PLEASE NOTE: This is a drama review I wrote aaaagggggeeeesss ago when I had a different old site. I have just published it all here in its original form, and not really updated it. So although it is new, it is also quite old!
You From Another Star is a 2014 romcom fantasy (with a lot of angst at the end!) Kdrama, starring Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji-Hyun, Yoo Inna and Park Hae-jin.
I both loved and sort of didn’t love this drama, but mostly I really enjoyed it!
It has this whimsical and romantic dreaminess to its story and particularly to the character of Kim Soo-hyun’s alien, Min Joon, who manages to be mysterious, damaged and disconnected, yet also deliciously and amusingly jealous and petty too. And of course our female lead Song-yi is just incredible, crazy, hilarious and strong, yet also fragile and vulnerable too.
The beginning of this drama, the flashback set in Joseon times, is really like a dream. It plays out like a romantic (yet ultimately tragic) fairytale which is an angle I adore, sucking me in right away. I loved that as we slowly discover the present storyline and learn about each character within this story, that we are also unraveling the past, giving an insight into why Min Joon is the way he is.
And everytime there was a Joseon flashback I found myself wishing we could stay there for longer, though as soon as we came back to the present I was sucked into that world too.
In the beginning we see an unexplained object flying over Joseon’s skies, with a landing putting a very young widow, Yi Hwa, in terrible danger. But just as her palanquin is about to fly off a cliff, time just literally stops. And who should come slowly wandering through the frozen people and trees but the mysterious Min Joon and his modern 2014 all-black look. He saves her in a lovely moment and they go their separate ways.
Except this fifteen year old widow’s in-laws (whom she has to now live with because the wedding vows were said even though she has clearly not even met her husband properly before he dies) are plotting her death in order to receive a great honour from the king. And although Yi Hwa is pretty resourceful she still ends up alone in the woods about to be murdered, but in steps Min Joon again, dressed now as a young lord and all the while never speaking a word. Yi Hwa is obviously quite overwhelmed by her experiences and she speaks and speaks, already aware that Min Joon is not exactly of this world.
It is such a lovely sweet moment when she asks him if he can speak and when he doesn’t reply she tells him they should go together, that she will help him. For some reason this offer really hit home with me, because even after all she has been through there is something about this silent man that makes her want to help him.
But it all goes south and soon Yi Hwa understands the plot against her, and in order to try and protect Min Joon, she tells him to leave her, that she will go back to her parents house and they will help her. She begins to walk away and gosh the way this man stares at her!
And then he calls after her, “Let’s go together,” the very first words he speaks. Its such a lovely moment and so beautiful, him dropped on this earth and only wanting to protect this tiny innocent fifteen year old and do anything he can to help her survive, all this new world sweetness and hope all centered on her.
But it just gets worse and worse until they are on the run again, Min Joon now poisoned and sick, his friends all left for his home without him, leaving him behind. And when Yi Hwa once again tries to leave him he yells out those same words, let’s go together.
He looks so traumatised and he wants so badly to protect her but everything is slowly slipping through his fingers because he is too weak to be able to use his powers to help her. And in the end they find themselves on a cliff top, trapped, with soldiers surrounding them.
And then Yi Hwa begins saying her goodbyes which is just heartbreaking. Min Joon just sits there beside her so silently but there are already tears in his eyes as she tells him she wants to say farewell now as she knows there won’t be time later. She tells him through heartbreaking sobs that she is so thankful to have had the chance to meet him as his existence gave her hope and for the first time it has made her desperate to live. (Aargh, so sad that she wants to live now right when she knows she is about to die). She gives him her beautiful hair pin and says that she will remember him no matter what, through death, in another world, she will definitely always remember and know him.
And then the soldiers arrive and Min Joon tries to push them away with his weak powers so they begin to shoot arrows at him. He tries to freeze time to stop them as they hurtle towards him but it doesn’t work. And so Yi Hwa throws herself over his body to protect him and she saves his life. And dies in his arms whilst Min Joon screams in agony over her body.
