Updated: Aug 30
As fans celebrate the first anniversary of You Are My Spring’s premiere this week, we add this surprisingly funny healing mystery romance starring Seo Hyun-jin and Kim Dong-wook to our list of underrated k-drama gems worth watching.
After a string of bad relationships, hotel concierge manager Kang Da-jeong (Seo Hyun-jin, Another Miss Oh, Black Dog) moves into the newly-renovated 99 Building, hoping for a fresh start. There she meets Ju Young-do (Kim Dong-wook, Find Me In Your Memory), a kind-hearted psychiatrist who holds clinic on the floor beneath her chic rooftop apartment.
While they get off on the wrong foot, a murder that takes place in their building and a suspicious figure (Yoon Park, Forecasting Love and Weather) who takes a liking to Da-jeong bring them closer together. As they slowly open up to each other, they help each other heal deep-seated wounds from the past.
Why It's Worth the Watch
Before anything else, I have an embarrassing confession to make. In the five years since I started watching k-dramas, I’ve only just discovered the brilliance of Baeksang award-winning actress Seo Hyun-jin. If k-drama fans had badges, this is an offense that would at least suspend mine, but I can assure you I’m currently atoning for this “crime.” Seo’s multi-layered performance in the ongoing mystery drama Why Her? has led me down the rabbit hole of her work, where I'm now happily spending a lot of time.
After finishing Dr. Romantic (2016), I decided to watch You are My Spring. Although it (inexplicably) suffered from low ratings, my curiosity was piqued by its many passionate fans on k-drama stan Twitter who frequently place it on their list of favorite healing dramas.
Based on the Netflix trailer and the short synopses I’ve read, I started this expecting a heavy melodrama/mystery. While You Are My Spring does cover those genres, mostly involving the character played by Yoon Park, I was not at all prepared for how much it would make me laugh. Seo Hyun-jin and Kim Dong-wook’s rom-com game is strong, and their impeccable comic timing literally had me in tears on several occasions. The interactions between the leads, their family (especially Da-jeong's eomma), friends, and co-workers, most of whom also occupy the 99 Building, also delivered a healthy amount of laughs.
Not that the generous dose of comedy wasn’t welcome. You Are My Spring’s central message is one of healing, and thus explores some pretty dark themes. Its three main characters still carry childhood trauma from a variety of causes: abandonment, alcoholism, abuse, illness, and death. Even the supporting characters have their own issues. While You Are My Spring certainly isn’t the first k-drama to weave its story using its characters' childhood wounds, it differs from its many predecessors in how carefully it treads on the topic. Their trauma isn’t just a plot device used for the sake of giving the leads a common backstory, nor is it ever justified as an excuse for bad behavior.
You Are My Spring conveys how traumatic experiences affect us in the long term, and underscores the importance of having a support system, whether it’s the family you’re born with or the one you choose for yourself as an adult. It also emphasizes the impact that small acts of kindness (and conversely, the absence of such) can have on others, and helps destigmatize seeking the help of a mental health professional.
Da-jeong and Young-do’s healing journey is treated with sensitivity and thoughtfulness by screenwriter Lee Mi-na. Gradual, believable, and non-linear (healing never is), witnessing them grow in trust, friendship, and love was so satisfying to me as a viewer.
And of course, our leads deserve the highest praise for their deeply cathartic performances. There’s a breathtaking scene in the ninth episode where Seo Hyun-jin delivers one of the best dramatic monologues I’ve ever watched, then deftly transitions to comedy a few moments later. She truly is one of the best actresses out there. Kim Dong-wook is no slouch either, having masterfully brought to life a Young-do who is so caring, considerate, vulnerable, and lovable that his tendency towards noble idiocy is forgivable. It’s been a while since I laughed and cried so much with a drama’s lead couple, and like many other fans who have fallen in love with this series, I now count "DaDo" (a portmanteau of their names) among my comfort couples.
As for the murder mystery aspect, it's hard to get into why without dropping spoilers, but I felt that it kind of lost steam in the second half. I found it overly confusing and dragged out, and I got to the point where I fast forwarded through the scenes involving Yoon Park.
That aside, You Are My Spring has become an instant favorite of mine on the strength of its adorable, healing romance and heartwarming friendships. The drama also benefits from exceptional cinematography that deserves the biggest, most high-definition screen you can watch it on, and a lovely OST featuring tracks from MeloMance, SHINee's ONEW, and Seo Hyun-jin herself (watch the music video below).
Like most k-drama fans who work full-time jobs, I have to be selective with what I watch in my spare time. When it comes to ongoing dramas, I tend to rely on ratings when deciding what to prioritize, which sort of explains how this gem slipped through the cracks. You Are My Spring really just reminded me to not let a set of numbers get between me and a wonderful story.
STREAM: If you want a good laugh, a good cry, and don't mind a little bit (okay, a lot) of mystery mixed with your romance.
SKIP: If you prefer less complicated love stories.