As all K-dramas, no matter the genre, seem to have a heavy dose of romance, I decided to check one out that is 100% romance. And oh man, I certainly got what I asked for. Uncontrollably Fond (2016) is overblown, overwrought, over-serious melodrama. But it looks beautiful. And it isn’t pretending to be anything it isn’t – the warning signs were there from the start.
The opening scene is peppered with shots of a blossom petal floating gently to the ground – a recurring motif so cliched I almost laughed out loud. But then this is a series full of cliches: secret relatives, arranged marriage, super-rich people using the poor to gain advantage, critical illness, blackmail and lots of lies. A surprising amount of this information is revealed in the first two episodes, meaning that a quick plot summary can’t be all that quick.
Sin Jun-young is a major star – actor, pop idol, model (much like Kim Woo-bin who plays him) – and we meet him refusing to film a death scene, which we shortly after learn is because he is dying of an inoperable brain tumour. He of course hasn’t told anyone this, but he has started searching for his ex-girlfriend No Eul (Bae Su-ji, better known as Suzy from K-pop group Miss A), who handily turns up on his doorstep trying to persuade him to take part in a documentary series. Directing this show will save her career, which is faltering thanks to a bribe she accepted to stop investigating a corrupt company – a bribe she desperately needed to keep loan sharks at bay.
Jun-young alternates between being a complete ass to Eul and trying to woo her, but his attempts falter because she has a crush on her brother Jik’s friend. Eul and Jik’s father died in a hit and run nine years earlier, leaving Eul as the sole provider for the family until Jik finishes school. And Eul has never got over the fact that the true culprit of her father’s death was protected from prosecution because she was from a rich, powerful family.
I almost gave up on this show a few times because both the male leads are awful characters. And yes, they both have character arcs that give them redemption, but it takes way too long. Eul is thoroughly put through the ringer. I initially liked that this was another series where the lead characters are aged 28 and 30, but most of them behaved like spoiled teenagers. The story is for the most part predictable (with a few exceptions) and there were definitely a few episodes where it all felt a bit strung out. And that K-drama thing where they repeat scenes as flashbacks – they started doing that in the first episode. Argh!
That said, the acting is consistently excellent. The show looks great. There is a lot of money on screen, in a slightly less show-off way than Boys Over Flowers, which I would say is this show’s closest relative from the K-dramas I have watched. The primary difference is that BOF was light and full of self-ridicule, whereas this is definitely intended to be taken seriously. I loved the architecture of the rich characters’ homes. I loved that once again food and mealtimes were a key part of the drama. And I did like that where the opening scene of each episode is always a repeat of the end scene from the previous episode, it was usually from different camera angles, sometimes with a different character’s thoughts. That was a nice touch.
These are certainly actors to look out for, even the parents and younger siblings are great. But I think maybe pure romance melodrama isn’t my favourite genre. I need some comedy or crime or some other genre subplots to keep me interested. And preferably a story where the lead woman isn’t constantly mistreated to test her worthiness. But I may need to look outside K-dramas to find that.