Mournful is the word that encapsulates the overall feel of this drama. When two people share a tragedy, what connects them is their quest for peace. Lee Gang Doo and Ha Moon Soo are both survivors of an accident in which they lost their loved ones and are still suffering because of it. ‘Just Between Lovers’ is about pain and a lot of it. It is about suffering and a lot of it. It is about getting over and still trying to get to it. This emotional drama may or may not move you but it will surely have you thinking about it even long after it has concluded.
Just Between Lovers (Rain or Shine) (2017-18) (16 Episodes)
Image Courtesy: JTBC
Ten years ago, a shopping mall collapse killed 49 people and severely injured the others. Gang Doo (Lee Jun Ho) lost his father in that accident and was left with a serious leg injury that crushed his dreams of playing professional football someday. One day, Gang Doo learns about a new construction project being developed at the same place where the mall once stood. He gets a job at the construction site where he has to work with Moon Soo (Won Jin Ah) who is also a survivor of the accident. Moon Soo lost her younger sister in that tragedy and was with Gang Doo while under the debris. Though she does not like Gang Doo at first, she slowly starts to fall for him. He too likes her but cannot reciprocate her feelings as something forces him to stay away from her. Together they have to ensure that the new project does not end up like the poorly built shopping mall in which they lost a lot.
Let’s weigh Just Between Lovers on our drama beam balance and see if this melodrama is worth your tears or no.
I enjoyed watching Just Between Lovers because…
…I like watching poignant dramas. I am not an emotional viewer. I do not put on sad dramas and sit and cry my heart out. No. I don’t do that. But I like dramas where there is a lot going on within the character even though on the outside the person may look completely fine. Just Between Lovers deals with characters who have still not overcome a personal tragedy. Each of them is battling some pain. Each of them is dealing with something they fear facing at all. And still, life goes on. I like characters with depth. Even the supposed villain of this drama has a back-story that will make you sympathise with him. Every character has his share of pain in life and each character has a purpose in the story. No one here is just for fillers.
…it beautifully depicted blood relations and family bond. Even after ten years of her sister’s death Moon Soo still blames herself for it. She suffers from the survivor’s guilt which worsens when she comes to know what truly connects her to Gang Doo. She knows how her sister’s untimely demise broke her family but she tries her best to maintain her parent’s relationship.
Similarly, Gang Doo lost his father and subsequently, his mother after the accident and his relationship with his sister was left strained. But he still feels responsible for her and does his best to help her. Despite the trauma and suffering these characters continue to struggle to maintain their family relation which shows how important their family is to them. It is sad but true that one unfortunate incident can completely shake the foundation of a family and change people forever.
…it shows how different people deal with trauma differently. Moon Soo and Gang Doo are both victims of a building collapse. Though both are still fighting to get over the haunting memories Moon Soo has still managed to cope a lot better than Gang Doo who seems to live life just because he has to and not because he wants to. Of course, as we get deeper into the drama we understand that Gang Doo’s case is much different than Moon Soo’s. Gang Doo’s experience is a lot more harrowing than Moon Soo’s so that kind of explains his difficult nature.
…the soulful music suits the overall melancholic theme of the drama. The OST of this drama is just magnificent. The music is soothing like a balm.
My favourite song from this drama ‘Where We’ by Ryu Ji Hyun and Kim Kyung Hee still gives me goosebumps each time I hear it. This song played during the mellowest and gloomiest of scenes brought so much feel to it. It enhanced every scene a manifold.
And then there is ‘Opening My Eyes’ by Zitten played during the most angst-ridden scenes. It adds so much more pain to a scene.
A soft romantic number like ‘Just Missing You’ by Ra.D is how you remember Gang Doo and Moon Soo’s love story.
And not to forget Gang Doo crying for his love in ‘True Love’ by Junho.
…amidst the pitiful life stories we have Gang Doo and Moon Soo’s love blossoming that motivates you to keep coming back to the drama. Gang Doo has his complexes that drives him away from Moon Soo, but she (like a typical drama heroine) sees something in him that no one else does and does not back out even when he shoves her. Their love develops slowly but it strengthens with each challenge they overcome together.
…I liked Jun Ho and Won Jin Ah’s acting. When I saw the Korean movie ‘Twenty’ starring actor Jun Ho I wasn’t really convinced that an idol singer like him could act well. However, this drama changed my opinion about him. Gang Doo is a brooding character that always lives in the past. Gang Doo is frustrated, angry, lonely, scared and even suppressed. Showing so many emotions can be quite challenging but Jun Ho portrayed Gang Doo to perfection. He seldom smiles in the drama but even when he isn’t you can clearly see the happiness on his face when his love Moon Soo is around him.
Moon Soo too is a complicated character who may seem poised and always in control but she too has her breaking points and actress Won Jin Ah brings that across effortlessly. Actress Jin Ah got totally into the skin of the character and was so natural that throughout the drama I kept wondering why I haven’t seen her in any other drama. I later came to know that she had to struggle a lot before getting her big break. No wonder her hands look like that of someone who has done some kind of manual work unlike the shapely and delicate fingers we usually see of actresses. I sometimes feel like as if the character was written keeping her in mind. With hardly any make-up and simple yet chic clothes, Jin Ah looks breathtakingly gorgeous. I am in complete awe of this wonderful actress.
I did NOT LIKE Just Between Lovers because…
…it is painfully slow. This is not a complaint. Also, I am a Japanese dorama watcher so I am accustomed to watching slow dramas but if you can’t bear scenes where people are just going about their regular lives then this drama will wear you out. Considering the plot of the drama the slow-pace is justified as characters are still in mourning and the slow pace of the drama fits the sluggish pace at which their lives have been moving since the accident. There is a lot of politics involved in the story and if those scenes don’t interest you then you can jump through them. But do not miss the backstories of the main characters in the drama. It tells a lot about them and their relationships with each other. It is just the business politics part that brings the drama down slightly.
…the drama is depressing. For some reason, everyone connected to the accident just cannot move on in life. It gets very disturbing when characters recollect what happened that fateful day at the mall and as a viewer, it is not a regular scene to easily look at. The moments of horror under the debris can create a sense of entrapment even for those on the other side of the screen. However, this is the central plot of the drama where you see what happens to survivors of such accidents so it is totally justified to show extremely painful scenes.
…somehow all characters keep ‘co-incidentally’ bumping into each other throughout the drama. For instance, Gang Doo remembers seeing Moon Soo last before the building collapsed. Later, they bump into a buildings’ stairway because they both avoid enclosed spaces like the elevator. The same day, Moon Soo saves him when she finds him lying badly injured and bleeding in an alley. A few days later, they meet at a bus-stop. A few more days later, Moon Soo happens to help Gang Doo’s grandmother (not biologically related) who then helps the two lovers to come together. These ‘co-incidences’ make South Korea feel like a really small place. However, I happily concede to it as ‘co-incidence’ is an integral driving factor of dramaland.
I give Just Between Lovers 3.5 out of 5 rating. Go for this drama only if you are good with handling pain and grief. This drama is slow and distressing but it offers a tremendous amount of hope and positivity. Romance lovers, Gang Doo and Moon Soo’s love story is enough for you to give this drama a try.
All Screenshots Courtesy: JTBC
You can watch this drama here.