If Ha Seok-jin is in a drama, there’s no dearth of good performance. Add Ji Soo and Im Soo-hyang to the lead cast and you have a compelling reason to watch When I Was the Most Beautiful.

I feel like I’m waiting for something that isn’t going to happen. 

Whenever Ji Soo, the K-drama world’s King of Second Lead Syndrome, the Knight in Shining armour (but never the Prince) is in a drama I can’t help but feel this way. 

Turns out this wasn’t the only opinion I had while watching the drama When I Was The Most Beautiful. So here are 12 thoughts summing up what I feel about this drama. This drama had me feeling all sorts of ways and I’m laying it all out here.

Lead Cast: Im Soo-hyang, Ji Soo, Ha Seok-jin, Hwang Seung-eon
Director: Oh Kyung-hoon
Written by: Jo Hyoun-kyoung
No. of Episodes: 16
Streaming on: Viki, On Demand Korea,KOCOWA

Plot: Seo Jin (played by Ha Seok-jin) and Seo Hwan (portrayed by Ji Soo) are brothers who fall in love with Oh Ye Ji (played by Im Soo-hyang). With a dream of becoming a ceramic artist, Oh Ye Ji quits her job as a teacher and moves to Yangpyeong to learn the art from Jin and Hwan’s father.

Ye Ji chooses Jin, the older brother over her student Hwan because she wants a secure family life. Does the decision work in her favour? Are there regrets? How does the journey pan out for the three of them?  

Note: This post is more like a running commentary and there’s bound to be a spoiler or two. There are definitely a lot of spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Im Soo-hyang, Ha Seok-jin and Ji Soo in a drama? Sign me up! 

If Ha Seok-jin is in a drama, there’s no dearth of good performance. Add Ji Soo and Im Soo-hyang to the lead cast and you have a compelling reason to watch the drama. Majority of the audience have a love-hate relationship with Im Soo-hyang and her performances but I personally don’t have a problem. Just putting it out there. 

I must say the actors do justice to their roles till the end. They carry forward the growth of the characters with ease and emote convincingly. Honestly, I wouldn’t have continued watching the drama if it wasn’t for the performances of these three actors. Strangely, I found myself waiting for the next episode even though I was frustrated with what was happening and that’s the success of this drama.   

The drama is populated with adequate performances by the supporting cast as well. 

Love at first sight: Always a good start to any romantic drama 

Both the brothers, Seo Jin and Seo Hwan, fall in love with Oh Ye Ji at first sight.

Seo Jin, the elder brother is a racer by profession while Seo Hwan is a school student. So the elder brother has an advantage with respect to his age. The younger one, Seo Hwan, is caring, attentive and protective. While the elder one is selfish and wants Oh Ye Ji for his happiness at all costs, the younger one wants to see Oh Ye Ji happy. Her happiness brings him happiness. 

It is obvious as to who she chooses but my heart wanted otherwise. Not to forget, since Hwan is played by Jisoo, he automatically loses the woman. It’s like a fixed match where the winner is decided beforehand. 

Twilight-esque scene caught me off guard 

The camping scene reminds me of Jacob and Bella from Twilight Eclipse. I had second hand embarrassment from watching that scene but then again no one other than Seok-Jin can even attempt something like that and get away with it. 

Somehow the romance between Jin and Oh Ye Ji was not convincing to show us why he really needed her. What made him love Ye Ji so much that he wanted her? Hwan, on the other hand, had a chance to explain why he likes Ye Ji in one of the latter episodes.  

Oh Ye Ji marries Seo Jin: A decision made during desperate, lonely times?

The love scenes between Oh Ye Ji and Jin were of very short duration and not convincing. I didn’t understand why she would choose Jin when their foundation was shaky from the start. 

Then there is the obvious. Oh Ye Ji is tormented by her father’s sister since her mother killed him. She leaves the house to live close to her teacher’s workshop. Jin and Hwan’s father, who is also her ceramic works teacher, is kind to her and the family except the mom treats her with warmth and care. She automatically finds herself wanting to be a part of the family due to loneliness. So she accepts when Jin proposes to her. When I was watching the scene where they get married, I was left wondering if she would regret this decision later.  

Jin is nowhere to be found. Is this Hwan’s chance? 

The inevitable happens. Jin goes abroad for a race and meets with an accident. He disappears, which leads to an automatic assumption that he may be dead. His family continues their search for him for years. I couldn’t help but wonder if Hwan would make a move on his sister-in-law during this time. He calls her Ssaem (teacher) till the end instead of acknowledging her as his sister-in-law. Honestly, I couldn’t help but wonder how this chaotic story would end. 

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that Hwan was still in love with Ye Ji but he actually made a move on her. I was gobsmacked at the development of the story but wait, there’s more.

