Beautiful World may be the best Kdrama of 2019. I am just not sure if I can push through to keep watching. It is soul wrenching and beautifully made, but my heart hurts when I watch. I do not usually cry while watching dramas; I was bawling by the middle of the first episode. Read on to hear my first impressions of Beautiful World and decide for yourself if you are willing to risk your heart to watch.
Let me begin by saying that I was originally so excited to see Nam Da Reum on my screen again. I was kind of thinking he would get to be the lead in this high school drama, and I was kind of right. He plays the part of Park Seon Ho, a 9th grader. He is charming and handsome, and Nam Da Reum is able to convey the subtle expressions and emotions of this character with his trademark skill and artistry. Unfortunately, the majority of his scenes are in the form of flashbacks because he is currently in a coma after “falling” from the top of a school building.
The story revolves around the family’s search for answers as Seon Ho fights for his life. Police rule it a suicide, but the discovery of a video detailing some horrific violence soon calls that into question. The plot of this drama makes for a compelling story, but what drew me in is the way this story is told and the the people telling it.
Directing and the Music
The beginning of this drama is tragic and also visually stunning with an OST that is hauntingly beautiful. The songs are all in English, so I was momentarily confused, but the sweeping harmonies that sound almost like a church choir really fit the scene. The directing is powerful, and throughout the drama there is this interweaving of the past and present. There are many scenes in this drama that show the present contrasted with how things once were. The way the parents of Seon Ho look back at choices they made or even what he was like as he was growing up makes the current reality that much more tragic. I am not usually someone who focuses in on the directing, but the pacing and how the story unfolds is part of the reason it is so powerful; it takes an interesting plot and creates scenes that made me feel almost physical pain as I watched.
Nam Da Reum is my favorite young actor. He just has the ability to convey so many emotions in a single glance. He does not disappoint in this drama, but it is the adult actors that left me breathless. Park Hee Soo plays the role of Park Moo Jin (Seon Ho’s father) and Choo Ja Hyun is Kang In Ha (Seon Ho’s mother). The raw pain they exhibit when they find out what happened to their son was conveyed in a way that made me truly believe they were experiencing this tragedy. The mother’s keening wail and the dad’s attempt at being stoic while fighting back his tears was soul stirring. I couldn’t stop by own tears in response. I am also impressed by Lee Ji Hyun’s performance as the mother of one of the boys involved in the violence. Her reaction to finding video of her child committing such an atrocious act was entirely believable. She responded with true horror at the thought that her own son could do something like that to a friend. Although we have only just begun to see the younger actors in this drama, I am already finding Seo Dong Hyun’s portrayal of Oh Joon-Seok, the entitled son of the school director, to be quite chilling. He clearly is behind the school violence incidence, but he can turn on the tears or the charm to convince everyone he is innocent, and then immediately transform into a cold-eyed bully.
Something that really stands out in this drama is the relationship between Seon Ho’s parents as it is contrasted with the relationship between Joon Seok’s parents. Seon Ho’s parents have to pull together to get through this tragedy. They lean on one another, but there is also a powerful scene where Seon Ho’s mom is so overcome with grief that she blames her husband for not picking up the phone when Seon Ho called him. If they were completely strong and just there for one another, I don’t think the depth of their relationship would have shown as much. They have their troubles, but their love for one another is absolutely clear. This is in sharp contrast to Joon Seok’s parents (played by Oh Man Seok and Cho Yeo Jeong). This couple has a clear power imbalance. Joon Seok’s dad seems to know what his wife is hiding ( I am still not sure) and he also seems to know that his son is capable of cruelty. His dominance over his wife is shown in subtle ways, such as the way he orders her to get his clothes ready. He also slaps his driver for not waiting with the door open. There are definitely secrets in this house.
I have, unfortunately, been in a role where I have seen and supported parents who have lost their children to suicide or violence. It is not yet clear if this was really a suicide in this drama, but the journey through the grief process is so similar to what I have witnessed. There is a sense of disbelief, searching for answers, crusading for justice, wanting to lash out at the world, and struggling to come to terms with what it all means. This is portrayed in such a convincing way in this drama that it was difficult for me to watch.
I am struggling with my decision about whether or not to continue watching. I am not sure I can stop because this drama is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and awful all at the same time. As I said, I think it could be the best drama of 2019. I am just not sure if I can handle watching it. Then again, I want answers. I want to know if this is all because of bullying. I want to know if Seon Ho will recover. I want to know if Joon Seok’s parents will continue to cover up his cruelty. I want to know if Seon Ho’s family will be able to heal. I have so many questions. So, I think I am going to have to keep watching. I feel like this might be the kind of drama that will be painful to watch, but I will be glad I did when it is all over. What about you? Will you watch with me and share your thoughts in the comments?
Until Next Time…
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi