Our Blues is a 2022 Netflix series that completely and unexpectedly captured my heart.
While I didn’t expect much from the first set of episodes, the drama slowly sucked me in – and enchanted me – with its simplistic style of storytelling featuring a diverse social group of neighbors living in a town on South Korea’s famed Jeju Island.
So, is Our Blues worth watching on Netflix?
The Storyline and Plot
Our Blues is a 20-episode omnibus-style anthology series that focuses on a specific set out of fifteen total characters each episode. All of the characters are residents that live and work around the fictional Seopseop market in Pureung Village on Jeju Island.
(The real-life filming location being primarily Geumneung Beach and Goseong 5-Day Market, both located on the island.)
Young and old, each set of stories slowly weaves an ornate tapestry that by the end of the series, makes you appreciate and feel close to the characters.
The Residents of Pureung Village
We were able to peer into the daily lives of those who live near, and work at the local fish market. In each successive episode, we were introduced to:
Eun Hui (Lee Jung Eun), the wealthiest woman in town is often used as a piggybank.
Although she is quite nosy and involved in every other villager’s story in some way, Eun Hui pretends not to have any business or hardships of her own – until she does. Then, an impenetrable emotional fortress is erected to protect Eun Hui from memories of hardship and betrayal in her past.
Han Su (Cha Seung Won) is the unmarried and childless Eun Hui’s first love.
He comes back to the village, looking to reconnect with Eun Hui and make up for lost time. But when his family overseas calls home to South Korea, Han Su’s motivations become questionable after approaching his wealthy former flame after so much time has passed…
Yeong Ju (Roh Yoon Seo) and Hyun (Bae Hyun Sung) are two high school students who began dating in secret behind their father’s backs.
Set in an almost Romeo and Juliet situation, the two adolescents have to fight for their love and future together after Yeong Ju’s unforeseen pregnancy tears their ideal dream world apart.
Seon A (Shin Min Ah) and Dong Seok (Lee Byung Hun) knew each other in the past, but that is all it ever was.
Catching glimpses of one another years apart, Dong Seok always carried a torch for his former first love. When Seon A shows up on Jeju again, Dong Seok watches her from a distance, as she one day stands on the edge of the peer, contemplating suicide by the violent and choppy waters below.
In Gwon (Park Ji Hwan) and Ho Sik (Choi Young Joon) are the single fathers of the high school lovebirds Hyun and Yeong Ju, respectively.
Thick as thieves and one day vowing to be brothers-in-law, the former gangster and gambler had a falling out so severe, that the former partners in crime do not so much as want their children to look in the other’s direction.
(Which would have worked…had they not decided to live in the same building as one another.)
…Has a decade’s old misunderstanding tainted their relationship to the point of no return?
Young Ok (Han Ji Min) is a pretty woman who mysteriously shows up in Pureung Village one day to work as a Haenyeo.
However, the elderly women who make up the bulk of the female divers do not like her, and for some reason her phone keeps ringing – and Young Ok never has a satisfying answer for the women tasked with guarding her life underwater.
Jeong Jun (Kim Woo Bin) is the helpful and kind boat captain who drives the Haenyeo to harvest, and dotes on the elderly women at the same time.
Falling in love with Young Ok, his faith and morals are tested when he meets the person always calling Young Ok – her older twin sister, Young Hee (Jung Eun Hye).
Mi Ran (Uhm Jung Hwa) is for all intents and purposes, a spoiled brat who grew up rich and used men to get whatever she wanted.
Now estranged from her family who live abroad, Mi Ran returns to Jeju to visit her neglected best friend, Eun Hui.
In an effort to keep up appearances, everyone is overjoyed to see Mi Ran on the surface. But secretly…her “friends” dwell on past memories and misunderstandings of when the heiress (“unknowingly”) wronged them.
Chun Hui (Go Doo Shim) is the leader of the Jeju Haenyeo and also a widower with only one surviving son left.
With hopes and promises to move his family to Jeju and live closer to the elderly mother, her son Man Su ‘s wife instead sends their young daughter Eun Gi (Gi So Yoo) to live with her grandmother for two weeks.
After finding out that her daughter-in-law’s place of work has suddenly changed, and that her granddaughter Eun Gi keeps repeating the same rehearsed lines about her father’s whereabouts, Chun Hee begins to worry that Eun Gi has been abandoned by her parents to live on Jeju Island.
