Tuesday, December 9, 2014

First Take: Valid Love

A frustrated drama fan might wish for polyandry for their leads when it seems like one is just not enough. Okay, so maybe that's just me. But that wish is coming true, sort of, in the form of tvN's Valid Love. A married woman comes to find herself falling in love with a young construction worker, and her husband makes it his mission to prove to her that her love for this man is invalid. What could have been an excruciating melo may in fact become an exploration of human desire and love.

Jang Hee-tae (Uhm Tae-woong) met his future wife Kim Illy (Lee Si-young) on an unexpected day: the day he decided to get circumcised Later on, he finds out that he will become the substitute biology teacher to the odd Illy, who now holds his embarrassing secret. She uses that information to become close to him. After seven years of separation, where he studies abroad, Hee-tae unexpectedly meets Illy once more as he comes home from the tailor's and she is dangling a few meters off the ground doing what she wanted to do: become a painter. This meeting resparks their love and they become husband and wife. Some years later, Illy meets a hot, young construction worker (Lee Soo-hyuk) who she can't keep her eyes away from.

Truth be told I didn't know what was going on, really. Mostly because I didn't read or watch any trailers or synopsis. This is most definitely a blind watch. But I think that's good, because apparently the trailers and pictures give a vibe of heavy melos which I'm in no mood for. The setting of the story is quite dark, with themes of infidelity being heavily highlighted. But perhaps because of the characters, the story has yet to fall into that hole. I'm sure it'll get darker the deeper we get into the story. But since the first two episodes were spent within the first 7 years of their relationship, where Illy is the odd UFO-seeking high schooler and Hee-tae is the bumbling dork scientist/teacher, the story really can't get that dark. I hope it stays that way in the future, even if in a smaller degree.

From the comments I've read online, though, I think people are a bit wary of the subject matter. I mean, there really are a few red flags in this drama. First off, a drama depicting love between a teacher and a high school student. The large age gap may be off putting to some people, I think I've even seen the word "disgusting" to describe it. Secondly, the themes of infidelity. TVs and movies love to romanticize affairs, making them into something a lot more beautiful than it actually is. And last, polyandry or two-timing. Illy will be in fact a character who will be a two-timer, and possibly an openly two-timer (at least with her husband and lover). This concept of multiple lovers isn't something everyone will be willing to accept, so hot button issue right here.

For me, I'm mostly curious how they'll depict those circumstances. So far, the writing has be poignant and sensitive enough that it's not so much of an problem, for me at least. Only two episodes has been aired though, and we've only glossed over the first issue of age which I think now that they're both fully adults has become a non-issue (my guess is that their age difference is between 5-8 years which is still in the normal range, and the two got married when Illy is well into her 20s). They have yet to face the last two issues which will be the majority of this drama, but here's to hoping they'll discuss it with grace and honesty.

Sensitive topic aside, this is one well made drama. Helming the production is Han Ji-seung as a first time drama director, with previous experience exclusive in cinema including Papa (2012) and Venus and Mars (2007). The star of the drama though is Kim Do-woo who penned K-drama classic My Name is Kim Sam-soon (2005) which surprisingly I haven't watched (I know that's like K-drama sacrilege, but there are so many dramas).

And the acting front isn't weak either. I've come to love Lee Si-young who's amazing at portraying quirky yet sensitive characters, like her Bona in How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (2013). Uhm tae-woong is known for portraying the slick guy, earning him the nickname Uhm-force, but Hee-tae is closer to his foolish variety persona. Lee Soo-hyuk seems great too, but I haven't seen him since 2012 in White Christmas and Tree with Deep Roots. Other supporting actors include Choi Yeo-jin as Hee-tae's cool younger sister, playing basically a role she's done before but is perfect for her, and Park Sung-min as Hee-tae's slacker younger brother, yet again taking on a comedic role after You're All Surrounded.

One problem that I can see as a potential downfall is Illy the character. To say she is quirky is only scratching the surface. My theory on why she needs to basically be crazy and living in her own planet is because we need a character whose point of view is so different that infidelity is a normality within her moral boundaries. A regular Korean individual would think an open relationship means adultry, but someone like Illy might think otherwise. It's the best move for this type of story, but there's a possibility of it becoming annoying. So far, while she is really weird in all degrees, Illy has been nothing but sweet and well-intentioned. My hope is perhaps her character will be able to give her own justified reasons to all this madness.

With only the foundation of Hee-tae and Illy's relationship set, there could be so much the story can explore. I mean, we don't even know who this hot young construction worker is. We're getting there. But if Kim Do-woo is what I've heard from others, then the characters will be given much thought and complexities with a storyline that's sensible and considerate. It's quite different to all the romcoms I've been consuming this past year, so here's hoping for a good start on the crazy that is 2015.


  1. Enjoyed finding your blog. I have to admit I am one of those people that was put off by the teacher/student aspect but will continue to see how they handle the topic of the affair.

    1. Welcome, welcome! I guess it can be quite off putting, but oddly enough for me it's okay since much of the heavy romance work is done when they're both legal anyways. I personally know of many real stories of students (mostly girls) hitting on the hot, single male teacher, almost similar to how Illy is to Hee-tae. It's not normal, but it's not new.