On Valentine's Day, take a gentle stroll with us through this coming-of-age romantic comedy and fall in love with the charming Choi Woo-shik and Kim Da-mi.
They couldn’t be more different. Kook Yeon-su (Kim Da-mi, Itaewon Class) is a hardworking, ambitious girl burdened with the responsibility of looking after her grandmother. Choi Ung (Choi Woo-shik, Parasite) is a carefree artist for whom the ideal life consists of basking under the sun during the day, and lying underneath a lamp at night.
But after a summer spent together filming a documentary that highlights precisely how different they are—she’s the top student, and he’s dead last—they realize they do like each other, and they start dating.
Now, many of the love stories we know end here, leaving us to imagine an assumed happy ever after. But Our Beloved Summer takes us forward a decade—after the couple’s emotional baggage and starkly different realities break them apart, and when their circumstances have now reversed.
The carefree boy grew up to be a successful and in-demand artist, and the ambitious girl is a stressed out employee of a small company. And remember that summer documentary that brought them together? It’s gone viral, and so the network wants to do a sequel.
From its softly-filtered cinematography to its mellow soundtrack, Our Beloved Summer evokes the feelings of a warm and gentle stroll under the shade of blush-pink cherry blossoms—albeit on a path littered with pain and hurt.
Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-su’s relationship, told in sepia-tinted flashbacks, consists of dreamy bubbles of sweet dates and adorable conversations, pierced with flashes of doubt and pride. It seems that while opposites do attract, their differences threatened to pull them apart at every turn, until it finally did. At now that they’ve reconnected, they continue to bicker so much that you’d be forgiven for wondering if you even want them to end up back together again (despite how cute Choi Woo-shik and Kim Da-mi are together!).
But that is perhaps part of the beauty of Our Beloved Summer. Despite its gentle storytelling approach, it doesn’t gloss over the downsides of dating and the damage that unmet expectations, unspoken truths, and unchecked pride create. In this story, there are no shocking childhood secrets or family disputes that threaten a destined romance; just a million different little ways that love can either be built or destroyed—and maybe re-built again. (Cue the OST’s main song “Christmas Tree,” with BTS’ V crooning “and I’ll tell you a million little reasons I’m falling for your eyes…”)
Because beyond being a story of romance, the show is also a story about growing up, about forgiveness and second chances, and about getting to really know yourself and having the courage to make mature choices. Through the clever use of the filming of a documentary as a plot device, this coming-of-age romantic comedy tells us that there are things about us that we may not fully know or realize, until seen from someone else’s lens.
Each of its episodes is also named after an iconic movie that inspired it—like I Know What You Did Last Summer, 10 Things I Hate About You, Before Sunset and Love Actually—until the penultimate episode simply titled “Our Beloved Summer,” where the writers throw out the rom-com rulebook and end the story in their own satisfyingly unique way.
Aside from Choi Ung and Kook Yeon-su, the show introduces us to non-problematic second leads: Fellow childhood friend and documentary producer Kim Ji-ung (Kim Sung-cheol, Vincenzo), and top celebrity and art patron NJ (Roh Jeong-Eui, 18 Again). Both saddled with their own issues, these second leads tell their own tales of growing up and maturing. But this is also where Our Beloved Summer falters. In diving into their backstories, it distracts the storytelling and the pacing lags.
Ultimately, Our Beloved Summer is not a straightforward love story, because romance never really is, right? But it’s also a heartwarming, hopeful tale, because it shows that even a path littered with pain and hurt can lead to a cozy future basked in warm sunlight.
STREAM: If you're in the mood for a heartwarming love story that does not involve complicated childhood secrets or family feuds.
SKIP: If you prefer your k-dramas to be fast-paced and full of high drama.