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Record of Youth: Episodes 5-6 Review

We’re well into the show’s groove and this week it was all about couples—not so much the romantic ones (though of course there is that…one), but all the other complicated ways in which two people can be connected to each other. Down below, we look at what those connections do to them, and what they mean about how they relate to each other, and whether it’s still a triangle if one of the lines is nowhere near the other two.

 

Saya: Okay, hit me with your spicy opinions! I’m ready! (I might even not disagree, who knows!)

Paroma: I think I made a grave mistake in starting Do You Like Brahms? while still watching Record. This drama is highly stylised and polished, from its scene structures to the razor sharp dialogue. Whereas Brahms is almost slice-of-life. It’s simple, warm, and thoroughly sincere. So, when, at the end of a great day for Hye-joon, he stops in the rain and confidently tells Jung-ha that he likes her, it doesn’t touch me nearly as much as Song-ha in Brahms blurting out her feelings for Joon-young, almost at the same moment as the realisation of it strikes her. There is such a feeling of inevitability and dread to that confession in Brahms whereas, Hye-joon just… says he likes this girl that he barely knows after exchanging a few volleys of quips, already knowing that she likes him back. It was…too early for them. Too…easy.

Saya: I don’t exactly disagree with you, to be honest, but my first thought at that point was, aaah, here we are. I think that’s one of the characteristics of Ha Myung-hee’s dramas: the love is easy. The relationship is hard. So the confession isn’t the end of anything by any means (not only because it was episode 5), but it’s the beginning of all of the terrible and painful things that will undoubtedly happen to them and has two years to happen. Especially with that ominous Hye-joon voiceover. “I would have held on to our beginning a little longer, if I had known we would end up like this.” nO dOn’T dO iT dOn’T hUrT mEeEee 😭

Paroma: I like a drama that shows the issues in a relationship! I just am not convinced that these two feel anything for each other yet. Which makes me less invested in their relationship. I also feel conflicted about how Jung-ha “shed” her fangirling for Hye-joon. It was far too pat.

Saya: Don’t you think it’s more that she’s telling herself what to feel and do, because that’s how she operates? She’s very decision-oriented in that way, and I find that kind of pragmatism pleasing and relatable. We can’t all afford to follow our hearts (like Hae-hyo suggested last week), especially if it comes at a cost we’re not willing to pay. For her, the reality of Hye-joon means shelving the fantasy, because the two things can’t coexist for her in a healthy way.

Paroma: That’s a cerebral decision, but not something that can be executed in a clean way in real life.

Saya: I won’t say that’s not true, yet I still really like that Jung-ha resists: her feelings, this relationship, all of it. I like that she can say to Hye-joon, “I don’t like it” and walk away. I really like a girl who can walk away. (For now 😅)

Paroma: If only her walking away had lasted more than three seconds. Even if Jung-ha can turn her fangirling off, Hye-joon accepts it way too easily. Which—if we were talking about any actor but Park Bo-gum—would make me almost angry. ‘cause he doesn’t know her that well yet. He doesn’t really know if he’s crossing the line with a fan.

Saya: I feel their friendship is solid enough even at this early point for there not to be a question of crossing lines with a fan. But I also didn’t buy his easy acceptance—he just kind of…seemed to allow her to brush it aside, and later admits that he thought she’d rejected him. That felt quite sad to me, the way he takes the no as a given, as if that’s what he’s so used to hearing that he expects it, and rather than challenging it, he folds up his feelings inside himself.

Paroma: Ha. In some ways, the beginning of this relationship feels like a game between them. They use terms like, “I lost” and “I won” a lot. At the end of the confession scene, when he’s leaving her place he wants to look back and see if she’s watching him, but he doesn’t. Like that would ruin his move. It’s very much style over substance with these two right now. And I found his confidence in handling Jung-ha’s freak-out very telling in a whole different way. His face and how women react to him are things he has no insecurities about. So, even when Jung-ha doesn’t give him a straight answer, he isn’t defeated. He just assumes that it means she needs time.

Saya: A reasonable assumption though, given that he knows that she does like him. I mean, you’d have to be daft and emotionally illiterate to read those things wrong. But about his looks, I don’t think his identity—his sense of who he is as a person—is tied up in how he looks. His awareness of how he looks is more like a fact about himself, a physical attribute—like being tall or short or wearing glasses or having dimples. He has a very clear sense of who he is, and it isn’t his looks. Though that said, I can’t help but agree with your assessment of how much a role stylisation plays in how these characters conduct themselves. But I see that as a bigger drama issue, not individual character.

Paroma: I think it’s inevitable that his identity would be tied to his looks, since he’s had to hone it into a strength and a skill for all these years. The drama does a great job of showing a character who can see both the advantages and pitfalls of being physically attractive. But what I meant about his confidence with women is that that’s not something he’s ever felt anxious or uncertain about. And with Jung-ha already having confessed her liking for him (in the fangirl context), he experiences very little anxiety while making his own confession. Which robs it of any real stakes.

Saya: Stop making me agree with you 😂 It’s true, the show is very neat about its feelings and that’s reflected in its relationship stakes as well as aesthetic style. It lacks the slightly rough edge that makes the feelings more impactful, but I feel like part of that is in the acting of the leads themselves. I think Park Bo-gum has some really fantastic emotional range, but his talent leans to gravity and pathos—in the vein of pre-I’m Not a Robot Yoo Seung-ho—and slightly wicked humour. (See: Moonlight Drawn by Clouds.)

I hate to say this, knowing how much his fans love him, but to me, Bo-gum doesn’t have romantic-lead magic yet. So that scene in Episode 6 when he’s crying in the van after his dad strikes him? Absolutely kill-you-dead exquisite emoting there. But the romance is maybe the weakest relationship in this show.

Paroma: Yeah, essentially that is it. That rough edge that makes a new relationship exciting and messy is absent. But oh my god that crying bout in the car had me tearing up in sympathy.

Saya: And then he struggles to be normal while he takes Jung-ha’s call 😢 It was the best scene in this week’s episodes. The second-best was maybe Min-jae’s car-crying. Cars are sad.

Paroma: Ah, poor Min-jae. I loved that we are seeing her growth as a manager too.

Saya: What I thought was most interesting this week was the close look we got at several different couples, and I don’t mean romantic ones. The one between Min-jae and Hye-joon is really fascinating. When Hye-joon finally confronts Min-jae after she hid from him, there’s a moment of striking reversal where suddenly Hye-joon is the one who is jaded and experienced, while Min-jae—the elder, the manager—is the naive noob who got duped. He knows how this industry works and how ugly it can be, and the unexpected contrast adds something to our knowledge of these characters that works really well.

Paroma: The other revelation—thanks to Ae-sook (Hye-joon’s mom)—was also about Hye-joon. Of how the black sheep of the family has always been careful with his money, whereas their precious older son has always been a spendthrift. I love how insulted Grandpa was because Ae-sook compared the older son to him in anger.

Saya: Poor Grandpa. There’s so much realism in this family’s dynamics that it can be quite painful to watch.