We learn it is the very first time he has witnessed death, the very first time he ever wanted to protect anybody, and also the very first time he has ever been in love.
And he failed her so badly.
It’s interesting to see Min Joon’s arrival on earth because by the time we catch up with him again 400 years later he is literally a different person. No more wide eyed childish wonder, no trying to help those in need and certainly no affection for another person (besides one friend) and basically he is a crotchety old disillusioned man who can’t find anything to live for, no reason to connect with the world, looking on humans and their unexplained pettiness and cruelty with disdain. Except he is trapped in the lovely body of Kim Soo-hyun and so Min Joon still looks exactly the same which makes his outlook in life all the more odd considering his young appearance.
And as we are slowly revealed his past, it all make sense. Min Joon tried once to connect with the world, he got involved once and he failed so spectacularly and desperately that he will never dare try again. As he reads from that children’s ceramic rabbit book, ‘He swore he would never fall in love. Again.’
And that is when we get to Song Yi, this unbelievably chaotic and emotional person who moves in next door and just barges into Min Joon’s quiet depressing existence like a hurricane, just three months before Min Joon is finally set to leave this earth he has become so disillusioned with.
I just adore Song Yi, and I love that the team behind this drama decided to cast a younger more innocent actress in the flashbacks with Jun Ji-hyun playing this more jaded and quite obviously so sadly desperately lonely version of Min Joon’s lost love, so different in fact that he can’t be sure they are the same person at all, even as he is sucked into her chaotic vortex nonetheless.
Song Yi is fantastic because she is so real. On camera she may pretend to be different to what she really is, but she does it so badly it can never be believed, and I love how open she is about herself and her flaws, however unintentionally. And yet there is such vulnerability beneath all her ridiculous hijinks and blustering, such deep loneliness and hurt so that you can see why Min Joon begins to want to help her.
And so through one completely ridiculous crisis after another Song Yi begins to actually start relying on the surly annoyed Min Joon next door and little by little she manages to drag him down to her level, causing him all sorts of confusion as he feels emotions I am pretty sure he has never once felt before in all his life. Like pettiness or jealousy, things that cause him to wrestle with her in frustration on the couch in such a totally childish way, or to start letting Song Yi’s Desperate Boyfriend (I would be desperate too if someone who looks like Kim Soo-hyun was sniffing around my girl) know he is not the only one interested. It is hilarious and so much fun to watch as he is slowly changing because of her, something completely beyond his control.
But then when Song Yi gets involved in the worst scandal of her life and asks him to become her manager, Min Joon has to make a real choice on whether he truly gets involved in her life or not, but we see it is really already much too late. And then the thing happens at the Ferris wheel, as Desperate Boyfriend once again proposes and Mi Joon freezes time because he cannot bear to hear the answer. (I loved this scene, its the moment he truly accepts how he is feeling, that he is falling in love, and he uses his powers not to stop Song Yi’s answer but to protect himself from hearing what he cannot bear to hear. Swoon again).
Except Song Yi somehow recognises the feeling of his powers and in a lovely little change around it actually changes her mind, and she does not accept the offer (she was only thinking about it because she is scared of the future and Desperate Boyfriend offered to look after her). And when Min Joon hears later that she refused Desperate Boyfriend, he gets this awesome tiny smile on his face in response.
This man never smiles and is so restrained that these tiny showings of emotion really do reveal so much of what he is feeling.
And what he is feeling is love.
So basically as these two are slowly (and often hilariously) falling in love, there are a few alternative narratives threading through the story.
The first one I will mention is Se Mi, played by one of my favourite actresses, the ever gorgeous Yoo Inna. Now I adore Yoo Inna so was somewhat horrified to hear she had been selected for a second female lead role, which is usually the evil manipulative part. And I wasn’t too far off because Se Mi is pretty sly, yet she is also a pretty interesting character too.
At first she comes across as ultra sweet and nice, softly spoken and a thoughtful friend of Song Yi’s since highschool, and yet every now and then we get this glimpse of something quite different underneath, nothing all out evil, but definitely some moments of slyness or calculation (clearly she was the one uploading videos of Song Yi fighting with her rival actress and so is trying to ruin her reputation).
And yet I still find her likeable because she has become quite pitiable, a wavering ball of hopelessness who has spent the last ten years digging herself into this role of nice best friend, always second place and never ever getting what she wants. There is a realness to her too though, underneath it all, particularly in the moments she spends with her unrequited love, Desperate Boyfriend or Hui Kyung (I thought I better finally give him a name). When he tells her that she is nice and she begins to cry and tells him with this terrible frustration that she isn’t really nice at all, she just pretends to be, and he just tells her again how nice she is without even noticing her distress, well those are the moments I feel sorry for her and I wish she could do better and get those things she wants.
And yet, when Se Mi does get those things she wants due to Song Yi’s misfortune, she doesn’t just take them gratefully and then remain as Song Yi’s nice best friend, she uses the opportunity to let loose from the cage she has built for herself, taking out ten years worth of anger and frustration on Song Yi because for the first time she is in a position where she thinks she can, she is on top.
But it’s also the exact moment where Se Mi didn’t need to gloat, she could have just accepted these gifts gracefully but as Song Yi so incredibly and wisely pointed out; there are two kinds of people in this world, those who look at someone else’s wealth and good fortune and wish to walk in the light as well, and those that only want to drag others down to the depths they live in themselves.
Truer words have never been spoken.
Song Yi is a smart woman.
People like Se Mi don’t only want to rise to the top, they want to inflict their own unhappiness on others to make up for what they have suffered themselves, which is a reaction and desire stemming from weakness. Frankly it’s unhealthy and can never lead to real happiness.
Another random side plot is of course crazy big brother nuts. As Desperate Boyfriend’s older brother, this guy is batshit crazy and spends all his time as a wealthy Chaebol heir just randomly killing everyone.
The point of him in this drama is obviously to give Min Joon and Song Yi some real danger and intrigue, yet it is also a pretty fun and strangely well rounded storyline in the respect that everyone is slowly getting clued in to the truth, including poor hapless younger brother Hui Kyung and also two detectives who are investigating the rival actress’s suicide.
Now these two cops (one of whom is Se Mi’s brother) I particularly like and they must be the first non bumbly cops to ever grace a drama screen! These guys are actually quite good at their job and don’t jump to dumb conclusions (too often) instead following a steady (and intriguing) flow of evidence obtained from fairly logical avenues of investigation. So as a side story these guys are quite great!
And that’s another thing I love about this drama! All I needed was the central romance to hook me deeply and make me adore this show, but it gave me so much more than that. The side characters and stories are interesting and surprisingly fleshed out, to the point where I am actually interested to check into their random side stories and not just yelling at my TV to bring back Song Yi and Min Joon again. And freaking hell, what more could you possibly want from a drama then good rounded out story, all aspects interesting and engaging? Awesomeness.
But back to the romance. By this point things have progressed along massively. We have Min Joon finally admitting to himself that he likes this crazy girl, whilst Song Yi is throwing herself into this relationship head over heels (even though Min Joon has shown moments of weird abilities and strangeness).
I loved this turn of events. As Song Yi opens up more and more, Min Joon immediately begins to back away, knowing he has to leave and not wanting to inflict any further pain on her or himself. But Song Yi just freaking holds on tight, no matter what happens she chases him which just makes me love her more and more. Her character has got to be a favourite with me, she is so brash and hilarious and quite often embarrassing, but gosh she is also loyal when she loves, sensitive and fragile. And strong. In so many different ways.
I really do love her.
And when Song Yi falls for Min Joon, she falls hard and there is no reversing it, no matter what he does or says, no matter how mean he is.
