What`s meant to be will always find a way!

Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift
Dante Alighieri, Inferno

Title
Fated to Love You (2014)
Also known as
 Unmyeongcheoreom Neol Saranghae
Genre
 Comedy, Drama, Melodrama, Romance, Tragedy
Written by
   Joo Chan-ok  & Jo Jin-kook 
Directed by
 Lee Dong-yoon   &   Kim Hee-won
Country of Origin
 South Korea
Episodes
20 

oh! … brief

A young woman, Kim My Young, nicknamed “Post-It” by her work colleagues because she cannot say, “No!” to their requests, crosses paths for the first time with the successor to a large family enterprise, Lee Gun.

Later, when their paths cross again (thanks in no part to a comedy of errors including a love potion), their lives are forever changed. The two are subjected to meddling interference of rascals and end up doing the ‘dirty’ while under the spell of the potion much to their despair the following morning. Craziness ensues and after investigation, the two go their separate ways.

A month or two later, Kim My Young finds out she is pregnant. At a loss to what to do, she visits a church to find help and ‘confess’. The man she believes is a priest, Daniel Pitt, gives her some advice. When broaching the subject with her family, the truth is revealed and once again her path crosses with Lee Gun.

This time, however, the two deal with their realities and responsibilities. What follows is both a beautiful love story, but also a harrowing period in their lives.

oh! … talks drama

I’ve not watched the 2008 Taiwanese drama of the same name, but, I was completely engaged and entertained by South Korea’s take on this story of two implausible and hapless individuals being fated to be together. In the romance and/or romcom genre, this is now my favourite drama of all times. It’s no surprise though! Really!

Writers Moo Chan-ok and Jo Jin-kook had a solid base to work from with the script of the Taiwanese version as source material. I heard the ‘original’ was good, but this version is fantastic!

The storyline is somewhat fantastical – I mean in the real world it’s highly improbable for a temporary office worker to accidentally have a one night stand with the CEO of a company and be pregnant and subsequently marry him. Not in today’s modern age. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen but under the same conditions as laid out in the script, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “Hell no, this doesn’t happen!’, but it is likely what makes it so appealing.

I enjoyed the humour included in the script, even though it comes off mostly as over the top and excessive, borderline slapstick silly, but its hilarious! All those funny one liners, wit and charm delivered by larger-than-life characters – stupendous!

Character development is consistent throughout, and the leads all have a strong back story that motivates or justifies their behaviours, emotions and idiosyncrasies.

Wacky character, CEO Lee Gun is in fact a man of deep inner quality that is not visible on the surface, but sometimes the insight and intelligence that is shared with the delivery of ‘advice’ to those around him, gives pause for thought. And not just surface thought, but introspection, whether as an audience member or a character. The character lives behind a mask of comedy. People do that, they use humour as a diversionary tactic, but, also as a coping mechanism. I think that the writers used this tactic for this character to balance what could have been a seriously melodramatic production, so I’m glad that the humour and wit, even the borderline crazy tactic was used. It’s very cleverly accomplished by the writers and shows their intelligence. I loved it!

The character Mi Young, in contrast, is a super sweet, spirited but seriously naïve young woman. I understand the idea behind creating this female character to initially be the ‘push-over’ and someone ‘weak-willed’ because it allowed for significant character development and an opportunity to bring in heightened levels of angst. However, the character in my mind never reaches full maturity as she remains naïve even towards the very end.

Sister-searching character Daniel Pitt is perhaps the strongest character of the three leads. He has a strong sense of self-identity, worth, and confidence and is the most mature throughout. His character doesn’t necessarily ‘grow’ during the series, he remains stable, but, he learns some tough lessons along the way.

