series of parental, and later relationship, disappointments has just made Bong Sun emotionally closed off. She doesn’t care to trust anyone, because even those closest to her have proven themselves ultimately selfish. She’s got a kind heart, it’s just wrapped in spikes that turn out to be made out of foam rather than metal.
Bong Sun’s job brings her into the orbit of Seo Jae Hee (Yoon Si Yoon), who initially appears to be a parking lot attendant and the kind of guy working odds and ends to scrape by. Turns out Jae Hee isn’t exactly that, though that does accurately describe his past. Today Jae Hee is an exceedingly wealthy business tycoon who is the part owner of a fashion goods business making shoes and bags targeted at the rich and fabulous. His partner is Park Hwa Young (Han Go Eun), who is a few years older and raising a single son who calls Jae Hee “uncle.” Jae Hee hides his identity as the secret owner of the company, using his anonymity to experience life as he wants. One day he goes to work at the parking lot of the building which houses one of his company’s boutiques, because he watched an episode of Undercover Boss and wanted to try it out.
Bong Sun and Jae Hee meet cute, and then proceed to keep running into each other in a series of situations and meetings that give them the chance to spar and bicker their way to becoming attracted to each other. This rom-com forumla is of course nothing new, but Jae Hee and Bong Sun bring a fresh take on it. She’s prickly, he’s mercurial. She’s don’t-give-a-damn, he’s detached-yet-curious. I like their every interaction, with sparks that fly everywhere, even if I find the circumstances of their meetings at times unbelievable but mostly just too convenient.
Their relationship is the only reason to watch M2F, because the supporting characters and their stories are not terribly interesting nor well fleshed out (so far). Seo Hyo Rim plays Dal, Bong Sun’s newly discovered step-sister who is honest about her aspirations to use her looks to land a rich man. Lee Ki Kwang is Bong Sun’s adoring police officer hoobae Maru. Both of them are cute but not very compellingly used. Jo Min Ki plays totally against type as the character of Dr. Park, a fashionable psychiatrist with a flair for eliciting his patient’s hidden mental issues in surprising ways. Being so abrasive at her job lands Bong Sun in the office of Dr Park for some evaluation, while we learn that Jae Hee also sees Dr. Park for his own hidden demons.
I’m glad I started watching M2F after some episodes had aired, because this drama works better if you marathon the set up episodes. The directing is quite pretty, but the editing is horrifically choppy, with extremely sudden and awkard scene transitions. It’s not as bad as my most hated foe PD Pyo’s Parkinson’s camera style, but in the hands of a better editor this drama ought to really grab the viewer even more. I noticed PD Go had the same problems with his last drama I watched Queen of Housewives. The music is strangely addicting, but sometimes feels random or forced. Overall I think the OST will be a love it or hate it offering. And therein I’ll segue to Lee Ji Ah, who tends to elicit the same reaction from viewers
I don’t want to make a throwaway statement like I can’t stand her in this drama without explaining my reasons why. I’ve never liked Lee Ji Ah in any of her previous dramas, with my feelings ranging from loathe (Style) to hate (Beethoven Virus) to okay-but-useless-and-annoying (Athena). Her performance in M2F currently stands at irritatingly ballsy, but the good news is that my dislike of her is on a downward trend for this drama. Meaning she starts off annoying the shit out of me, but as her character is fleshed out and her performance settles down, she’s becoming less and less abrasive a character, and concurrently her performance is less and less stilted.
At the end of the day, I’m watching this drama solely for Yoon Si Yoon, with some curiosity to see what writer Kim Do Woo has up her sleeve for the second half. I enjoy her take on mature relationships, as evidenced by my love for her previous My Name is Kim Sam Soon and What’s Up, Fox. I think I have a chance of liking Bong Sun by the end of the drama, but I can’t lie and say I wouldn’t be liking Bong Sun already if the character weren’t played by Lee Ji Ah. I like hurt and complicated characters like Bong Sun (which also describes Jae Hee, and I love his character to pieces so far), but Lee Ji Ah’s line delivery and body language was quite awkward in the first few episodes, like she was trying too hard. That has always been my impression of her acting – I can see her sincerity and desperation to succeed, but it just doesn’t come out right. Strangely enough, by the end of any of her dramas, she always settles into character and/or I’ve gotten used to her by then, her awkwardness gets smoothed out.
