Have you ever loved a show so much then the finale aired and you ended up disappointed? This is not that type of drama unless we’re talking about the disappointment that it ended. From beginning to end, we’re consistently fed with good writing. What is this drama? One that provides a beautiful sorrowful look into the daily lives of those that are ostracized by society and those who’ve failed at the beginning of their lives. This is a love letter to those who are seen as different. The writer herself claimed it was an apology to her ex who suffered from a personality disorder (I think).
She ended up leaving him to protect herself from the harsh words of people. If I were him, I definitely would’ve been brought to tears by how she expressed her apology. Let’s get into what made it so beautiful for me:
Go Moonyoung, played by Seo Ye Ji (please watch her other work too. A talented, underrated actress), is a famous writer that suffers from an antisocial personality disorder with a dark past.
Moon Gang-tae, played by Kim Soo Hyun, is a caregiver who was forced into looking after his older brother after their mother was murdered. The most “ordinary” and relatable character out of the three mains.
Moon Sang-tae, played by Oh Jung Se, is Gang-tae’s autistic older brother. A refreshing insight into the lives of autistic people and their innocence in a world that doesn’t accept difference. His autism is part of his character, but it’s not the only thing his character is which was important to display. Joyong has done well.
Three characters with personalities that contradict each other. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Wrong. All three characters’ personalities blended so well with each other to the point where none of them would’ve developed without the other two. What turned some people off was Go Moonyoung, which I can understand but it still feels disappointing. Her character was constantly called out by Gang-tae for her behaviour and in a world where everyone suppresses themselves and hides their true feelings, a character that is consistently honest was necessary. We’re viewing broken characters from their perspective and the main point of the drama was that for every action, there’s a reason behind it that’s usually heartbreaking. We should expand our empathy to those that express themselves in ways that deviate from the norm.
I can’t stop raving about how in love with the final 2 episodes I was. Everything came around in a full circle and there were so many beloved parallels present (the I love you scene was everything!!!). What I thought was realllly, reaaaalllyy well done was Moonyoung’s development. It wasn’t forced down your throat, begging you to notice how apparent her development was in the span of a single episode. It was fleshed out over the course of 16 episodes that you barely even realize what’s happening until you find yourself crying over her apologizing, showing how much she’s grown. The power of love played no part in the development (maybe small?? can’t remember), rather she developed through Gang-tae by meeting those he’s acquainted with, such as Juri’s mum and Sang-tae. She didn’t completely change from her unfiltered self, which is a problem many K-dramas have because you really can’t fully cure a disorder. She remained Moonyoung, but a Moonyoung that found people who accepted her as she is and replaced her broken family with one that was whole.
Sang-tae was definitely a major scene-stealer when it came to his development. He went from claiming his brother was only for him and not allowing others to touch what was his to be their biggest support pillar and the perfect blueprint on how to overcome their trauma. One of his final lines was “Moon Gang-tae belongs to Moon Gang-tae” which, if you watched, pierces 50 holes into your heart endlessly when you compare it to the way he was in the beginning.
Gang-tae’s development from suppressing himself completely for his brother to finally gaining the courage to seek happiness again was hauntingly beautiful due to how relatable it was. He was a character that was grey in a drama world filled with colours, yet he was not overshadowed (partly due to the talented Kim Soo Hyun, and the rest due to the script and chemistry) by them. He complimented them so well. Although many of us will see ourselves in him, I hope that we also end up with a heart so big that we can accept people that are different to us without caring about society and without feeling the need to change them.
Stories and Quotes
Oh, what I would do to completely remove this drama to have the pleasure of hearing those stories for the first time again. Go Moonyoung’s stories allowed us to dive deep into our past and current selves. It points out things that we didn’t realize in a fresh way. My particular favourite was “Zombie Kid”, which tells a story of a mother that gave her child everything but love, not realizing it was the most important. What was really interesting was that there were two insights. One was that parents sacrifice a lot for their children to protect them and the second was that all children need is love. This roped in well with Gang-tae’s story who grew up believing that he was only born to take care of Sang-tae only to realize (after talking with Juri’s mom which was amazing because insight from a mother is necessary!!!) that his memories were distorted and that she showed love subtly.
The side characters, such as director O/Oh (?), Sang-In, Juri and more also provided us with quotes that can help with our development, such as “if you want to make the people around you happy, you must find your own happiness first. Being selfish isn’t always a bad thing.”
Okay, this is getting too long, so other things I want to point out are EXCELLENT chemistry between all characters, particularly Kim Soo Hyun and Seo Ye Ji (I hope for a reunion), brilliant acting (not a single! acting! whole!), excellent pacing, display of a plethora of mental illness in a nonjudgmental manner, S T U N N I N G wardrobe and phenomenally unique OSTs.
I know the Do Hui Jae storyline might have annoyed people, but it’s important to realize that this story is character-driven, and sometimes we don’t get backstories of what happens to “villains”. All our characters wanted was healing.
After 2 and a half years, Just Between Lovers has been knocked to second place (I love sad dramas that deal with healing). 100000000/10 for everything.