Missing You, Like a Sinful Piece of Chocolate
There are many things I don’t like about this drama and there are many things I do like about this drama. It’s hard to get through an episode, yet I wait every week for the next one. Missing You is like the last piece of Lindor Truffle you shouldn’t eat but crave at two a.m. The Lindor Truffle is a ball of rich and delicious chocolate. It’s completely indulgent and wrapped in shiny paper to distract you from its sinfulness. There are many reasons why I should drop this show but like the a bag of truffles, I will probably end up gobbling this drama until its airy and empty end.
Missing You is a melodrama of the truest kind but not its best. The story is written to evoke tears from the viewer but there is no subtlety in the emotions or setup. It has the same problem that so many dramas these days suffer from; it assumes the viewer has a short attention span and little brain power. It slams you on the head over and over again, telling you it’s a “sad,” “happy,” or “sweet” moment. Thus, the overall story suffers and gives over all its energy to setting up scenes for actors to indulge in the emotion of the moment, namely tragic romance. These types of dramas eventually end up having their two lead actors take on 95% of the scenes by the last third of the drama, which of course leads to a deadly shooting schedule and fatigue.
Missing You is beautifully shot for all intents and purposes, those being to indulge in the melodrama and showcase the acting. Conversely, it also makes the lack of acting skill very apparent because the actual product does not live up to the set up. As a standalone, the cinematography is gripping, with its vivid yet whimsy quality, but I object to the style being used for this type of drama because of one of its subjects- rape.
I really wish they didn’t include rape in this type of drama. Missing You is first and foremost a romance melodrama and I object to rape being used to set up the melodramatic platform for the rest of the drama. It was used as a plot-device to push the heroine and the story to its melodramatic deep-end. As a viewer who is sensitive to the social injustice of rape crimes in South Korean society, it makes me uncomfortable watching it being dealt with so poorly and utterly disconnected from real social issues. I object to the writer putting rape into the story and not offering any social critique. It shouldn’t be in a drama that is going to put romance first and will offer romantic love as the cure to Lee Soo-yeon’s pain. Where is the social justice? Where are the laws and competent officials to procure that justice? The subject of rape should not be in the background of a story that is going to be so indulgent in romantic love and personal/family revenge, with the main sin being Jung-woo’s abandonment. If Jung-woo abandoning Soo-yeon was going to be the main issue of this drama, couldn’t the writer just left out the rape? I think it would have worked fine if the guy had just beaten Soo-yeon or tortured her, if the goal of the writer was to bring the suffering of its leads to their extreme end. This drama will predictably bring it up Lee Soo-yeon’s rape again, to explain both Soo-yeon and Jung-woo’s pathos but never offer us any real solution to her pain and healing, especially now that Soo-yeon has murdered her rapist.
With such a heavy subject in the background, the cinematography should be more gritty and filmed with less of the dream-like whimsy quality. I thought that the rape scene was filmed well with no spectacle quality and with excellent acting from Yeo Jin-gu. Yet, it was completely indulgent on one character’s pain and pathos, with an extended full-shot of Jung-woo’s crying face filling up the whole screen. Playing devil’s advocate, I can make the argument that Jung-woo stands as the powerless, pathetic, and cowardly patriarchal society that runs away from dealing properly with rape victims, yet I know this drama will never fully carry Jung-woo to that metaphorical status because it is simply a romance-revenge melodrama. So why, Missing You writer, why did you put this subject in this drama, besides wanting your characters to suffer and wallow in the tragedy of its aftermath?
Indulgent. What indulgent dialogue! The repetitive kind that ultimately doesn’t reveal anything more about the characters or advance the plot, except to plunge you more into confusion and vagueness about the characters’ intentions and emotions. The dialogue is written not to communicate anything, but to hide, with nobody actually saying anything in a straight-forward manner. I could see the writer trying to be poetic with the dialogue, but we need prose in dialogue, not poetry, especially in this drama that is already awash in emotions, nostalgia, and tears.
