Encounter is a 2018 South Korean television series starring Song Hye-kyo and Park Bo-gum.[5] It aired on tvN on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:30 (KST) time slot from November 28, 2018, to January 24, 2019 for 16 episodes. It is one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in cable television history.

Internationally, the series streams via ViuTV and Viki,[14] and has been sold to several South East Asian countries, as well as Mnet Japan which will air it in over 100 countries.

Synopsis

Brought together by fate, a woman who seems to have everything and a young man who seems to have nothing decide to give up an ordinary life to be together. Cha Soo-hyun (Song Hye-kyo), daughter of a politician, lives a pathetic life guided by others. She was sold off (married) to a rich family, only to divorce her husband because of his affair. Her former mother-in-law adds as a condition to her divorce that Soo-hyun must (continue to) attend that family’s functions, such as funerals, etc., when called.

One day while on a business trip in Cuba, she meets Kim Jin-hyuk (Park Bo-gum), a free-spirited guy. They spend time together. After they go back to South Korea, he meets her again but as an employee in the Donghwa Hotel, which she received as alimony. They are attracted to each other, yet only their fate will decide whether they can end up being together.

Review 1 : by u/OdanUrr (Link)

From the writer of the movie Always (Han Hyo Joo, So Ji Sub) and the director of Lovestruck in the City and It’s Okay to Not be OkayEncounter (aka Boyfriend) is a 2018 romance drama about a divorced woman and Donghwa Hotel CEO, Cha Soo Hyeon, finding love in the form of the young and joyful Kim Jin Hyeok, one of her hotel’s employees, after a magical chance encounter in Cuba. At first glance, this may seem like a simple role reversal on this well-established and cliché storyline but allow me to suggest Encounter is a little more than that.

Multiple layers of storytelling

Encounter makes use of and combines all the tools in its arsenal to tell its story from its opening shot that briefly gives us a grayscale visual overview of Soo Hyeon’s life, always following her from behind, careful to always hide her face, transitioning to color in the present and showing us the first of several artworks to be depicted in this show, artworks that will be used to follow our protagonists’ journey throughout. Already this opening shot has succeeded in laying the groundwork for Soo Hyeon’s character and personality; she’s the daughter of a politician who was married off to a wealthy and powerful family, suggesting she has had little agency to decide over the course of her life. Similar visual storytelling is used to set up Jin Hyeok, happily wandering around Cuba in a straight shirt/jeans getup with an old camera in hand to capture the joy in everyday life, chancing on an old but beautifully kept garden that marked the beginning of another couple’s love story.

r/KDRAMA - My thoughts on Encounter

A fairy tale art journey

Another directing choice that sets this drama apart is how it lets scenes breathe and flow, allowing us to fully take in what’s transpiring in a way that lets us feel as if we’re right there with the actors, silently accompanying them, what lends it part of that air of reality and believability. The show is not afraid of letting long silences and awkward pauses into its storytelling, like when Soo Hyeon and Jin Hyeok meet at the Hongje-Dong playground in Episode 2 and an uncomfortable silence fills the air after they’ve ran out of the proper things to say to each other. A different kind of silence, the stillness of a breaking day, is interrupted only by the soothing sound of the waves in Episode 3, as Jin Hyeok is getting coffee while Soo Hyeon sits on a bench staring at the sea. In fact, Encounter never feels pressured into featuring a song to convey the meaning or feelings behind a scene, favouring its cinematography and/or dialogue, at times coupled with ambient sounds and noises or light, unobtrusive and beautiful instrumental tracks such as I Never KnewLove Birds or The Evenfall, among others. It’s a refreshing choice in a landscape that often feels the need to hit you over the head with songs that proclaim LOVE IS THE MOMENT at every opportunity (Run!). This is not to say there aren’t songs featured prominently and recurrently in the show, the most obvious being our couple’s theme, “Si llego a besarte” by Omara Portuondo, a song that has a knack for reuniting our two lovers, in one case reminding me of a scene from the movie Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. And, of course, SALTNPAPER feels right at home in this show with the melancholic “Take Me On.”

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r/KDRAMA - My thoughts on Encounter

The show rewards us with such beautiful postcards

These factors succeed at creating a peaceful, soothing atmosphere while watching the show, a feeling that betrays the underlying current of tension, a result of company and family politics, and perhaps most subtly and wonderfully conveyed by Song Hye Kyo’s character, who struggles with how far she should, or is allowed to, take her “some” relationship with Jin Hyeok, what leads me to…

Believable and supportive relationships between characters

Encounter is all about Jin Hyeok’s and Soo Hyeon’s relationship, there are no second leads to prompt unnecessary love triangles in lieu of actual character development. There are certainly a bunch of supporting characters and we witness how they relate to our leads in their day-to-day life.