While the writers included many typical kdrama clichés into the script, the comedy balances it well, better than most other dramas that descend into melodramatic hell. The writers chose better ways of presenting the clichés, creative and lighter than other kdramas in the same genre. And the writers also chose to make their characters endearing. The kdrama itself is set above all others because of the heart and soul of the story and the characters. The characters are not stereotypical – they each have very real anxieties and fears, they have errors in judgment and make mistakes, they show real affection towards the people in their lives, even the people they don’t like, and they acknowledge their own motivations and drivers that push them to act or act out. They’re as human as you can possibly find and that could be key reason why viewers engaged and identified with this production.

Speaking of authenticity and the characters, the writers created a compelling couple and love-triangle. Lee Gun and Kim Mi Young share great moments of angst, anxiety, tenderness, and kind advice. Kim Mi Young and Daniel Pitt share friendship, camaraderie, advice and support for each other. And. Lee Gun and Daniel Pitt share a competitive feud and push each other’s buttons in a way that forces each to constantly be on high alert. It’s truly mesmerizing to watch it all play out.

The writing and storyline were very down-to earth, warm, honest and handled in a mature way, something quite refreshing even in South Korea’s drama industry.

I loved the way in which the relationship developed backwards for Lee Gun and Mi Young. Two almost strangers are brought together by a pregnancy, a result of a one-night stand that neither can even remember, but obviously happened. It’s a serious situation to find yourself in for any person. I think it was a wise approach to have the man step up and take responsibility, I’d have been disappointed if the script had gone the opposite direction and turned Lee Gun into a flake.

If I had a criticism for this production it would be the inclusion of the character Se Ra in a relationship with Lee Gun. There was absolutely no need whatsoever to have included this character in a relationship with the male lead. She could have existed only in the lifeline or backstory to Daniel Pitt.

Kdrama’s don’t always need an ‘ex’ partner, whether male or female, in order to carry a story or deliver a strong production. This time round I found this character devalued the story and was burdensome overall, but I do understand that for writers it is hard to break out of the mould the industry and audiences seemingly dictate.

The two directors for this production, Lee Dong-yoon and Kim Hee-won did an amazing job! This production is fantastic and it is in part due to the efforts of this duo.

Aesthetically speaking this production is beautiful on the eyes, from the characters themselves, through their wardrobe, to locations for shooting and the stunning array of colour palettes used to heighten the feast for the eyes.

Camerawork for many scenes was exceptional. None of that point-and-shoot BS you sometimes come across in kdramaland. Of course there was a lot of use of contemporary scene coverage, like wide or medium shots, wide angled, close-up etc., but for this production the cinematographers used a lot of ‘moving camera’ technologies to capture some amazing scenes, I’m thinking of the chase of the ‘ring’ in the busy shopping mall by characters Lee Gun and Kim Mi Young – it was brilliantly executed and exhilarating to watch! Another such scene, captured by moving camera, was when Lee Gun makes the decision to stop Kim Mi Young from going through with the abortion and leaps and bounds over and under obstacles – quite brilliant, but Jang Hyuk is an exceptionally talented and fit actor that these scenes seem flawless and natural to his style. The other great example is the ‘running’ competition between Lee Gun and Daniel Pitt – I got a great kick out of this scene footage, I think I played it back two or three times because it was so much fun and looked somewhat personal between Jang Huyk and Choi Jin Jyuk – like they had their own kind of sparring going on. Go watch these scenes, you’ll see what I mean. Lee Dong-yoon and Kim Hee-won also favoured amazing extreme close-ups in very intimate moments. The nuances of the camerawork for this production give me insight not only into the mastery of the directors, but also the cameramen who work hard to put to visual the articulation, or voice if you like of the director e.g. Altman zoom, Varda tracking, Tarkovsky slow pan or even the Spielberg combo-push-tilt-up. They succeeded here more than once, but this is in part because of the skill and flexibility of the actors involved i.e. Jang Hyuk and Choi Jin Jyuk.

Another thing these two directors did which I was enthralled by was the text exchanges that took place between Lee Gun and Kim Mi Young in the second half of the series – it started out as messaging using the phone but turned into conversations with one or the other suddenly appearing in the same room, sometimes in close proximity. It’s not necessarily the cinematography that was excellent – it’s the innovation – trying something new. I loved it!

Basically, Dong-yoon and Kim Hee-won took the solid script and envisioned the bigger picture and visualized the outcomes. They prepared and planned in exquisite, even minute detail, how to capture each scene. The success and popularity of the productions speak volumes to their abilities and wizardry. I hope these two will work together again on other projects because they obviously work well together.

I alluded to the wardrobe for this production and truly the outfits all round were well-chosen and brought together to mimic the character`s role, status and standing in society, as well as give an impression to some of their idiosyncrasies. Se Ra for instance, ballet dancer so we see her in tutus and tights, but her out of ballet clothing was very interesting, sort of laidback and unexpected. The show-stopper or fashion stealers are absolutely the two male leads. Lee Gun’s blue suits (mostly) were dashing and really suited his figure. His hairstyle was fabulous – I loved the craziness of it – sweeping down and jutting out at all angles- Just brilliant! And the character primped and preened and was over the top flamboyant, it was simply divine! Daniel Pitt’s wardrobe was also amazing – loved all the colours of his suits – reminded me of an elegant flamingo!

The accompanying soundtrack featured songs by Baek A-yeon (Morning of Canon), Jeff Bernat (Be the one), Megan Lee (Ready for Love), Chung Dong-ha (Boohwal) (Destiny Sonata), Ken (VIXX) (My Girl, Goodbye My Love), Ailee (Goodbye My Love), Melody Day (You Are My Everything), and numerous tracks by Oh Joon-sung. I really enjoy listening to the soundtrack, I have it downloaded on my Spotify account and below for your listening pleasure.

The cast for this production includes a number of my personal favourites and are well-established actors and actresses with significant successes in their individual careers.

The character Kang Se-ra, absent fiancée who strung Lee Gun along for 6 years as she focused on her career as a ballerina, is a no-nonsense kind of woman and at the core rather nasty in a reactive way to the story as it unfolds. This character was played by Wang Ji-won and I found her performance a mix between nailing it and coming off flat, maybe because I didn’t completely find her necessary to the overall story. The character is whiny and spoilt and Wang Ji-won managed to pull that aspect off. I did enjoy how Wang Ji-won’s chin trembled every time she started to cry which made me believe the sentiments were accurate behind her performance. If Wang Ji-won had been a leading role I would have given this performance thumbs down, she just wasn’t strong enough and didn’t give everything she had like the others did. She should stick with ballet!

The character Daniel Pitt, a designer with a unique flair and the kindest heart was played the amazing Choi Jin-hyuk. I love this guy! His acting is incredible and he was exceptionally well-cast as a strong second male lead, contrasting so well with Jang Huyk! Choi Jin-hyuk owned Daniel Pitt, delivered the raw emotions and concern through keen emoting using both his facial expression and body language. He didn’t need to have ‘lines’ to run, you could see every emotion – concern, frustration, affection, and love just by looking at him. His performance was strong and mesmerizing to watch! Everybody needs a ‘neighbourhood oppa’ like this – a man to come along and offer sound advice, be a shoulder to cry on, someone you can share burdens with. Daniel Pitt, as a character, was so well-written – a lot of thought and effort was put into the role this character played in the overall story. It was beautifully executed by both script writers and actor! Choi Jin-hyuk is a new favourite for me!

The chemistry shared by the characters Choi Jin-hyuk and Jang Hyuk play never comes close to bromance, instead, it’s tense and strained. The characters have mutual respect for each other but their dislike of each other was tangible. Credit must be paid to both actors for nailing the shared chemistry and animosity. It was fun to watch the two as if in an animalistic ritual of dominance.

The chemistry shared by the characters played by Choi Jin-hyuk and Jang Na-ra was tender and caring. More platonic than romantic, the chemistry comes from a place of genuine concern and affection rather than attraction. The strong friendship that develops is and could be a solid foundation to build a romantic relationship off of, but, for that to happen there has to be mutual attraction, affection, and love and in this case, it’s a little more one-sided. But in situations like this, people can come to love each other deeply the desire just needs to be there.

Character Kim Mi-young (later Ellie Kim) was played by the award-winning Jang Na-ra. What a phenomenal performance!!!!!!!! I don’t have the words to adequately express the feelings I travelled through with Jang Na-ra’s performance. For the first time ever, a female actress from South Korea has left me speechless J I lived Kim Mi-young’s experiences with her as she weaved her way through all the good and bad moments of this story. I never once felt like I was watching an actress perform, I was living this unfolding life vicariously through Jang Na-ra’s fantastic interpretation and delivery. When Kim Mi Young smiled, I smiled. When she laughed I laughed with her. When Kim Mi Young protected her love, I stood strong with her. When Kim Mi Young hurt from being taken advantage of, I hurt with her. When Kim Mi Young cried in pain and confusion, I cried with her. When Kim Mi Young became embittered and closed off her heart, I understood her reactions. When Kim Mi Young considered Daniel Pitt, I considered the potential too. When Kim Mi Young understood that her love was being a noble idiot to protect her, I felt her anxiety and hope and rooted for her. As you can see Jang Na-ra had me completely hooked with every single aspect of her performance.

This role for Jang Na-ra in a kdrama series was and may be the best she will ever do in her career. I don’t think she can beat this. She wasn’t Jang Na-ra acting, Jang Na-ra was Kim Mi Young! She always had the perfect expression for every emotion. She held her body exactly how she should have – from bowed over respectful or accommodating to standing tall and strong. Jang Na-ra took out Kim Mi Young’s heart and displayed it for the audience to experience. Stellar interpretation, stellar acting, stellar delivery!

This brings me to my absolute, forever and for always favourite actor Jang Huyk!

Eccentric character Lee Gun who on the surface uses a mask of prickly, selfish, and somewhat arrogance to ‘hide’ his genuine kind-heartedness and kind loving spirit was played by the amazing, talented and acting master Jang Huyk. Yes, I love him that much! There can be no disputing the fact that Jang Hyuk can act in any role he plays. He has this incredible ability to crawl into the skin of the character and breathe life into each of them. In this role, he inhabited Lee Gun, became Lee Gun, moved and breathed and lived Lee Gun. I was hypnotized! I was held captive by every wacky cackle, every mind-blowing smile, and every crazy thought. There is no doubt in my mind that the director would not and could not have found a better actor for Lee Gun. The role was pretty much written for him even if the writers had no idea that this is what they were doing. Jang Huyk nailed every emotion and yes, playing more to the comical aspects of this romcom he brought so much laughter and humour and excessiveness to his depiction and interpretation, but it was never cheesy or ‘off’. It was exactly as it should have been.

Much like Jang Na-ra’s performance when Lee Gun laughed, I laughed, even cackled with him. When Lee Gun smiled I smiled. When Lee Gun was in deep thought, I was in deep thought. When Lee Gun was confused and struggling with his emotions and angst, I struggled along with him. I felt everything. With Lee Gun’s doubt turning to attraction and affection, I turned with him. When Lee Gun fell in love with Kim Mi Young, I fell in love with her too! When Lee Gun was tender and gentle and loving and kind, had I been standing my knees would have buckled, the emotions were that strong! WOW!!!!! Jang Huyk is hands down the most brilliant of South Korea’s male actors, if not the best actor entirely across both genders. I absolutely love him and I relish every single role he undertakes. I have never, not even once, watched anything he has failed in. Acting is just natural to him, like a second skin.

Many women viewers get hot under the collar because of his stunning good looks, his unbelievable physique, and yes he is all that too, but in focusing on the ‘hot’ or sexual attraction they feel towards him they overlook what a phenomenal actor he is. Yes, I love the sex appeal he brings with him, but I no longer see those aspects, I am simply captivated by his performances and the roles he chooses. His performances as overwhelming and stunning and mastered!

oh! … sidekicks

So many brilliant performances in this production, I must add some high-level reviews of ones that left a lasting impression with me.

First off, President Park, owner of the soap factory on Yeowol Island was played by one of my favoured supporting actors, Jung Eun-pyo. He gives another hilariously comical performance as only someone like him can, a person who has his comedy shtick finely tuned. I relish every one of his funny performances. As President Park, Jung Eun-pyo is as comical as ever and you rarely see his face, he is hidden behind oversized sunglass most of the time!

The character, Secretary Tak who is the right-hand man to Lee Gun was played by Choi Dae-chul. He was so good in this role and had me cackling with laughter at the slightly over-exaggerated performance – too funny! I particularly guffawed at the whole butt spanking thing which would be seen as completely inappropriate in western societies, but here, in this production, came off well and funny as hell! I thoroughly enjoyed watching Choi Dae-chul’s depiction of ‘partner-in-crime’ with character Lee Yong.

Half-brother/ step-brother / non-brother brother Lee Yong was played by Choi Woo-shik. A young up-and-coming actor who is already making a name for himself in the business, Choi Woo-shik delivered a great performance as the conspiring-in-law for this production. His performance was mostly cute in a comical fashion, but this young man can certainly act!

Kim Mi Young’s mother (unnamed) was played by the talented Song Ok-sook a long-time actress in the South Korean film and drama industry. I adore Song Ok-sook’s interpretation of her character’s protection and fierce support of her daughters, all three of them. It was a charismatic and authentic performance and reminded me of my own mother, so that speaks volumes!

oh! … that’s a wrap

I feel like I keep repeating myself, but I’ll write it once again. When a strong script is developed by writers that know what they’re doing is handed over to directors who know how to take the written words and develop a visual story, then you have the basis for a potentially strong film or drama series. When you then add in stunning wardrobe, locations, colour palettes and a team of professional actors and actresses that deliver phenomenal performances then you’re cooking up a perfect storm.

Fated to Love You accomplishes all this and then some. Fast-paced and a truly moving story, there is no escaping the charm, the humour, the wacky Lee Gun, the demure Kim Mi Young, the protective Daniel Pitt and the angst that comes when life doesn’t proceed smoothly but throws obstacles and issues that must be overcome into the path.

This production was outstanding on all levels, the performances by the actors and actresses were tight, professional and flawless, that alone is worth the time to watch the series. The story will appeal to romcom fans, but also fans of romance and comedy genres, and the melodrama, while it exists to some degree, is never overwhelming or overpowering so that it foreshadows the humour and comical aspects. This was a perfect balance.

I highly recommend Fated to Love You – Jang Hyuk, Jang Na-ra and Choi Jin-hyuk fans will not be disappointed as these three deliver once again!

I have already watched this series a second time during the writing of this review, I like it that much. It, of course, will be added to my collection and in my opinion will become a kdrama classic! I’ve also purchased the accompanying CD soundtrack because the music is just as grand as the production is itself!

oh! … tidbits

The production fast became one of the most popular for the year and was broadcast in selected countries worldwide.

Due to Jang Na-ra’s popularity in China, the online broadcasting rights were sold at US$120,000 per episode making it the most expensive South Korean drama sold in China at the time.

Ailee won the Best OST award for “Goodbye My Love” at the 7th Korea Drama Awards ceremony in 2014.

Ailee won the Best OST award for “Goodbye My Love” at the 3rd APAN Star Awards ceremony in 2014.

Actor Jang Hyuk and actress Jang Na-ra each won Top Excellence Award for Actor or Actress in a Miniseries at the MBC Drama Awards ceremony in 2014.

Actress Jang Na-ra won the Popularity Award, Actress at the MBC Drama Awards ceremony in 2014 for her role as Kim Mi Young.

Together Jang Huyk and Jang Na-ra won the Best Couple Award at the MBC Drama Awards ceremony in 2014.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

 

oh! … trailers

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