Updated: Feb 23
With its short 30-minute episodes, and mockumentary format, this is not your typical k-drama rom-com. But like any good k-drama, its flawed yet relatable characters will make you laugh, get mad, and fall in love within the space of a nine-hour binge.
How do men and women in the city date? Six Seoulites take part in a (fictitious) documentary to answer this question, telling the stories of their love lives in the process.
Park Jae-won (Ji Chang-wook) is a successful architect pining over a summer fling—a free-spirited woman he knows as Yoon Seon-a. That woman is Lee Eun-oh (Kim Ji-won), a struggling freelance marketer, who is trying to forget what happened during that summer by the beach.
She’s friends with Seo Rin-yi (So Joo-yeon), a serial part-timer who’s in a steady relationship with Choi Kyung-joon (Kim Min-seok), also an architect. And finally, we have the singletons: Kang Geon (Ryu Kyung-soo), a novelist who claims to be single by choice, and Oh Sun-young (Han Ji-eun), a gym teacher and self-professed serial dater.
"How Do You Initiate Your First Sex?" Yes, that’s the title of the second episode of this show, which already tells you this is not your usual k-drama rom-com.
First, its 17 episodes run just an average of 30 minutes each—an easy binge that will take up less than nine hours of your life (Technically 16 episodes, because the last one is an epilogue). Second, its semi-mockumentary format combines scenes from the "documentary" they're creating, behind-the-scenes snippets, and back stories. This allows for the use of creative storytelling devices: “interviews” are played off each other like a conversation, on-screen captions similar to those used in k-variety shows are added for comedic commentary, and product placements are shown for exactly what they are—product placements for the "documentary."
But this show from KakaoTV and Netflix is unusual not just for its format. Lovestruck in the City gets into the nitty-gritty of dating in the real, modern world, giving us a refreshing break from dramas that makes us wait until Ep.8 for that first slow-motion kiss, from Second Lead Syndromes, and from unrealistically chaste couples.
Is there such a thing as a proper break-up? What do you do if you run into your ex? What do you do with the things your ex gave you? And what do you think love really is? With six different characters giving their takes on these questions, you’ll get a variety of answers to mull over. Some might annoy you, but others might remind you of a friend’s experience, or even resonate with one of your own memories.
At its core, though, Lovestruck in the City is still about a boy meeting a girl—Park Jae-won and Lee Eun-oh. The story just doesn’t end when they finally fall in love. If it did, the show would be over in three episodes. Instead, it walks you through what happens after, when the realities of baggage, unmet expectations, and societal dictates start taking their toll on relationships between scarred and flawed people. And then, it shows you what it takes to get past all these, making you laugh, swoon, mad, and—of course—cry in the process.
Along the way, you'll probably swing between rooting for them and thinking they shouldn't be together (and even be tempted to drop it). But if you stick with it to the end, you'll (hopefully) understand their why's, and what it really means to love another person.
STREAM: If you want a break from the usual k-drama rom-coms, and to swoon over Ji Chang-wook in arguably his best post-military k-drama to date. Click here to watch on Netflix.
SKIP: If you can’t commit to getting to at least episode 5 or 6, since the real story can take a while to build up.