As for the character of Kang Hyung-joon, I feel bad for Yoo Seung-ho who has to act out a role that is one dimensional and never properly fleshed out as a child. There is no proper insight to Kang Hyung-joon’s pathology as vengeful and possessive millionaire so I am left unsympathetic to his plight. Subsequently, I find Kang Hyung-joon and Lee Soo-yeon’s codependency on each other unnerving and unhealthy, and see no viable romantic connection between them.
Actually, I wish there was no romantic focus in the drama in general. There is so much to explore already with the pathologies of guilt, remorse, loss, anger, and vengeance experienced by the lead characters and their families, which is far more interesting and believable than the emotion of romantic love between Han Jung-woo and Lee Soo-yeon, and between Lee Soo-yeon and Kang Hyung-joon. The absence of a romantic focus would also alleviate some of my concerns with the way this drama is handling rape. But of course, what is a Korean drama without romance?
In addition, what is a Korean drama without evil villains? And how awful are the villains in this drama? So utterly one-dimensional in their selfishness, cruelty, and greed. How boring and rage-inducing! Can we please get villains that don’t make me want to just skip their scenes for their irrelevance and rising of blood-pressure?
If there is no love, comfort, and safety in actual bloodlines in this drama, there is plenty in makeshift families. Han Jung-woo’s makeshift family is Missing You’s saving grace. Made up of Jung-woo, the mother of the girl he abandoned, and the daughter of the cop who made the girl the child of a murder, this family is a testament to the power of love and forgiveness. Han Jung-woo is a lucky character, surrounded by people who love and adore him, and make up for the absence of a proper father and mother. In addition to his half-sister, he has his partner, the other detective colleagues, and the cleaning lady who all understand and support him. I get through this drama because of these scenes of love and tenderness. These unexpected familial relationships are the writer’s strong points as I witnessed in her previous dramas, Smile, You and Can You Hear My Heart. I hope these relationship prove to be the stronghold of this drama and not just time fillers.
My favorite character is Han Jung-woo, brilliantly acted by Yeo Jin-gu and although less so by Park Yoo-chun, still interesting and multi-faceted. He is like the ocean, with both its shallow and deep end. Yeo Jin-gu’s portrayal of Han Jung-woo, the kid who ran away from his friend in a moment of fear and selfishness, left so much room for the viewer to understand his decision, rather than to simply hate his choice. Park Yoo-chun carries the guilt and remorse well into the adult stage of Jung-woo’s life, which as has been dominated and shaped by that split-second decision of a scared fifteen year-old.
To briefly comment on the acting of the leads, Park Yoo-chun sometimes acts like he is still doing Rooftop Prince but when he is not actively screaming, he is convincing as the affectionate, dogged, and damaged son, brother, and detective. Admittedly, I have a bias towards Yoo-chun so while I might be annoyed in other cases of the awkwardness displayed in the acting, because it is my Chunface, I laugh at it good-heartedly.
I don’t have much to say about Yoon Eun-hye’s acting since it is competent, but not outstanding. As for Yoo Seung-ho, I like the boy, but the boy needs to play his age and get more experience so he can be convincing in the heavy roles he has been taking on these days. I don’t feel anything for the Lee Soo-yeon – Kang Hyung-joon relationship, not because of the age difference on principle, but because Yoo Seung-ho doesn’t have the gravitas or acting ability to “smolder.” Kang Hyung-joon would be a much more interesting character if Yoo Seung-ho was able to bring more layers to him but so far, all we get is what is written on paper. Where is the character interpretation and analysis, Yoo Seung-ho?
Bless you, Yeo Jin-gu and Kim So-hyun. You guys really made this drama relatable and bearable. Seriously, I would be driven crazy by the adult story of Han Jung-woo and Lee Soo-yeon if you guys hadn’t set me up to be so sympathetic to your characters.
Missing You is overall an interesting drama with lots of potential but I don’t have faith that it will live up to it. With my expectations lowered, this drama is an entertaining watch, even if the story itself is not of the fun kind. The story is compelling enough and I look forward to completing it, with my hair intact. Please, drama-gods, let me keep my hair!