Written by Jung Hyeon-jung & Jung Da-hyun
Directed by Park Shin-woo
Something interesting happens during the course of the sixth episode of Lovestruck in the City that you don’t realise is happening until you’re halfway through the episode. It sticks firmly in the present day, with no flashbacks and instead just luxuriates in the present day with its lead characters.
The main reason for that is perhaps that it’s starting to show its thematic hand, indicating that here is a series with a bigger story that it wants to explore away from just being a romantic comedy drama.
The past six half hours have given us a wonderful Greek chorus when it comes to the supporting cast, but sneaky show that it is, the writing has actually hoodwinked us into spending time with characters who aren’t only just commenting in a witty manner on the main romance at the heart of the show, but ones who actually have connections to our central protagonists.
There is an argument that maybe, just maybe, the series is going to stretch credibility just a tad in making it that everyone here actually knows everyone, but the ‘small world’ vibe that comes from the revelation that our lead characters have not only shared a romance but inadvertently a circle of friends is actually handled in a fun way, even if by the time the crazy end credits with accompanying music video comes about you might be asking yourself why it has taken until only now for that circle to become smaller to the point that they might run into each other.
The more the series is going on, the more it puts one in mind of something like American television juggernaut Lost. That series also revelled in previously unseen character connections to bring across the idea that the world is small and everyone is connected, although thankfully Lovestruck in the City isn’t some grandiose mystery drama that leaves one asking a million questions than answer (at least at this early stage).
What remains wonderfully charming is just how lovable its explorations of its characters is. We get a flashback filled fifth episode, along with more explorations of memory and nostalgia as Eun-oh/Seon-a finds herself developing the camera film that Jae-won left with her when they last saw each other. That airport goodbye turned to be a final goodbye of sorts, but the memories that both have are encased in the camera film that she still keeps in her fridge as Jae-won suggested.
Memory has been a theme hovering over the entire series, so it’s actually fun to see the writers actually deal with it in the context of the story and the ‘documentary’ format of the show. Eun-oh’s memento of her relationship with Jae-won turns out to be represented by rolls of film in which their time together is documented and held within, a time capsule of those moments that each hold dear, even if Eun-oh says otherwise. They are literal memories that she has held on to.
That central relationship is a major draw for what makes Lovestruck sing as wonderfully as it does, but the sixth episode takes a breather for a while from Jae-won and Seon-a and puts a large part of its focus on Kyeong-joon and Rin-I’s love story which goes beyond the timeframe of a year and back to 2009 when the two characters were in school together.
There is a genuinely lovely chemistry between Kim Min-seok and So Joo-yeon, and the way in which their love story goes from school students protesting the closure of a park to adulthood gives their story a quietly epic sweep that almost makes you wish that we were getting an entire series devoted to their own drama as well.
Their relationship becomes something of a lovely, charming mirror that’s being held up as something opposite to the angsty baggage that comes from the central love story driving so much of the drama and comedy. Jae-won and Eun-oh’s courtship is one fuelled by an intense holiday romance that packed in so much in a short space of time, where Kyeong-joon and Rin-i’s story is one of an elongated timeline which has played out on a longer canvas.
Those central ideas of memory and time are not just minor themes bubbling away under the surface anymore, they are very much threads that are fuelling so much of the joy and wonder of the storytelling, and it’s in these two episodes that the writing exposes those themes, doing so wonderfully and brilliantly.