The Weekend Binge: "Navillera"
Updated: Dec 23, 2021
Based on a webtoon of the same name, this recently concluded tvN series is an easy watch, what with 12 episodes and a relatively light story. Even spaced out between Saturday and Sunday, you’ll be done with time to spare for a k-movie!
Is it ever too late to pursue one’s childhood dreams? Shim Deok-chul (Park In-hwan) turns 70 and decides to find out. A retiree with a family of grown children, Deok-chul takes it upon himself to finally fulfill his long-time goal of learning ballet, but must do so in secret since his family is not likely to understand or accept this turn of events. His ultimate hope is to dance ballet on a stage, in front of an audience. Enter Lee Chae-rok (Song Kang), a talented but troubled ballerino whose career is on the brink of a breakthrough. Replete with skills but burdened by personal demons, the young dancer finds himself thrust into the role of reluctant teacher, while Deok-chul learns to navigate the balance between following his heart and listening to his family’s wishes.
The premise is straightforward and contains two tropes that almost always guarantee audience impact: an old person with hopes and dreams, and a young man struggling to make ends meet in order to support his goals. Two underdogs joined together by fate. Only the most jaded would not be moved by that. Park In-hwan is immediately endearing as “Mr. Shim.” Even before he begins his ballet journey, you are already rooting for him, while also castigating his less-than-supportive family. Song Kang effectively brings to life the character of Lee Chae-rok. He is skilled but a little selfish, a direct result of personal circumstances that have created the situation he finds himself in. The development of their relationship is fleshed out at a believable pace, with conversations and interactions that one would expect if this were happening in real life. Even the subplots and storylines that involve the other people in their lives are painted with a realistic brush. Themes of acceptance, forgiveness, and facing one’s past are handled gently and authentically. Save for a few altercations (and one plot twist that aims straight for the heart), the k-drama unfolds with very little actual drama. And that is actually my one major critique about Navillera. The lack of excitement could prove boring to audiences used to a little more thrill in their hour-long episode investment. On the other hand, the slow-and-steady pace could also be seen as a nice mental break from the world of kimchi slaps, violent revenge plots, and heartbreaking confessions during the first snowfall. Stream It: If you like stories about people coming of age, despite their actual ages, told in a no-nonsense manner. Also, lots of ballet. Find it on Netflix. Skip It: If you like a little more drama in your k-drama. Navillera isn’t boring, but it may prove to be too monotonous if you’re used to serials with a shocker at the end of each episode.