In May, 1980, during the turbulent times of the Gwangju Uprising, Hee-Tae (Lee Do-Hyun) and Myung-Hee (Go Min-Si) fall in love. Their love seems destined by fate.
Hee-Tae is a medical student, who entered medical school at the top his class. He seems like an easygoing person, but he also has an unyielding spirit and obstinacy. Myung-Hee has worked as a nurse for the past 3 years. She is a lovely person, who stands up against what is not fair.
- Drama: Youth of May
- Revised romanization: Owolui Chungchoon
- Director: Song Min-Yeop
- Writer: Lee Kang
- Network: KBS2
- Episodes: 12
- Release Date: May 3 – June 8, 2021
- Country: South Korea
Review: by Jelly Babie (link)
Let me begin by saying that Youth Of May deserves way more appreciation than it already does, and as already evident, I loved the show. Loved it enough to drop everything and write a review at 3 a.m. so as to not break my train of thought.
Now let me justify all of that.
YOM (funny acronym, TRAGIC show) begins with a grim reminder of the past. Something that makes you as uneasy as a pebble in your shoe, and quite intentionally so. The show makes it extremely clear that tragedy is not a matter of ‘when’, but rather a matter of ‘who’. And that was enough for me to view every single snippet of joy in the show with a heavy heart and through the lenses of misery.
The main leads are easy-to-love. The hard-working nurse that dreams of a better future, and a neglected son of an iron-fisted (an understatement) father —the leads did a great job of letting the audience connect with them. They are charming, but not unrealistically so. You not just root for the couple, you root for the two to fight and with their personal battles. You are invested in them together, but also in how they stay strong for themselves.
The romance is what takes this show a level up from being just a tragic story. The chemistry is palpable, and the love innocent. Even with just a couple of instances of skinship, the leads evoke a realistic image of what love can truly be. One can raise a decent argument of if the feelings progress too soon to take on the kind of intensity that is portrayed in the show, but the actors and the writers did just as decent of a job to make it all feel real and natural.
The last two episodes were absolutely hard to watch. The show spares no detail to depict the true horrors of the uprising. The scenes got a little more graphic than expected, but it worked in the favor of the show. Not only do they make you feel for the leads, but also serve as a constant reminder of how it all happened in the real world. For all we know, there really could have been a couple, if not dozens of Hwang Hee Taes and Myeong Hees left devastated and separated by the violence.
Addressing the final tragedy, I wish it was better portrayed to truly do justice to a main character tragically dying. The sudden cold reveal of Myeong Hee, lying down shot, dying alone did not move me as much as a short sequence as Hwang Hee Tae risking it to turn back for a quick glance towards the woods (where he left her). Nonetheless, things got pretty grim and I was prepared to spend this night in woeful unease.
HOWEVER, the final bit by a now older Hwang Hee Tae has got to be perhaps one of the most profound words ever spoken in kdrama world. The realization that sets in not only soothes him into a state of acceptance, it is also a reassuring pat on the shoulder for the audience. You almost feel the peace that Hwang Hee Tae does, for now, you understand and agree. It gives you the closure, and the strength to carry on (let’s be real, dramas-gloom is REAL).
With that being said, I wish other characters were given a better conclusion. Lee Soo Ryeon and Soo Chan deserved a more detailed sign-off, do did HHT’s stepmother and half-brother.
MOVING ON TO THE PERFORMANCES.
(Quick shout out to Oh Man Seok for being doing a FABULOUS job of making us all hate him.)
Well, Go Min Si was pretty good as the FL…. but Lee Do Hyun takes it all (I promise this is not my bias speaking). For an actor so young with sparse experience Lee Do Hyun does a PHENOMENAL job. It might be commonplace to lose your individuality playing a human golden-retrieveresque character, but LDH stands STRONG. There’s nuance and depth. There’s more to observe in each of his scenes. His eyes are extremely expressive, yet never overexpresses. He acts with sincerity, in whatever emotion that is asked of him.
While Hwang Hee Tae is written out to be a traumatized character that’s all sunshine outside with a light-hearted, kind charm to him, it is in scenes of absolute dejection and pain that LDH’s talent truly shines. Sparing just a few, I think HHT crying as he listens to a song, while searching for Myeong Hee was probably one of the most gut-wrenching scenes of raw emotion in the drama. LDH plays on two spectrums of the happy-sad scale and does it so, so well.
LDH gives glimpses of great potential, and I have to say that I am all up for it. Absolutely following up on the rest of his shows.
ALSO……….can you get over how DEVASTATINGLY pretty he is? He is the sunshine that you need on a Monday morning.