My misgivings about Lee Ji Ah’s performance as Bong Sun are the opposite of how fast, hard, and completely I’ve been won over by Yoon Si Yoon’s performance as Jae Hee. Yoon Si Yoon, who at 25 years old (26 in Korean age) can easily pass for a high school student on pure cherubic looks alone, for once proves that with great acting one can transcend the physical limitations of the role. He still looks young, but he doesn’t come off as young onscreen. Does that make sense, or am I just delusional in finding that his performance as wounded and disconnected Jae Hee totally believable? The funny thing about Yoon Si Yoon’s uncanny resemblance to Lee Jun Ki is that I’m liking him for pretty much the same reason I initially totally fell for Jun Ki. Their super pretty boy looks are not my thing at all, but it’s their onscreen charisma, heartfelt delivery in every scene, and palpable eye-acting that ends up winning me over. Yoon Si Yoon has a ways to go before he can ever pull off a The King and the Clown performance like Jun Ki did, but now I see his potential to really become a multifaceted leading man.
All things considering, I’m glad I checked out M2F and went in with no expectations and an open mind. If the drama continues to get better and better with each episode, has it has been doing so far, I might end up loving it by the end. I always appreciate a drama more that has a tighter ending than a whiz bang start that fizzes out. I’m still not quite sure what the point of M2F is, but it’s not as scattered and over-the-top as I initially thought. So far it’s a story about two damaged individuals reconnecting with the world through the lens of each other’s struggle to find a measure of peace with themselves. Bong Sun, with her wall of pride and frustration, finds herself taking a chance with interpersonal relationships because Jae Hee forces himself past her barriers. Jae Hee, with his wads of cash but loads of insecurity and guilt, living a life that started from nothing and ended up with everything, perhaps finds in Bong Sun someone he can be himself with. Bong Sun intrigues him because she so damn real all the time, with no airs, whereas he has no reality in either of his incarnations. As a rich man, inside he’s still the poor kid who clawed his way to success. Pretending to be a poor guy, he’s nevertheless a rich man now who has it all.
What I like about M2F is that everyone’s psychological issues and personal struggles can’t be solved easily with any deux et machina, but instead needs lots of emotional medicine to heal. I don’t think the writer is trying too hard to create characters with too many quirks, perhaps just enough to fill out the screen narrative. The conversation does skew towards the “sounds like dialogue a character in a drama will say”, but not so much it becomes too distracting. I think if you are looking for an intriguing drama with a fantastic leading man performance and a potential to be really memorable, I would recommend checking out M2F. My feelings for the drama as a whole currently stands at like but not yet love. But my feelings for Yoon Si Yoon as Jae Hee stands at love love love. If I had to identify one feature of Yoon Si Yoon that hooked me the most on a purely shallow criteria, it would hands down be his voice. OMG, his voice totally slays me – it’s rich and deep yet playful and melodic. I can’t describe it other than when he talks, it’s like he’s injecting his siren’s call directly into my ears and straight for my heart. I am weak, and no match for him. He wins, I now understand his appeal as a up-and-coming actor.
To sum it up in a not so succinct way – M2F is much better than I expected, but overall not (yet) great due to the few factors I described above. There are also times the script feels very David Sedaris-ish, i.e. Kim Do Woo is undeniably a talented writer with thoughtful and mature considerations in her work, but she comes across in M2F as being a smidge too aware of her own skills, thereby lending her dialogue and situations more quirk than necessary. It happens to any writer with a flair for words, sometimes he/she forgets that less is more. She created very complicated and conflicted characters in Jae Hee and Bong Sun, but I’m not sure she’s fully fleshed either of them out, so sometimes each behave in ways that really push credulity. But the fact that I marathoned this baby and spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about the characters and their potential developments means the drama ultimately works, telling a story that connects with the viewers. I wouldn’t yet call M2F a hidden gem, but it sure unearthed a diamond in the rough for me in the form of Yoon Si Yoon. For that alone, I am eternally grateful.