As a couple tries to rekindle the flames of a long lost love, a young man is forewarned about his liaison with a mysterious woman, and two teenagers defy their families and decide to keep their baby, a sleepy town in South Jeju Island is woken up from its sun-kissed reverie to a tempest of emotions.
The latest South Korean Anthology Our Blues is an omnibus style drama of everyday folk traversing trough the chaos of everyday life as they experience the epiphany “for all those who are alive lets be happy”.
Helmed by Kim Kyu-tae (It’s Okay, Thats Love!, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo), who skilfully translates writer Noh Hee-kyung‘s words into a compelling visual novel which stars a stellar ensemble with Lee Byung-hun (All In, Mr Sunshine), Shin Min-a (Oh My Venus, Home Town Cha Cha), Kim Woo-bin (Uncontrollably Fond, Heirs), Lee Jung-eun (Parasite), Han Ji-min (One Spring Night) as the key protagonists.
Making his long awaited comeback with the show is Kim Woo-bin, last seen in the 2016 tear-jerker Uncontrollably Fond. Diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in 2017, the actor took a career break to focus on his recovery. Woo-bin admits candidly that he was ‘nervous’ being back on set and around a ‘seasoned cast’ of actors which also includes real-life partner Shin Min-a, though the two have not been paired opposite each other in the series.
Woo-bin endears as the warm and friendly Captain Park Jeong-joon who finds himself attracted to a mysterious diver Lee Young-ok. As he decides to follow his heart and literally throw caution to the wind, his disarming smile and boy next door charm has already won him fans.
“I could understand my character, and his simple honesty appealed to me. However, battling his sea sickness was the biggest challenge. To combat the nausea and prevent the shoot from being delayed, I had to take pills and do a lot of breathing exercises,” says Woo-bin.
His co-star Han Ji-min, who plays the alluring diver Young-ok, whose mysterious past bewilders the inhabitants, says, “The unpredictable nature of my character drew me to her, she is candid and confident and this a character who helped me explore my own skills as an actor.”
While on the one hand Young-ok exudes self confidence, on the other, Seon-ah is an unsure and anxious mother battling depression who is losing the custody of her son, a character that’s brought to life by the piercing performance by Shin Min-a .
Shin Min-a says it were the humane stories depicted in the show irrespective of gender and age which appealed most to her. “I think they’re made powerful because they’re not grandiose or dramatic, but stories that can be found in our daily lives and viewers can relate to each character in some way or the other.”
Arguably South Korea’s biggest international stars Lee Byung-hun, known for his versatile repertoire in Korean and Hollywood Productions (Days Of Sunshine, I Saw the Devil ,G.I Joe: The Rise Of Cobra) makes his return to the drama space four years after the epic Mr Sunshine. Last seen as the Frontman in the Netflix series Squid Game, Byung-hun plays the temperamental travelling salesman Lee Dong-seok, whose life goes into a spiral with the return of the woman who had left him broken hearted. The 51-year-old actor says it was his desire to work with screen writer Noh, “I literally asked her to create a part for me,” he said, elaborating further that Dong-seok was a raw and rustic character he had never played before. “It was the perfect comeback piece, my character has too many sides, he is moody, reactive one moment and quite the other but always true to his emotions and actions; his rawness appealed to me.”
Our Blues not only succeeds in its well orchestrated storytelling, but also in its portrayal of strong, liberated women—from the competitive ‘Haenyeo’ (divers) who represent the semi matriarchal society of Jeju and the pregnant high schooler who decides to keep her baby despite the stigma attached to an unwed mother to the promiscuous and unabashed Young-ok and the feisty, unmarried middle-aged businesswoman Eun-hi, portrayed brilliantly by Lee Jeong-eun.
The actor best remembered as the housekeeper Moon-gwang in Parasite says, “Eun-ji is a character viewers have never seen before. She is wholesome in her appearance, her thought process, and her conflicted feelings, and playing her was not easy.”
Director Kim and writer Noh create a visually engaging novel as each chapter seamlessly merges into another, and arrests you with its tender simplicity as each character deals with their situations according to their point of view.
Our Blues is currently streaming on Netflix and the 20 episodes will run through June 2022.