Written by: Khristian Ross P. Pimentel
The lockdown gives me an opportunity to watch more Korean dramas than I could in a normal day. Before this year, the last Korean drama that I’ve watched was Descendants of the Sun, so that means it was really a long time ago.
I’m not a K-drama expert, but I know how to spot one if it is really good or not. I already watched three series this year since the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) started. Considering that I had a lot of time in my hand, I asked my friends for K-drama recommendations and I even searched the synopsis online and looked for other recommended series.
Out of more than 10 recommended dramas, I chose to watch When the Camellia Blooms even if none of my friends actually recommended it. The people I know discouraged me to watch it and one of my friends even told me that she never got to finish such masterpiece.
Moreover, I am not familiar to any of the characters except with Kim Sun Young, an actress who portrayed a role in Crash Landing on You. I watched When the Camellia Blooms just because it has a lot of nominations in the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards 2020, which is the counter part of Oscars in South Korea.
I started to watch the series two weeks before the awards day, and as we all know, When the Camellia Blooms bagged several awards in the 56th Baeksang Arts Awards including Grand Prize (Deasang), Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor. It seems that I made the right choice.
When the Camellia Blooms tells the story of a single mother named Oh Dong Baek (Gong Hyo Jin) who starts a new business in a busy alley in Ongsan. Together with her son Kang Pilgu (Kim Kang Hoon), she battles her place in the community and works hard to survive.
One night, one of her customers, Gyu Tae (Oh Jung Se) tries to catch Dongbaek’s attention by always asking for free peanuts, and he even does not pay for the bill. Hwang Yong Sik (Kang Ha Neul), a police officer who is also in the said scene, comes to the rescue and forces Gyu Tae to pay the remaining amount.
The story continues as Yong Sik attempts to win Dongbaek’s heart while trying to protect her from a secret serial killer named Joker. Aside from that, he also stands with her side as she struggles with the neighborhood bullies, Pilgu’s father, her own mother, and in battling with herself.
All the actors portrayed their roles excellently
When you watch Yong Sik, Dongbaek, and Pilgu cry, the world would stop and all you need is a box of tissue. I guess they really internalized their characters well. After watching When the Camellia blooms, I guess it’s harder for the audience to recognize the actors, but rather we will associate the personality that they displayed in the show.
Other than that, When the Camellia Blooms has a heartwarming story. It exposes our weaknesses as humans, and you’ll root to almost every character even those who have negative intentions. The story will draw viewers to sympathize with them, as well as to whoever Joker is.
I think single mom is a taboo in South Korea that’s why the character of Dongbaek is so empowering. It also has other themes like the importance of making choices, forgiveness, and redemption.
The plot twist on Dongbaek’s mom is really unforgettable and touching. You will also admire the efforts of Pilgu’s dad and the life choices of Sang Mi, who shows that even if you think your life is meaningless, there’s something you can do.
You will really get annoyed with Gyu-Tae, but you will love him later on. Hence, the best part is almost all of the characters have redeeming parts in the story. These scenes are a happy pill to the heart.
Plot is indeed not so complicated
You can follow the gist of the story but of course, there are plot twists and suspense. Other viewers of this show commented that they did not notice that they already watched almost half of all the episodes because it is so chill to watch. I like the scene when Dongbaek came to the police station to save Yong Sik and when Yongsik saved Dongbaek from the fire.
Uniqueness in characterization
Unlike in other series where usually the lead female character is crazy to the lead male character, When the Camellia Blooms does it the other way around. One reason probably why Kang Ha Neul won Best Actor is his great portrayal in the amazing character of Yong Sik. Ha Neul portrayed incredible facial expressions here to the extent that other characters kept on mentioning his stare every time he gets mad or excited. Probably, that’s really part of Yong Sik’s characterization.
Besides, it’s really different when the guy is crazily in love with the girl. When you are already being dumped, but you continue to pursue the girl no matter what is indeed so romantic. Yong Sik displays the quality of a knight in shining armor. He shows that he will do everything for Dongbaek even if it will cost his life, his career, and his relationship with his family and friends.
Excellent for its genre (light romcom thriller)
There are several scenes that will let viewers hit home and also a lot of funny scenes. For thriller part, the detective work was just light but witty. Viewers will really think so deep while watching. When you think that you already guess who the Joker is, probably you’re wrong. You will also get curious on who among the characters actually died, which will be revealed a little later, and that makes it more suspenseful.
Of course, the romance is all throughout. Even the most hard-hearted person will feel kilig. This series is a good model on courtship and dating. It doesn’t promote that when you know that you have feelings for each other, you can already become a couple. You have to do a lot of things before you can become one. Although it seems wholesome, the playfulness of Yong Sik is actually both romantic and hilarious.
Furthermore, I like the name of Dongbaek. That’s why I keep on mentioning “Dongbaek(shi).” I even want it to be the name of my child; my wife, however, just objects to this idea.
Place like Ongsan
After watching When the Camellia Blooms, you will want to live in a place like Ongsan, be concerned with your neighbor, eat dumpling and crabs, and above all, be a better child, father, mother, spouse, friend, police, boss, and customer. In short, you will want to become a better person and redeem yourself if you ever commit a mistake. Stop being a joke!