20th Century Boy and Girl or Children of the 20th Century was first released in 2017. It came out the same year as Fight for My Way, Suspicious Partner, Strong Woman Do Bong-soon, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, but hardly ever gets mentioned as a favorite rom-com or a favorite anything. But those looking for a slow, makjang-free watch along the lines of the Reply Series and Hospital Playlist are likely to enjoy it.
It’s no surprise that the slice-of-life drama veers away from over-the-top plot points and toxic relationships and offers a nostalgic look at one’s youth. It was, after all, written by Lee Sun-hye, who was a junior writer for the Reply series. Its working title No Sex and the City is an apt description but doesn’t give justice to this beautiful drama.
The drama follows the lives of Sa Jin-jin, played by the charming Han Ye-seul (Birth of a Beauty), and her now 30-something high school friends Han Ah-reum (Ryu Hyun Kyung), and Jang Young-shim (Lee Sang-hee). The girls’ solid friendship is the anchor that keeps them all grounded as they attempt to live meaningful lives and maybe even find romance along the way.
Famous actress Sa Jin-jin’s love life is especially interesting as she meets the fourth member of their high school gang, male classmate Gong Ji-won (Kim Ji-suk, Monthly Magazine Home) years later. He’s back in Korea after an extended absence and coincidentally reconnects with Jin-jin who is still hung up on her childhood crush, former idol and now B-list actor Anthony (Lee Sang-woo, Marry Me Now).
Why It Works
The female leads have great chemistry and make the audience believe that they actually really like being friends rather than just being forced to be close. None of them are cookie-cutter characters, and they all eventually grow and develop as the drama progresses. Their relationship is authentic and honest and they’re not above calling each other out when necessary. But they’re also fiercely loyal and it’s easy to imagine why they would have remained friends even if one of them is an ultra-famous star.
In fact, none of the relationships in this series are at all toxic. The love triangle was especially handled well and this is from someone who really really hates k-drama love triangles. Sa Jin-jin and Ji-won’s relationship develops at a slow, healthy pace after it overcomes initial realistic insecurities and misunderstandings.
The strength of the drama is in a great cast and an uncomplicated plot that isn’t hampered by sensationalism and overused tropes. Of course, the drama isn’t perfect and does have a few holes here or there (e.g. Sa Jin-jin is only recognized by her fans when it’s convenient for the plot but otherwise, she goes around pretty much like a normal person). But one of my favorite things about it is that it isn’t saddled by the dark, simmering backstories that k-drama rom-coms are so fond of throwing at its audience. (I’m looking at you Secretary Kim and Her Private Life among others). There are a few sad stories but not the disturbing kind that robs the story of its charm and cheerfulness.
All in all 20th Century Boy and Girl is a slow, easy, heartfelt, romantic comfort watch. It’s an ode to the Reply series without the guess-whom-she-chose at the end mystery.
32 35-minute episodes available on Netflix