I’ve been watching and consuming a lot of dark media, as of late. I don’t know what it is, but summer brings out the urge within to explore the creepy, or debased denizens of society.
Or maybe, it’s just late August’s proximity to my favorite time of the year (fall) or my favorite holiday (Halloween).
In any case, I struggle with a mental balance of tonality on this website. I enjoy darker, grittier stories along with psychological thrillers – but those stories can burn one out very quickly. Not to mention, too much discussion of those unfavorable topics back to back would attract the wrong crowd for a website with a mascot so cute. ☺
So, while I am still hard at work delving deeper into the…unsettling stuff I have planned to explore soon, I thought today I’d talk about love.
I didn’t mean to watch this drama. Rather, I put it on for my mom to watch one late night.I had decidedly tuned out most of the episode, alternating between surging forums on my phone and dozing off to sleep. Towards the end of the first episode, I bolted up and noticed my mother had also fallen asleep.
After biding her goodnight, I left the kdrama on. During the summertime, I sleep downstairs on the living room sofa in an effort to conserve electricity. Well, that, and I am tired of my aging windowless ACs; opting to purchase a new window unit this summer instead of two separate ones I would have to wrestle with. I view it as less work for myself in the long run.
I let the romance drama play for two more episodes. I periodically opened my eyes and saw this reoccurring shot of an extended glass exterior of a three-story apartment building. Sensor lights tracking individual’s movement throughout. I lay there half asleep, admiring the cinematography of she shot before deciding to call it a night. I turned my play station off. Letting the darkness envelop me, I drift off back to sleep for the night.
A few days later, I crack Netflix open once more.
I scroll away from the series, deciding to try out what I had originally planned on watching, “My First First Love”. I pause before starting it, not wanting to watch something I considered a happy-go lucky clone of Age of Youth (Hello, My Twenties!) based on the previews I’d seen.
I flipped forward through my list and lingered over “Something in the Rain”, again staring at the drama before deciding to give One Spring Night another shot. A proper shot, despite breaking my rule of not jumping into shows half-assed. Usually, I would begin the entire series over if I missed a certain part or key plot point. Since the show was off to a slow start, I decided it would be fine this once.
(I later found out Something in the Rain and One Spring Night have the same writer and director, in addition to actor Jung Hae-in playing the male lead in both productions.)
As the moon rose overhead and shown delicately through the blinds, I sat there and became engrossed in the kdrama’s story. By episode five, I was hooked.
And so, it became my nightly ritual. After 10 pm when I finally had the TV and living room to myself, I would watch One Spring Night – half intrigued, half crestfallen by its story.
Let me explain…
One Spring Night [봄밤, Bombam ] is a 2019 Korean drama streaming on Netflix. It follows Librarian Lee Jung-in and Pharmacist Yu Ji-ho who meet one winter night and unbeknownst to the pair, fall in love.
Now I’ll be honest – I did not expect for this series to get me like it did. Aside from enjoying the writing because I found similarities to my own and others I greatly admire (Shinkai Makoto, Watanabe Shinichiro), I saw a lot of myself in the female lead, Jung-in.
It is one thing to completely empathize with a character, but it is another to have actually lived through parallel experiences and be able to predict and understand her motives on a psychological level. Not to get too personal, but like Jung-in, I was in a relationship I had fallen out of love with. For convenience, I stayed with the person and idly went about a monotonous daily life.
In kinship with Jung-in, there were also talks of marriage and my ignored gentle protests. I just coasted after the inevitable difficult breakup, and one (real) spring night in march, I met someone I felt I had known my entire life. Although it was meant to just be a rebound, although I kept telling myself not to get serious, although I had to constantly subdue the lightning strikes within my heart – it still happened.
I am a firm believer that despite trying your best to – you cannot control your feelings. Energy cannot be contained. Rather, it changes form. If you try to suppress your feelings of love, that energy will be channeled into frustration. If you try to suppress that frustration, it will morph into sadness and then the sadness would bring on a sense of loneliness.
Loneliness, wishing to end its feelings of despair, would seek what made it happy, what was fulfilling – which would be that person.
And so, the cycle would continue.
Add in the electricity of the cold, crisp night air with that isolated feeling that this world was yours and yours alone as you both strolling along an empty street at 1 am… and it is a recipe for disaster.
But this is what encapsulated most of Lee Jung-in and Yu Ji-ho’s clandestine meetings. Raw, guttural displays of affection, reluctance, and regret. The tension of unspoken words hang in the air. The uncomfortable feeling when the camera lingers on a character just long enough for it to cause a physical reaction within yourself.
Or, is it those moments where the character is left alone with their thoughts? And you, the viewer, feel as if you are sitting there along with them, wondering how they should proceed. You are trying to help them find the right words to say through the screen. Begging them to understand where the other person is coming from, despite not knowing all the pieces to the puzzle yourself.
