We have a drama recipe for you! Take one disenchanted ballerino (not a typo!) and one hopeful retired grandpa and mix them together. Add in a disapproving family, an absent father, and an old rival, then shake well. Put in the drama oven and cook, then sprinkle a delightfully cynical ballet mentor, an adorable college-age granddaughter, and really, REALLY bad driving skills on top, and you get the heart-warming drama Navillera.
From our friends at MyDramaList.com: “Sim Deok Chul has had a life long dream of performing ballet. He is 70-years-old and retired from his job as a post office employee. Due to life situations, he put aside his dream of becoming a ballet dancer and worked a normal job to support his family. Now, Sim Deok Chul makes the decision to pursue his dream again. His family, including his wife and adult children, are not happy with his decision, but Sim Deok Chul does not waver in pursuing his life long dream. He joins a ballet company to learn ballet. There, he meets Lee Chae Rok.
Lee Chae Rok is a 23-year-old man. While growing up, he played different sports like baseball, swimming, and soccer, but he wasn’t talented in any of those activities. He then became interested in ballet. His mother was a ballet dancer, but she died from a disease when Lee Chae Rok was young. His father later went bankrupt. Lee Chae Rok learned that he has a talent for ballet, but, after pursuing ballet, he barely has contact with his father and he has a hard time supporting himself financially. Going through hard times, his desire for ballet fades away. At this time, Sim Deok Chul appears in front of him.”
Angsty Loneliness Meets Determined Kindness
Chae Rok is so, so prickly, due in part to the difficult hand life has dealt him. He’s unwilling to let very many people in, but he’s the kind of person who inspires incredible loyalty in spite of his prickliness. His love for ballet doesn’t come through his words, but watching him dance is absolutely inspiring. Song Kang is KILLING it.
Telzeytalks: You have to admire Chae Rok. He started ballet late but succeeded because he was an athlete and was already very strong. Grandpa Deok Chul was mesmerized watching him practice, and Teacher Ki thinks he is very gifted and could be a star in another year. Unfortunately, there is a bully in the story, who Chae Rok sometimes backs off from and sometimes stands up to.
Karie the Maknae: It took me precisely one episode to warm up to Chae Rok. He comes off as rude, but as soon as I saw the chinks in his armor, I was in and my heart started breaking for the poor lonely boy. His gift for ballet is incredible, and I started wanting to reach through the screen and convince him not to miss the opportunities in front of him! He has good reasons to, but I still was rooting for him and wanted him to succeed RIGHT NOW.
Sim Deok Chul is the quintessential adorable grandpa. In his role as family patriarch, he fades back and lets others speak for him. But one on one, his care for the people around him absolutely shines. From taking notes on Chae Rok’s likes and dislikes to giving his granddaughter his beloved car, Sim Deok Chul is the grandpa everyone wishes they had.
Telzeytalks: I love Grandpa Deok Chul! He is so sweet and thoughtful. He is not your stereotypical overbearing Kdrama father. His wife seems to be the bossy one; she jumps in and answers for him when people ask him questions. But he is very patient and always tries to talk things out and never yells at anyone.
Karie the Maknae: Grandpa Deok Chul is the SWEETEST. He reminds me a lot of my own grandfather in some ways — he’s attentive and thoughtful and just really wants to help in his own way. I love how much he believes in Chae Rok already.
The Bromance is Strong in This One
Chae Rok doesn’t thaw immediately, but he recognizes Sim Deok Chul’s kindness and efforts to care for him right away. Accepting it takes a bit longer, but as Deok Chul rises to the challenges that Chae Rok sets for him, Chae Rok can’t help but be amazed and maybe just a tiny bit impressed.
Telzeytalks: Watching these two together is the most fun part of the story. When Deok Chul is asked to be Chae Rok’s manager, he pretty much becomes a mother hen. He starts giving Chae Rok wake-up calls in the morning, and it’s so funny to see the reaction. Chae Rok is so annoyed at first, but we notice him starting to change.
Karie the Maknae: My favorite scene was when Deok Chul started copying Chae Rok’s wardrobe. It took me a minute to realize what he was doing, but when he was wearing the same hoodie/shorts/tights combo as Chae Rok, I caught on. And then I laughed out loud with Deok Chul flipped his hood up and huffed just like Chae Rok had moments before. These two and their relationship is going to be SO MUCH FUN.
Team Ballet vs Team “Do Normal Stuff”
Deok Chul’s ballet hobby comes as a shock to his family, who have varying reactions. Some give him the cold shoulder, some try to get him to do old people things like hike the mountain. Even Chae Rok’s mentor initially turns him away. It makes the support that Deok Chul gets from his granddaughter and the friends he makes at the studio all the more sweet.
Telzeytalks: What the what? Why are his family so judgy? His wife is so harsh and the older son is nearly as bad. The daughter-in-law and the younger son look promising though, and the granddaughter is a ray of sunshine. The lines are already being drawn! They better not mess things up for Grandpa!
Karie the Maknae: I’ve mentioned this to other people, but I actually understand the family’s shock when it’s revealed that Deok Chul is studying ballet. It’s jarring to realize that a person you thought you knew inside and out has a huge hobby/interest that you never saw, and it makes you feel like you don’t know them anymore. (It’s me — I’m the one with the new hobby that made my entire family say, “WHAT?” They handled it much better, though.) I can see why his family is pushing him to do what everyone else his age is doing — they just want things to go back to normal.
Do We Recommend?
Telzeytalks: I really do love the young guy and the grandpa together. I am enjoying these characters, and I want to see how they influence each other. Teacher Ki’s sudden realization that he is talking down to a senior is one of my favorite moments. They don’t need a villain in this story, there is enough going on. The thing the might make me drop the show is that bully storyline, but I have hopes they will win him over too.
Karie the Maknae: I’m in. I don’t think the drama is going to break any new ground, but I already love every one of the characters, and I think even the bully might have a shot at redemption. If nothing else, I think the bromance between Chae Rok and Deok Chul will carry the story and my heart the whole way through.
Until the next practice session, we remain —
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi
3 thoughts on “First Impressions and Unfiltered Thoughts: Navillera”
I loved “Angel Last Mission” which also was set in the ballet industry, so I was curious about how a story of a 70 years old man starting ballet could develop. Like Karie the Maknae I couldn’t stop laughing when Deok Chul wore the same exact clothes as Chae Rok. I seriously yelled at Deok Chul’s oldest son and wife who are firmly against him doing ballet for no better reason than ‘it’s weird for a granpa to do it’…so far, I’m liking it and, acting wise, both leads are oh! so believable!
Everyone in my family is watching this one. We love it. As for the family reacting so negatively to the patriarch having personal dreams and desires, beyond the life goals dictated by social norms… Well, that kind of sums it up. He’s asserting individual longings that transcend family. It’s – almost – like a metaphor for coming out.
I love this Korean program. All the actors are very talented. I wish I could shake the director and the writer’s hand.