Ok Dong (Kim Hye Ja) was never the kind, demure mother Dong Seok observes his first love Seon A to be with her son, Yeol.
Believing he has been wronged all his life, Dong Seok repeatedly mistreats his mother Ok Dong, much to the protest of the residents.
When the local town crier Eun Hi gets fed up by Ok Dong’s mistreatment, Dong Seok is forced to confront his mother’s terminal illness, and reevaluate memories of his mother’s abandonment of him in favor of becoming a mistress for a wealthy household.
A Mother and Son Relationship Finally Healed?
During the penultimate and final episodes of Our Blues, we ultimately witness closure surrounding the relationship of estranged mother and son, Ok Dong and Dong Seok. The two travel by ferry to the mainland so that Ok Dong can visit her former husband’s sons, and perform a memorial service.
Ok Dong’s close friend Chun Hui tags along as well for the ride, wishing to visit her recovering son Man Su who has quite literally come back from the dead.
After the ill-fated memorial service where Ok Dong finally expresses her true feelings of regret over being a ‘slave’ for the husband and main household wife and neglecting her own child, the pair leave after the confrontation; embarking on a journey of sorts.
On this journey the pair search for Ok Dong’s hometown (which had been demolished in place of a new dam) and explore a town she enjoyed visiting back when Dong Seok’s father was still alive.
All the while, Dong Seok struggles to ask his mother why she abandoned him all those years ago in order to become a mistress to his childhood friend’s father.
Instead of arguing, Dong Seok comes to understand his mother a bit more, learning that she was orphaned at an early age. Coupled with being illiterate well into her senior years (illiteracy and no pension seemingly affecting many elderly Koreans living in poverty to this day) this explains why Ok Dong became a haenyeo after her daughter’s untimely death, despite being afraid of the sea.
What Happens in the Last Episode of Our Blues?
Our Blues ends with Ok Dong and Dong Seok visiting Hallasan to see the reputed beauty of Baengnokdam lake in the wintertime.
With the trail difficult for the elderly woman to hike with a sprained ankle, Dong Seok records a video on his phone for his mother of the lake’s outrebounds, promising the two would visit again in the spring.
Before taking her home, Dong Seok shows his mother the now-renovated home Seon A left in his care. Coming for an unannounced visit, Seon A and her young son Yeol spend time with Dong Seok and his mother, Ok Dong.
After the pleasant interaction, Ok Dong seems at ease at the hint of promise and family in her son’s life. On the way home, Ok Dong asks Dong Seok if he would come over the next day, as she will make his favorite food. He agrees, and Ok Dong the ailing cancer patient is full of energy – feeding her dogs before making a meal for her son.
In the morning, Dong Seok arrives to find his mother has died peacefully in her sleep.
A Satisfying Series Climax and Happy Ending
That scene alone was the most powerful in a sea of emotional storylines that tugged at the very heart of viewers.
During their journey, Dong Seok finally got to know the mother who essentially abandoned him in his mind, but in reality, voluntarily left him in order to provide the only way she knew how.
An illiterate orphan who was widowed, she decided the best way to make sure Dong Seok had a roof over his head and at least one good meal a day was to become mistress to a wealthy family.
Although Ok Dong never apologizes, you can tell through her altercation with the two household sons, and demure attitude when her own blood son was chastising her, that she truly did what she thought was best, despite how “crazy” she admits it was.
Ok Dong’s last act in the world is making her son’s favorite meal, before peacefully passing away. That last act is showing, and not telling Dong Seok that she truly loved him – even if he did need to actually hear that his mother loved him, and didn’t mean to neglect and abandon him.
The final scene of the series sums it up best, with all the (living) characters competing in competition games while smiling and laughing:
“There is one thing we must remember in our lifetime. We weren’t born into this world to suffer or feel miserable. We were born to be happy. We wish everyone happiness!”
Please remember to be happy everyone, even if times sometimes seem dark! ☺
Did you enjoy the character portrayals in this star-studded cast?
Which set of stories was your favorite?
(My favorite story set was Yeong Ok, Jeong Jun, and Young Hee, while my least favorite was Mi Ran and Eun Hui. I also quite enjoyed Yeong Ju and Hyun’s storyline, and Ok Dong and Dong Seok’s – but my dislike for the latter kept it from being my number one in this anthology series, despite it being the most emotional for me personally.)
Would you now like to visit Jeju Island in South Korea?
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☆ In Asian Spaces