One Spring Night explores one’s choice, and how exactly their actions affect another person. Surprisingly, the cast is primarily made up of bold, strong women who know when to fight and when to be gentle in their own ways. Women who don’t want to settle for less, and are not just blindly going along with what the people in their lives had planned for them. Rather, they are finding their own will, and pursuing it until the very end.
That is not to say the male characters are weak, rather they benefit from their male-dominated societal norms until they are shaken up. Until they have had enough and have a reason to go against the grain.
A great example of this is Jung-in’s ex-boyfriend Kwon Ki-seok and her father, Lee Tae-hak. Initially, the two conspire to marry the couple despite Jung-in’s feelings, deciding the grown woman doesn’t know what’s best for her life. It doesn’t help the situation that Ki-seok’s father and Tae-hak’s boss, Kwon Young-kook, keeps dangling a retirement position over Tae-hak’s head as a reward for their offspring’s marriage.
For the majority of the series, Tae-hak is quite literally trying to sell his daughter off for a better position in life, despite repeated requests to stop from his wife, his eldest daughter, and Jung-in herself…
It takes Kwon Young-kook’s realization that they no longer live in the days where “you could force her” into a marriage for the parental pressure to cool off. During the degradation of the marriage talks and Jung-in’s repeated attempts to break up with Ki-seok, he completely loses his mind.
Cognitively dissociating the break up, Ki-seok begins to drink heavily and obsessively stalk his ex-girlfriend Jung-in. Ki-seok does every horrible thing imaginable to try and manipulate the situation back in his favor. It got so bad that every time his weasel face appeared I internally shouted “she doesn’t want you anymore man, move on!” at the screen.
As Jung-in’s (slightly annoying at times) friends pointed out, her ex was less jealous that she no longer loved him, but more so that she was “his” property. Ki-seok, the wealthy and good-looking banker, had lost to someone he felt was beneath him.
I say Jung-in’s friends are slightly annoying because they repeatedly give her awful and judgmental advice. Looking back however, it is realistic advice from the outside looking in. Living in a socially conscious and heavily conservative country, why on earth would her friends support the breakup of a “long term” relationship in favor of a stranger Jung-in had just met? Let alone factoring in Yu Ji-ho’s… “situation”.
One Spring Night established that the characters were all connected through being university alumni, co-workers, or members of the same sports clubs. This led to the relationships in the series ebbing and flowing in an organic, authentic manner. The characters were fleshed out enough that you understood they had their own lives, aspirations, and motives.
The supporting cast was a part of the story, and not there just to deliver exposition or context for the main leads. So it never felt out of place when one person showed up or appeared in the same neighborhood of another.
My only wish is that we got more insight into Jung-in’s sisters, Seo-in and Jae-in. Or Ji-ho’s friends, Choi Hyeon-soo and Park Young-jae. although the occasional off-handed comment or visual contextual clue left enough for imagination and ascertainment on what they were up to.
This is different from my usual kdrama reviews, but if anything I wrote resonated with you – please watch One Spring Night. It is special, and one of the most romantic shows I’ve watched in a long time. The series shows two people with a natural, unexplainable affinity toward one another and a slow burn that will stay with you for a long time. (A slow burn that might even be able to hold a candle to Clarke and Bellamy from The 100.)
In the end, I wasn’t as brave as Lee Jung-in concerning my own life. Although she knew she might one day regret it, Jung-in pursued her heart’s whimsical desires anyway. I stopped, not wanting to feel that same expressed lingering regret years later despite having an equally willing partner like Ji-ho.
The two fought for their love, and it was absolutely inspiring. It gives me hope that somewhere out there in this huge, wild world, people are choosing happiness despite overbearing external factors. Hope that fate won’t eternally torment them with cruel dreams at night that feel like glimpses of an alternate future. An alternate timeline. A wedding here. A family outing there. A child who somehow looks and feels familiar despite never meeting. Or the dreams. Dreams you write off until a friend casually mentions they had a similar dream to the hallucination you wrote off earlier as your mind playing tricks on you.
Scary conversations, where they recall the exact details of your hallucinations in a chipper voice, finding it amusing that you appeared in their dreams. All the while the pit in your stomach reemerges into a black hole, the transformation of energy that was once love trying to be stifled by loneliness, regret and deep longing.
If you ever love someone, and they love you back, be like Lee Jung-in and Yu Ji-ho. See where the seasons take you, and what can be learned from that fateful meeting one spring night…
Did you enjoy the ending of One Spring Night? Do you think Jung-in’s sisters Seo-in and Jae-in should have gotten more screen time? How do you really feel about Ki-seok going off the rails after his breakup with Jung-in?
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