And you know what? He is pretty mean. He brings her out camping in the snow (okay so she followed him, whatever) and then tells her he doesn’t want her in front of him. (And then he freezes time and kisses her adorably… sob) but the best part is that Song Yi just never gives up!
She is like this little lovesick puppy, a woman so desired that she has never once in her lifetime experienced a man who doesn’t want her and now she is falling in love for the first time and she absolutely won’t accept that Min Joon doesn’t like her. If only we could all be this brave when it comes to crushing on someone, just wear them down with your love!!! (Seriously, don’t actually do this, haha!!!!!!)
So in one last final ditch effort to get rid of her, Min Joon tells Song Yi exactly what he is and exactly what he can do to her if he wants to, he is an alien, and he tells her this in the absolute scariest most threatening way he can possibly manage.
And Song Yi’s reaction to this is hilarious. It doesn’t really stop her following him around except now there are relentless questions about his alienness as she tries to figure out if she should believe him or not. I think by this point Song Yi would stay with Min Joon no matter what he says he is but her persistence still shocks Min Joon who has experienced nothing but heartache in the past whenever he has revealed his secret.
There is a lovely scene as they argue on the beach and Song Yi tells him she doesn’t care whether he is an alien or not, only whether the man she sincerely likes also likes her back, a statement which clearly moves Min Joon deeply, but doesn’t stop him from surging forward and telling her he never cared for her at all, it was only because of the ghost from 400 years ago that he even helped her in the first place.
And so Song Yi finally backs off and shuts down. She won’t be shamed by chasing someone who doesn’t like her back. She has pride and she is finally clear on his feelings.
So she rages and she cries at home but then pulls herself together and (outwardly at least) moves on, and immediately (and hilariously) Min Joon is jealous and upset by just how fast she seems to have gotten over him, a nice neat reversal that had me in stitches, cos I just love me some petty Min Joon!
Now I think I am a little late on this but I just wanted to express my love of that extraordinary scene at the end of one episode where Min Joon is asked in his interview how he feels now he is leaving earth, and he manages to hold himself together for a moment before his face just dissolves into tears and he is wracked with sobs.
Oh My God this scene is killer! So moving and heartbreaking, and such a smart idea to include this little look inside Min Joon’s head, because on the outside he is such a cool cucumber, so thorny around Song Yi and not letting on that he is breaking up inside because of her.
Okay, this is extremely abrupt but I will just touch on the last few episodes very briefly as it is a sad truth for me that I felt this wonderful drama really lost some of that crackling romantic momentum before the end.
The last few episodes (basically as soon as our leads got together) were spent in quiet longing and sadness couple moments that (I have absolutely no idea why) for some reason just failed to grab my heart. I hate to admit this because I adored the rest of this show so freaking much but there were moments of boredom for me and to be honest, drawn out plot meandering.
I think this drama, had it been only 16 episodes in length, would have been one of my top favourites of all time, I think I would have really adored it!
Sadly though, this meandering slowing down and lack of true forward movement with too many cute couple moments or whispery sad moments for no real reason really jarred me.
It is so sad the way a fantastic drama with a weak beginning can always be remembered as a fantastic drama, but a fantastic drama with a weak end run will only be remembered by me as an average affair. Which I hate because I wanted to love this ending so badly, I really did. If the end run had been solid I think I would have rated this spectacularly highly.
The end itself was fine in my opinion, there was nothing wrong with the plot either, but by the time I waded through all the saying goodbye and couple stuff I was so disconnected from their romance I couldn’t care about their forced separation like I wanted to.
The side character stuff wrapped up too quickly with no real resolution or change and although the ending was very bittersweet and quite a lovely sad idea, it just didn’t affect me like it could have.
Such a shame!!!!!! It could have been PERFECT if it had been shorter with less filler (and more hot kisses earlier on in the story)…..
So that’s it folks… THE END 🙂