The 2017 Korean drama, BETWEEN LOVERS is an absolute dream of a show, it is slow, moody, atmospheric and just gorgeously shot, and hands down the absolute most romantic drama I have ever seen. And that is saying something. Because most Kdramas are pretty bloody romantic.
But yeah, I loved this drama. It really moved my heart.
Before I get started on my review, I will let you know I have also done a whole podcast episode dedicated to this beautiful show, so please feel free to check that out if you feel like it:
You can search for THE LEE EVIE KOREAN DRAMA PODCAST on your favourite podcast streaming platform, or here is a link to the episode:
Kdrama Podcast: Ten Reasons to Love BETWEEN LOVERS: LISTEN HERE
The Setting, Tone and Story:
There are many aspects about this drama that I just adored, and I am gonna list them all below, and I reckon that will provide an excellent intro and overview of this beautiful and thoughtful little melodrama show:
THE WAY IT IS SHOT:
I am a really big fan of the act of using natural light when shooting kdramas. A lot of the time, I imagine mainly due to time constrains (hey, these things are generally being filmed AT THE SAME TIME THEY ARE AIRING which is just a crazy system for everyone involved…. except for consumers like me because we get a LOT of content VERY fast.)
Okay I lost my train of thought! What was I saying?
Oh right. A lot of Kdramas aren’t beautiful to look at. Many are filmed quickly under massive stress and strain and it is more about getting a shot done and completed and a bit less about ensuring that every single scene looks ethereal and beautifully composed, like a photograph.
I think that is maybe why a lot of kdramas do have a very functional look to their cinematography, which is fine. A functionally shot kdrama that brings the goods in emotion and heart ad story is still wholly satisfying for me.
But a kdrama that delivers a moving story straight to my heart that also is shot like a low light painting, drawing every ounce of fading natural light, relying on the fuzzy distant lights of a port-side city, a bay shimmering beneath a distant dusky horizon and big tankers slowly loping by beneath a canopy of scrappy and industrial looking city scapes. Hell, I am SO HERE for this sort of attention to detail, for this sort of gritty inner city beauty. I LOVED the way this show was shot.
It added such a deep sense of atmosphere to this small-scale tale of loss and grief, to these lost souls all clinging desperately to human connection to keep from drowning in a big bad world that just doesn’t care, like tiny isolated ships tossed on a churning sea.
Sorry. I’m trying to get poetic now, but truly, this drama is a beauty. It shows a cheaper, uglier, grittier side of its Korean cities, and yet, the beauty is found in that ugliness. Particularly for the realistic gritty tone, I found it even more beautiful to watch.
So that was a thing I loved.
THE QUIET MELODRAMA:
This show is very romantic. But the relationships do not unfold quickly.
Everything is built very thoughtfully, layer upon layer, until you just know, yes, this couple are completely and utterly in love. This is an interesting kind of Korean melodrama, and definitely not of the mental Makjang kind (the bonkers, you have a twin brother? Oh my gosh, she came back from the dead! Kind of show). This melodrama is a deep and emotional journey to love and acceptance of life and loss, when really, everything truly tragic has already happened.
Nothing truly terrible is physically happening to our characters (mostly) in the present timeline, but they are just so deeply scarred from the pain of their pasts that they are unable to move on, they are unable to live.
So the pain is heavy, and the emotional scars run deep, but the melodrama itself is quiet and contained. And I think that restrain is what makes the story all the more impactful.
Here is a secret. I am not really a Kpop fan. I’m not mad into those pop ballads that burst out every single time a couple in a kdrama so much as look at each other. I am picky about my music.
However, the music themes used throughout this kdrama were absolutely lovely. They only added to the melancholic atmosphere, sometimes moving me to tears.
So what is this glorious soundtrack?It is gorgeous. Here is a link to youtube – please go take a listen….. (Sigh. Oh it brings me back to watching this gorgeous show.)
SPOILERS ABOUND FROM HERE ON OUT – YE BE WARNED!!!!
I LOVE the main couple in this show.
They are wonderful, deep and complex characters, both on the edge of living and sleep-walking, him filled with an absolute crazy level of self-loathing that has crippled him from living any kind of decent life, and her just doing her best, but carrying an enormous weight on her shoulders that is just too heavy for one person to bear.
Really I suppose these two characters are experiencing differing levels of post-traumatic stress, and though Moon Soo seems to be just hanging on by her fingernails, trying her best to have a dream and a life, Gang Doo is a complete sinking ship who doesn’t even care he is drowning.
He is utterly self-destructive, genuinely he doesn’t care if he lives or dies. Until he meets Moon Soo and suddenly realises he does care about life and living.
He just doesn’t know how to do it, how to live.
The Love story:
Well for me, the quiet slow-burning love story is what this show is all about.
It was beautiful to watch it all unfold, the hesitation of the characters, their very slow burgeoning trust in each other, and the way that the male lead Gang Doo very slowly comes back to life.
This is a show ultimately about connections between people, a love story about healing, about emerging from a shadow of grief and loss and terror that has ultimately consumed their entire lives.
It made me cry multiple times, a subtle and complex series of moments between two people that ultimately save each other.
It moved me immeasurably.
Between Lovers Ending:
Ok, yeah, there was a little bit of draggy stuff toward the very very end.
You kind of want everyone to get their shit together, but they just can’t, so there is a little bit of forced separation when Gang Doo pops off to work on a fishing boat for a bit, but you know what? The ending still holds up.
It only tripped up a tiny bit, drawing the agony out a little longer than I felt was necessary, and I can only imagine if it had been two episodes shorter it would have been a dream run, though basically it was only a tiny sliver away from being an absolute dream run anyway.
Which is pretty damn good!
I super highly recommend this show if you are into slow burn love stories and damaged people saving each other. It was a beautiful and just utterly romantic watch.
I award this drama:
5 out of 5 giant disintegrating shopping centres that fall down and crush literally every single person that ever mattered to you!
If you have time to chat with me, I would absolutely LOVE to know:
Did you watch this drama?
Or will you watch it after reading this?
Did you like the music in this show?
Do you enjoy watching melodramas? What about extreme Makjangs? Tell me which ones!
Is the romance usually your favourite part of the shows you watch, or is there something else that keeps you coming back to kdramas?
Tell me all your feelings!!!!
Lee Evie is an author of historical fiction set in old Korea, during the Joseon dynasty.
For updates and behind the scenes looks at my fiction, you can sign up to my newsletter, and also receive a free book, which is a love story set in a small agricultural village in ancient Korea. I hope you enjoy it!!
Her first historical fiction novel PROMISE SEASON is available now to purchase in ebook or paperback.
In the ancient Korean city of Hanyang, a gisaeng slave girl hides a fugitive in her bed, unexpectedly saving the life of a young man who is not all he seems. When she is forced to turn spy for a shadowy organisation with dangerous intentions, Seorin only wants one thing in return. Yet it is not her freedom she so desperately desires, it is something far more precious … and Seorin will face anything, even death, to gain it.
A dark and romantic tale of old Korea.