For instance, Jin Hyeok’s circle of friends is comprised of Dae Chan and Hye In and already from the beginning of Episode 2 we see how tight they are as they celebrate his return from Cuba over drinks and joke about Hye In’s love life. Hye In has a bit of a crush on Jin Hyeok but she’s always clear on where the boundaries lie and puts their friendship first, as certain events over the course of the show will prove. Soo Hyeon has a similar circle of friends in the form of her secretary, Jang Mi Jin, who often nags and complains, doubly so when Soo Hyeon starts taking bigger risks with her love life, but is also looking out for her in her own way. Also in Soo Hyeon’s circle is Manager “Teddy Bear” Myung Shik, a close friend of her dad who has kept an eye on her throughout her life and is delighted at being able to play Cupid for our couple, much to Secretary Jang’s annoyance. His antics provide much welcome levity from time to time and it’s always a treat to see him on screen, be it having a beer with Sun Joo, a friend from his reporter days and Donghwa Hotel’s PR Team Manager, being outwitted by the sharp wit of Sun Joo’s daughter, or trying to find a mask that fits for a masquerade ball. In fact, many, perhaps most, of the people in Jin Hyeok’s and Soo Hyeon’s lives have amicable or friendly relationships with them, even if some are less keen on showing it. The show has several examples of how the hotel’s staff respects Soo Hyeon’s leadership and even looks out for her at times, what is understandable given her calm and understanding demeanor when dealing with staff, her commitment to the Donghwa brand and overall professionalism. Having said that, there’s always people who like to gossip… but no spoilers!

r/KDRAMA - My thoughts on Encounter

Manager Teddy Bear takes a break after playing Cupid

Curiously, the relationships that take the most hits are the ones involving mothers: Soo Hyeon’s mom, who aims to place her husband in the Blue House; her former mother-in-law, who schemes to force Soo Hyeon back together with her son; and even Jin Hyeok’s mom, who feels uneasy at her family’s sudden media exposure. If any of this has triggered warning makjang bells in your brain, allow me to assuage those fears (and if you’re a makjang fan, allow me to disappoint), for Encounter makes organic use of these character motivations to generate tension, yes, but not to “amp the drama” in a way that would feel unrealistic or artificial. Crisis never overstay their welcome, in large part because our main leads do something many onscreen couples don’t: they communicate.

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Upon viewing this show for a second time I decided to turn on viewer comments and encountered the oft-quoted “lack of chemistry” objection. I have a problem with the word “chemistry” despite having used it myself several times, a philosophical objection perhaps. What do we mean when we use a particular word, such as “chemistry” in this case? I gave my (for it is an ultimately subjective answer) tentative definition of “chemistry” between characters in my Hotel del Luna review and suggested it goes beyond steamy kissing scenes (I’ll take them if they come my way) and encompasses the extent to which a couple can convey their thoughts and feelings to each other through verbal (dialogue) and nonverbal communication (gestures, gazes, actions), what, in the end, is what sells me or not on the depth of a romantic relationship. It’s not just about how hot the characters are for one another, but about being able to understand what your partner is going through and what they need at a given time, be it a hug, a word of comfort, or silent company. Given their backgrounds and personalities it makes complete sense that Jin Hyeok would excel at this with Soo Hyeon finding it more difficult but still having opportunities to shine, such as her bold declaration at the end of Episode 6 or her surprise visit at the end of Episode 9. It was a treat to watch how their relationship slowly matured over time, how they interacted with one another, how Soo Hyeon gradually came out of her shell and took the reins of her life. We must remember that, for both of them, this is their first romantic relationship, if at different moments in their lives.

Closing thoughts

I hope I’ve been able to accurately convey a few of the reasons why I feel Encounter is such a standout drama, even though I’m probably missing plenty. Curiously, it was my second encounter with both lead actors, having previously watched Song Hye Kyo in the popular Descendants of the Sun and Park Bo Gum in Love in the Moonlight. Personally, this has become my favourite among the three and would probably be among my Top 10. That opening episode in Cuba with Jin Hyeok and Soo Hyeon gazing at the sunset, having a couple of beers and a stroll, enjoying each others’ company during their impromptu date, cast a magical spell on me that never let go, right until the end, so it is only fitting I end this review thusly, quoting one of Encounter‘s many excellent poems.

r/KDRAMA - My thoughts on Encounter

Review 2 : by physics223 (link)

Encounter: beautifully choreographed, heartfelt romance

Encounter isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I watched it largely because I enjoy Park Bo-gum’s acting (as I wasn’t too impressed with Song Hye-kyo’s). Although my opinion of the series is mostly positive, I do recognize that it is also quite problematic in a few of its aspects.

