The Red Sleeve is a South Korean television series starring Lee Jun-ho, Lee Se-young and Kang Hoon. It aired from November 12, 2021, to January 1, 2022, on MBC’s newly established Fridays and Saturdays at 22:00 (KST) time slot.
Based on a novel of the same name, it tells the record of a royal court romance between the King of Joseon who believes his duty is to his country first above love, and a court lady who wants to protect the life she has chosen.
Review: by Fatooz (Link)
The Red Sleeve – A Masterpiece Indeed
I finished watching The Red Sleeve last night and like many I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s been a while I’ve seen such a breathtakingly beautiful drama that catches the very essence of love so amazingly and presents you a story which is high quality in every single aspect. I’m blown away by this masterpiece of a drama. I’m actually in awe of how they successfully created a balance between the real happenings and dramatization which is probably one of the many reasons why this drama was a huge success both internationally and domestically.
A few subtle scenes that depicted the real happenings in the drama:
- In history, King Jeongjo of Joseon, was the most loved King and his reign was one of the most peaceful ones. This is depicted beautifully in the last episode when Jeongjo is seen having a conversation with an old man where he says how throughout his life he’s seen 4 kings and that Jeongjo’s reign was the most peaceful one where he had a great time.
- As per history, King Jeongjo was known for his water management and this was again depicted in the drama when in one of the assemblies the King says one thing he dreams of achieving is water management.
- San (Jeongjo) was extremely close to his grandfather (Yeongjo) because of all the tragedy he had faced and how he only had his grandfather, which was again beautifully shown in the drama. But also, when Yeongjo was sick, San read many medical books which can be seen hinted in the drama when in the 16th episode Deok-Im pretends to be sick in order for Jeongjo to not embrace her and he tells her how he’s read many medical books and has a good medical knowledge.
Apart from these there were many major plot points that were adapted from what happened in real life like the attack on San when he was still a Crown Prince, or Hong Deok-Ro’s overly ambitious actions and that leading to whatever happened with him and so on.
Anyways, moving onto what I absolutely loved about the drama and why it’s one of a kind:
The drama was well casted as can be seen through the performances, especially that of Lee Jun-Ho and Lee Se-Young. Jun-Ho’s depiction of a Crown Prince who had many plans for his subjects once he sits on the throne and also when he finally became the King, the troubles he went through, the losses he went through and all of the tragedy along with the blissful days, especially the immense love he had for Sung Deok-Im was mind blowing. He was accurate in expressing the emotions and feelings. Lee Se-Young was lovely as the strong headed, playful and smart Sung Deok-Im. Her depiction of this court lady who didn’t want to become a concubine because she loved her freedom more than anything else was beautiful. It was my first time watching her in anything and she totally stole my heart with her performance. Even Lee Deok-Hwa who plays King Yeongjo played the part wonderfully and it was weird watching him as the King because of how I had recently finished watching A Business Proposal where he played a drama lover and lovely grandfather lol.
I love me a forbidden romance but the chemistry between the actors must be accurate for me to feel the pain and evoke my emotions. The chemistry between Jun-Ho and Se-Young was incredible. It felt so organic, to the point that I couldn’t bring myself to differentiate them from the real people on whom the story was based. It felt as though I was watching the real Jeongjo and Uibin live their love story.
Considering this was a melodrama, I really loved the pacing. It wasn’t too slow or too fast. The ending especially was done nicely. There wasn’t a moment in the drama I felt bored or felt like skipping something. I also felt they accurately depicted some major events from Jeongjo’s life especially all the tragedy he faced and also the proposals and rejections were quite precisely represented.
As much as in most historical dramas it’s shown that it’s usually the ML who saves the FL out of most situations where she’s going to face the death penalty but in this drama it was mostly the FL who saves the ML out of major situations. Not only that but she also saves herself out of some situations without the ML’s help which in that time is quite the progress. I also loved how firmly she declines / rejects the ML because she loves her freedom and she conveys that quite well.
The romantic scenes:
To be very honest I really appreciate this drama for displaying the romantic scenes like their first kiss (which was forced), their hugs, and so on to be a bit uncomfortable to watch initially before Deok-Im takes the King’s hand and accepts his embrace. They portrayed how for the King it was difficult to show his vulnerable and weak side in order to develop a liking for him in Deok-Im’s heart because he was used to being calculative and assertive because of his power and role. It was also reflected quite well through the acting of the two actors. But these exact scenes were lovely to watch once there was acceptance from Deok-Im’s side. This again boils down to how incredible the two main actors are.
Writing and Direction:
To write such a story where one can just imagine or question that such a deep love even existed at that time and which can make the viewers deeply invested in this very story, I think the writer deserves applaud for it. Also the direction was moving as it depicts the very essence of what tragic love is.
Overall this was one of those dramas that touched my heart deeply and I’m going to keep thinking about it for a few days. It’s after extremely long a drama has made me feel so much love and pain at the same time. Absolutely adore this drama and I can’t wait for Jun-Ho and Se-Young to make a comeback in their respective dramas!