Jin returns. But after seven years? After living with another woman? Okay…

So, the younger brother makes a move on his sister-in-law, she refuses and doesn’t talk to him for years. The older brother, Jin, returns halfheartedly after living with his ex-girlfriend for seven long years in the US. He reluctantly returns because he doesn’t want the woman he loves to see him suffer being handicapped and pity him. Honestly, the story was way beyond my grasp at this point. I wanted to give up watching the drama but like I said before, I just couldn’t stop. 

When Ye Ji discovers the truth, she decides to leave him. Jin, unable to give up on her, asks for a chance but also confronts her with questions on the actual reason as to why she is leaving him. The audacity! 

Like, why are you so obsessed with one another? 

Honestly, the level of obsession in this drama shoots through the roof. Jin’s ex-girlfriend Carrie is obsessed with him and goes to the extent of hurting him to be with him. Hwan is obsessed with Ye Ji so much that he is unable to accept Amber who sincerely loves him. He tries to win Ye Ji’s love till the very end and goes to the extent of using Amber to make sure Ye Ji isn’t questioned by Jin. Each character’s obsession leads to irreparable damage. 

Jin wants to own Ye Ji due to his selfishness. Although Hwan’s unrequited love may seem selfless, it is shown that at some point he wants Ye Ji to leave everything behind and go with him to start a life together. Carrie, the obsessive ex, wants Jin at all costs irrespective of whether they are happy together or not. And Ye Ji? I have no idea what she wants. 

Someone save me from this mess. 

Let’s talk about the growth of characters 

While I was frustrated till the penultimate episode, I’d like to give credit where it is due. The characters’ growth is a positive aspect I’d like to point out here. The transformation of Ye Ji’s character, from being a lonely woman who is difficult on herself to a confident self-reliant woman is satisfying to watch. She finally stands up for herself when she finds out that Jin had betrayed her and realises she loves Hwan. Forbidden love may not bring them together in reality but she was being true to herself. 

Jin, as the man who is selfish to someone who repents his actions and apologises is a character that makes an impact. When I watch preview clips I usually scroll through the comments section. Most comments under the preview clips of this drama  were either about how they hate Jin’s character or how Ye-ji should choose Jin over Hwan. Either way, Seok-jin’s portrayal of Jin is a success. I still cannot get over how he cries when Ye-ji leaves the house. It broke my heart to bits. 

Hwan, from a school boy who has a crush on his teacher to the man who finally gets closure, comes a long way. Ji Soo shines as a school boy, a University student and finally as the man who Ye Ji acknowledges. 

The supporting characters, including Jin and Hwan’s parents, Ye Ji’s mother, and Amber who loves Hwan also have their own growth and closure. 

Social norms vs love 

“…but what will society think?”

“What will others say?”

Nothing ruins a relationship more than these two questions. If the words ‘forbidden love’ isn’t enough to label Ye Ji and Hwan’s love, it is difficult to see others constantly reminding them both on how society will not accept their love. Jin justifying why he lived with Carrie, his ex-girlfriend for seven years is not acceptable either and somehow that doesn’t seem a problem to him as compared to his brother’s unrequited love for Ye-Ji. Even if Ye Ji decides to go abroad with Hwan, her mother would have had to face society back home. It is a struggle to watch two people in love hold back because of what others will think or say. 

Parent-child relationship 

Hwan realises that his family has used him for their own good. He decides to live for himself and creates boundaries. With an overbearing mother and an over-dependent father, Hwan’s life has always been about caring for them and when the frustration of being taken for granted reaches its peak, he bursts, which is understandable. 

The drama shows strained parent-child relationships as the background of the lead characters and that serves as a justification for the way they behave. Jin tells Ye Ji that he was afraid she might leave him if she sees him handicapped just like how his mother left his father. His fear is natural but not rational. That doesn’t justify disappearing for seven long years. Nuh-uh.

Ye Ji and her mother start over after her mother is released from jail. Their relationship faces quite a few hiccups before its happy ending. 

Ye Ji and her mother

A safe ending to please majority of the audience

Impossible love is a touchy subject and is bound to leave a share of the audience unhappy. Personally, I didn’t want Ye Ji to end up with Jin but I wanted to see all three of them happy. The ending shows all of them going their separate ways and leading their own lives after finding closure, which is a safe ending. I can’t help but wonder, what if Ye Ji chooses Hwan as her partner? What would have happened if Ye Ji was still with Jin? The open ending definitely left me wanting for more even though that is the most sensible ending for this drama. 

Hauntingly beautiful OSTs

One of the main reasons I was hooked on to this drama was the background score. The music that accompanies a dialogue or scene can make a make or break a scene. In the case of When I Was the Most Beautiful, the background music had me involved in what was happening and made a huge impact.

The same can be said about the original songs in the drama.

When I Was the Most Beautiful OST playlist

Verdict

When I Was Most Beautiful is a drama that makes you want to complete the journey till the end but leaves you emotionally drained. The drama has several moments of reality, which strikes hard leaving you with a heavy heart till the very last scene. 

When I Was the Most Beautiful Trailer