The series begins in Cuba, where after saving his salary, Jin-hyuk (played by Bo-gum) bides his time as an itinerant. Soo-hyun (played by SHK) first sees him when her car crashes into the table he’s dining on outdoors. Despite the damage to his camera, he brushes off the collision and hopes that she and her secretary, Mi-jin, be safe.

Soo-hyun, despite her wealth, lives a cloistered and measured lifestyle as the divorcee from a chaebol family. As fate would have it, however, Soo-hyun and Jin-hyuk would meet again in Morro Castle, but this is where poor character writing reared its ugly head: after deciding to sleep in the hotel, Soo-hyun takes a sleeping pill, gets her bag pickpocketed, and decides to sit on the precipice of the castle walls despite being drowsy. That was very questionable to me, especially because the series paints Soo-hyun as an intelligent and empowered lady. Luckily, Jin-hyuk is there to help her out, as a friend, even though he’s also quite smitten by her. They both have an electric night, drinking, dancing, and going around Havana while enjoying themselves, until he has her delivered by a taxi back to her hotel.

In my opinion, I loved how the series portrayed the first episode. It showed that serendipity conspired to start a fairy tale between two well-matched people: both are extremely attractive and attracted to each other, but time is ticking for them. Even the art of the first episode alludes to the Cinderella fairy tale. There is also a mention of Roman Holiday, where a princess escapes her entourage and enjoys adventures in the city with a middle-class reporter. At the end of the day, they share a mutual fondness for each other but understand that they’re not for each other. It’s great foreshadowing for one of the central issues of the series.

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The catch is, however, that back in Korea, she is a CEO, and he is her employee. Through typical tropes and coincidences, they meet time and again and slowly draw towards each other. However, despite being used to have eyes watching her, Soo-hyun nonchalantly dines out, and, of course, get caught by paparazzi time and again. It’s Jin-hyuk who is more aware of peering eyes, and he finds better places where they could meet each other.

As their feelings for each other grow, the disparity of their status creates problems for both of them. Eventually, because of his love, Jin-hyuk is drawn to the spotlight suffered by Soo-hyun her entire life. When their relationship is tested, however, each of them pull through for the other: Jin-hyuk discloses himself to protect Soo-hyun from internal gossip, and Soo-hyun admits she likes Jin-hyuk despite him agreeing to paint himself as a stalker. I loved the latter scene, because it was reminiscent of Notting Hill, even down to Jin-hyuk staring at the star in front of him admitting her fondness for him.

Jin-hyuk was excellently portrayed by Bo-gum: he’s a mix of gentleman and daring, and despite his lower social status consistently delivers for Soo-hyun. I think Soo-hyun was also portrayed well by Song Hye-kyo as an ice queen finally learning to live her life for herself. However, while the penultimate episode breakup was irritating, I could understand why it was initiated by Soo-hyun. I think that trope was sublimated, since the example in this series was, to me, totally understandable.

What triggered the decision to break up with Jin-hyuk was Soo-hyun realizing that she will also place the spotlight on Jin-hyuk’s family, especially after his mother asked her to break up with him. What aggravated that was Jin-myung’s fight with a friend because Jin-hyuk was being badmouthed. Eventually, she’ll slowly be consumed by guilt that they couldn’t function as before, and it would be because of her. It’s a very sensible decision given Soo-hyun’s considerate and intuitive personality.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more logical Soo-hyun’s decision makes sense to me. She definitely roiled her brain thinking about possible solutions, but she can’t strangle Jin-hyuk’s family because of her status. As INTJs, we tend to think of the worst possible things that could happen and brace ourselves for it, and I think she did her best. I do still have a hard time understanding why she was persistently stubborn with Jin-hyuk and couldn’t listen to him to just wait with him, because he was, obviously ready to wait with her.

Nevertheless, the ending left a lot to be desired. I wanted more resolution when it came to Woo-seok because he wasn’t even truly adversarial to Soo-hyun, rather than just seeing that his shitty mother won’t receive him in prison. For a series that espouses hope, I wanted that in Woo-seok. The problem of the series was never going to be a disagreement between Jin-hyuk and Soo-hyun because they communicate quite well. I can’t even say it’s noble idiocy because their silences are intentional: because they are so considerate towards each other, they do not mention problems that they themselves could deal with, because they understand the difficulty they inherently face by entering such an “unequal” relationship. The secondary characters, I felt, were simply glossed over by the ending: Mr. Nam and Chief Kim’s potential romance was never revisited in depth, and even Mi-jin and Dae-chan’s antiromance were also bypassed.

Overall, Encounter is a series that had quality cinematography, is eminently bingeable, with a well-characterized male lead in Bo-gum’s Jin-hyuk. It occasionally had a hard time balancing its fantastic themes with reality, but is also a warm series that inspires faith in a romantic relationship founded on trust.

8.5/10

5/5 - (1 vote)

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