The Light in Your Eyes is a 2019 South Korean television series starring Han Ji-min, Kim Hye-ja, Nam Joo-hyuk, and Son Ho-jun. It aired on JTBC’s Mondays and Tuesdays during the 21:30 (KST) time slot from February 11 to March 19, 2019. The drama was critically acclaimed for intimately portraying the hardships everyday people face. It is also one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in cable television history.
To prevent her father from dying in a car accident, Kim Hye Ja manipulates time with a special watch she found at a beach as a child. However, manipulating time comes with a heavy price- Hye Ja will age each time she turns back time. Meanwhile, a young man named Lee Joon Ha who has a beautiful friendship with Hye Ja, is exhausted from his family problems and has given up on all his dreams. He now works as a scammer at an elderly care center unaware that Hye Ja has become an old lady and goes there to pass time after turning old for manipulating time. The two cross each other’s paths again, but this time both have changed.
Melodrama with elements of romance and comedy about a woman who has the ability to turn back time but at the price of growing old. The drama showcases the joys and hardships of growing old.
Review : by txc_vertigo (link)
(1) The choreography is really strong throughout the drama. They have probably the nicest shots of scenery and nature out of all the dramas of the year so far. From the lonely bus stop at night which we’ve all cried at once or twice in our lives, to the waves crashing in on the sandy beach while seagulls flock above, this drama is filled with eye candy that really fits each scene.
They also use plenty of creative camera angles. I am weak for angles in which they film from within different confined space which then frames the character on the outside of the confined space. Thus, one of my favorite shots happen early on when the mischievous Young Soo reaches in under the sink after a portable grill and he almost touches the camera as the scene is being filmed from under the sink. It’s just such a cool and creative camera angle.
(2) The ending of episode 10. It’s impossible to talk about this drama without talking about this part of the show. If you haven’t watched the show and don’t want to get spoiled, just skip to the next talking point, just know that this episode is one of the most impactful episodes of this year. This plot twist changes everything about the drama and explains a lot of the intentionally written plot points that do not make sense. The chronology and the lack of realism is all explained by Hye Ja actually being a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The twist is the key that unlocks the drama and allows you to fully understand all the confusing moments that were brought about earlier in the drama. This type of a twist where the events of the plots are all part of an imaginary world was popularized by the short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1890) by Ambrose Bierce. As the story gets more incoherent and more and more unlikely events take place, the reader/viewer starts to realize that something fishy is going on. What is really going on behind the scenes is masked by memories that are all distorted and mixed up until the final reveal when it becomes clear that the rest of the story is just the memories of a person at the end of their lives.
This type of a twist operates very similarly to the ”it was all a dream” type twists in that much of the film took part outside of the ”real world”. This sort of a twist can be quite controversial as when it’s executed poorly it leaves the viewer with a sense that they wasted their time. However, it can be used to great effect, which I think is the case for The Light in Your Eyes. As far as cinema goes probably the best example of a well executed ”it was all a dream” twists can be found in the classic movie ”The Wizard of Oz” (1939), paving the way by showing that this twist can be used to achieve other purposes other than as an easy out for writers who have written themselves into a corner. In both stories, the dream experiences are used to cope with their respective main characters’ problems. As for Hye Ja, she gets to experience an existence wherein she saves her son (or father in the dream) from an accident that crippled him, which is a sort of trigger for her as indicated by that incident being what made her imagine herself as her real age even in her visions.
(3) I really enjoy the setting and all the set design that comes along with it. There are no chaebols or rich people with shallow problems in this show. Most of the people are dirt poor and work their fingers to the bone to survive. They have true grit and their hardships form tight bonds between the characters. The setting reflects this beautifully as all the locations are humble and look like actual places where working class people live and work.
The setting is also great as it fits within the larger overarching narrative of the show. More specifically my point is that someone who is old like Hye Ja, grew up and experienced the South Korea of old when living conditions where rough and many regular people were struggling to put food on the table, and therefore would imagine their imaginary world as such too.
(4) The different family relationships that are portrayed are simply beautiful. Although the relationship between Hye Ja and Dae Sang is really touching, the strongest out of all is the mother-daughter relationship between Hye Ja and Jung Eun. Speaking of which I think, Lee Jung Eun who plays Jung Eun puts in the best performance out of all the actors. I’ve come to like her in all the dramas I’ve seen with her because she always rocks it with her ability to do both serious and comedy roles.
(1) Although the acting is good from the main cast and they each have a few stand out scenes, none of them blew me away. Han Jimin as the young Kim Hye Ja did well enough with the screen time she got. Nam Joo Hyuk as Hye Ja’s love interest Lee Joon Ha did better than he usually does but was helped out a fair bit in his difficult scenes with some really good writing carrying him a bit. Son Ho Jun as Hye Ja’s brother Kim Young Soo does fairly well with a relatively flat character, giving him some charm. Kim Hye Ja as the old Kim Hye Ja puts up a really solid and experienced performance. Overall, there is that little extra something missing from taking these good performances to great performances.
(2) The show is incredibly slow for the most part. If you imagine a show with average pacing is paced like a light jog, then this drama is a slow crawl. I understand that it is to match how slow Hye Ja has become once she has grown old but it’s not a very pleasant viewing experience. Plot points keep repeating which makes sense within the context of the show but it does not make for an interesting watch when you are left with deja vu every fifteen minutes, thinking “wait, didn’t I just watch this happen last episode?” You could skip past multiple episodes in the middle section of the drama and not be missing out on a lot of important plot information. At least the show runners made a good call by making this drama 12 episodes instead of 16, which would have slowed down the pace even further.
(3) The whole point of the majority of the show is that it’s supposed to not make sense. They have a good plot reason for it but it still is frustrating for the viewer at times. The very first inconsistency was the writers changing how the magical clock worked against what was already established. At first, Hye Ja could determine the amount of time that she could rewind and the amount of time that she lived through multiple times corresponded with her aging process, which I found really clever. Then they decided to uproot the established powers of the watch altogether when she enters the time loop. This all gets an explanation towards the end of the show, but by then the viewer has already grown annoyed at all the plot points that do not make sense. Sometimes, however, they make great use of the whole nonsensical backdrop through some hilarious scenes such as the whole uprising of the elderly against the scamming elderly center.
(4) To get the full experience of this drama, you have to watch it one time without being spoiled and then you have to rewatch it with all the knowledge at hand that you learn from your first watch-through. This might be way too much time to invest for most viewers especially as it is not the most viewer friendly drama to begin with.
Score: 7,0 / 10 – It’s a very nice drama to analyze and pick apart. However, the first time viewing experience wasn’t all that great due to the slow pace, repeating plot points and the fact that most of the show is written intentionally to not make sense.