I’ve now seen two episodes, and my first gut feeling still stands from the moment I watched this drama:
I’m not liking it.
Now let me explain.
I won’t deny that it is a well-written drama chock full of conflict. The conflict in each person’s lives and how they affect each other is so rich and meaty. Characterization is great here, and Kim Rae Won and Su Ae sizzle up the screen. I had no idea Su Ae had this in her – sure I saw her comedic side and her action/serious side, but this is the melodramatic-serious side, and she’s killing it.
The first episode was a bit of a whirlwind, mainly because we get right into the characters’ lives and only get some understanding through flashbacks. It all still felt disconnected to me until the second episode, where Su Ae truly shined. As the ghostwriter/editor Seo Yeon, she is frank, sassy, and perfectly in control. However, everyone keeps saying how controlled she is, and how she always seems strong even when she’s not; I know this already! I don’t need the characters – especially her cousin Jae Min – to keep saying it. [Her other cousin and her cousin’s husband on the other hand are a hoot, since they’re constantly fighting but in such a good natured way.] So when she slowly starts breaking down, realizing that she’s forgetting chunks of time in her life, I started getting excited. Here’s a woman who’s so in control finally breaking down! It was absolutely eerie (and the soundtrack helped) watching her clean the burnt pot and yelling at herself for forgetting.
The best scene was when she was in the doctor’s office. First the camera was steady as she answered the doctor’s questions. Then, as her answers became less sure, the camera began to sway and rock side to side more and more. It reflected her state of mind, as things were becoming hazy and she was feeling more stressed out than she needed to be. It was brilliant work right there. I’m probably in love with the cinematography more than anything else.
So now that I’ve expounded on its strengths, I will now explain why I don’t like this drama.
I will start shallowly – I don’t usually like melodramas. I don’t like dramas that will end up stressing me out (think Flames of Desire) and I am always tempted to skip ahead. Sure I can watch 49 Days avidly, but that drama had its humorous moments and nice beats. This one doesn’t so far, and it’s terribly wearisome. I especially hate Kim Rae Won and Jung Yumi’s characters. I think I can understand why Kim Rae Won’s Ji Hyung is so cowardly (because he’s supposed to change and be stronger through the series), but Jung Yumi’s Hyang Gi is so insufferably nice that I’d hate to see what will become of her.
Now you may think I don’t like complex characters; that’s not true. I do like complexity, but I have my values too. You want me to root for a pair of adulterers in the name of true love? You want me to back up a guy who can’t even stand up to his own mother? You want me to back up a brainless girl who knows nothing about love and about equality in a relationship? I like strong characters, but I like them better when they can at least own up to their own mistakes. I had similar feelings towards Kim Jeong Hoon‘s character in I Need Romance, but in that drama he changed, and made an effort to change. He’d fail, and then try again. In addition, he was not the focus of the drama; Jo Yeo Jung was.
So far, Ji Hyung hasn’t changed. Sure, two episodes isn’t enough time to allow him to change, but two episodes is also the amount of time I will give for a drama to suck me in. Show me a hint that he will change soon, and I might stick around. Tell me that he will change (thanks to all the plot summaries and whatnot) and I’ll be skeptical. Right now, he’s so pathetic that I lack any sympathy for him. All I see in him is guilt and cowardice, and I have no hope that he will change. Even cold-hearted chaebol types show a hint of change through an action, but Ji Hyung right now is full of inaction. I have nothing against Kim Rae Won because he’s playing a character I hate so brilliantly – but he’s also the MAIN CHARACTER!
This drama feels like a whole new Stairway to Heaven plus Autumn in My Heart remix; nostalgic, but modern in context of the times. The romance is the center of it all, and yet that’s probably what interests me the least. If this drama was just about how Seo Yeon affects everyone’s lives, I’d probably continue to watch it. It could be a whole new Scent of a Woman (which I should check out in some form or another – via recaps or skimming through). That’s how compelling Seo Yeon is as a character, especially since Su Ae perfectly captures the terror of a young woman facing early onset dementia.
The other thing I didn’t like about the drama initially was that it was so full of dialogue. It was exposition upon exposition immediately, with no time to rest. Sure episode 2 allowed for more quiet moments, but if a drama is going to place me right in the center of people’s hurried lives, I am not expecting you to give me so many words at once. There’s so much going on, and I am not given a chance to understand what is happening.
It’s interesting that A Thousand Days’ Promise has a very modern, mature feel to it. It’s one of those serious dramas that takes its characters and audience seriously, and expects to be taken seriously in return. It’s not cliched, and it’s hard for me to find a drama to compare it with. I guess it makes sense, since it’s CJ Entertainment that’s producing the drama; think of CJ as the premium cable channels in the States, and that helps contextualize the tone and feel of this drama. However, it’s exactly the tone and the feel that I’m having issues with. It’s a slice of life drama – but that “life” is intensely melodramatic, and I don’t know if I want to jump into that just yet.
Perhaps I’m too young to appreciate this. I was too young to appreciate “The Notebook” when that film first came out, and this drama is most like that film. But most importantly, it’s a gut feeling that’s not making me like this.
I’m curious to see what others think about it – especially if they like the drama.
Verdict: On the fence, but probably will not continue watching it unless forced to.