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‘Our Beloved Summer:’ a warm story for your dreary winter

Let’s be honest: we’ve had a few rough years now, and as such, watching something potentially lighter seems even more paramount these days. So, while on the hunt for something more cheerful to watch, I stumbled upon the just-completed Korean drama “Our Beloved Summer.” Following the story of two adults who had once filmed a documentary together back in high school, this Korean drama is just as warm as the title itself. With a lovely pastel tint to the scenes, a soothing soundtrack and multilayered, charming characters, “Our Beloved Summer” is the perfectly touching story to make you feel more hopeful about your potentially less-than-stellar youth.


The characters you’ll be exploring this theme with are Choi Ung (Choi Woo Shik), an introverted, well-known artist who, back in his high school years, was considered the bottom of his class. During his senior year of high school, he agreed to being a documentary subject alongside his aloof, top-of-the-class classmate Kook Yeon Su (Kim Da Mi). Over the course of filming this documentary, these two inevitably grew close, having a romantic relationship that lasted until college. After their miserable breakup, the two are now living their lives as full-fledged adults: Ung with his art, and Yeon Su with a marketing job. However, as luck would have it, the two now cross paths again due to the documentary team wanting to film a “10 Years Later” kind of special. 


As one might expect, the two transition into this new documentary on rocky terms. Both of them being hurt from the fallout of their relationship, they range between being awkward with one another at best, and sullen at worst. However, as the show progresses, the audience witnesses the full scope of their relationship together—and the real reasons why they might have broken up. As such, you can’t help but quietly root for each protagonist to hopefully resolve the difficult feelings within themselves and those even more difficult feelings between each other. 


For Yeon Su, she spends her days and nights working a company job where she keeps her coworkers at arm’s length; for Ung, he spends his days and nights drawing and unwilling to show his face in public. Outside of just the painful end to their once sweet romance, each character struggles with even more personal life problems that seem to have stemmed from their early youth. Because of the specific baggage each character has, it really isn’t a surprise why both struggle so much even now as 29-year-olds. Their battles with their personal lives crystalize themselves in their struggle to communicate with one another, and for a while, the viewers might wonder if these two might ever move on. 


But of course, as I mentioned already, “Our Beloved Summer” is a gentle show—and as the documentary filming progresses, so do Ung and Yeon Su’s communication with one another. The two slowly piece together the reasons for their separation, and more than that, they piece together the broken parts of themselves that they might not have wanted the other to see in the past. Their story is essentially a story of learning to mend past hurts and learning how to truly, finally want happiness for themselves—even if it’s a whole decade later.


Outside the bittersweet romance between Ung and Yeon Su, the side characters are just as complex and rootable. Although each side character adds a certain level of depth to the drama, my personal favorite is Ung’s best friend Kim Ji Ung (Kim Sung Cheol), who films the whole documentary special. He quietly pines after Yeon Su, and while he may come across as a bit cold at times, he truly is one of the best secondary characters I’ve ever seen in a drama. Unlike most Korean drama second leads, he never actually confesses his feelings to Yeon Su—as someone who only films the documentary, he feels much more used to, in his words, “a side character in a documentary no one wants to watch.” He carries his own pain quietly, and like Ung and Yeon Su, he never actually voices them, at least not until he comes closer and closer to his own healing in the end. His arc is perhaps one of the strongest ones, the one that anyone can relate to in feeling like they’re not the center of their own lives. And so, the fact he heals from the pain of his own youth is a hopeful, kind reminder to all the Kim Ji Ung’s of the world that for even them, too, a happier life is possible.


That said, more than anything, the charm of this show lies in its talent for balancing out the bitter with the sweeter moments of both your late teens and late twenties. The show makes it clear that no phase of one’s life is completely easy—the problems of your early twenties might be different from the problems of your late twenties, but they’ll always be more tolerable so long as you take the first steps to grow. Even years after the fact, healing is possible. This show makes the point that the pains of our youth are no little thing, and eventually, there might be a day in which your forever-winter-type of life summers into a brighter one. As we enter the last weekend of January, then, here’s the show that will make you feel like your new summer is around the corner. 

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