Beautiful World

Overall Rating: A+. A+ on my scale and A+ on any scale, like wow what a phenomenal show.
Subtitles: To be perfectly honest I was so engrossed in this show that the subtitles did not much stand out to me–I think I remember a couple mistakes here and there but in general they were fluent and strong enough to be not memorable, which is always a good thing.
Brief Synopsis: A middle school boy is found after falling off the roof at school late one night and is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. His accident is considered by all parties to be a suicide attempt, which leads his parents on a mission to discover why their happy and wonderful son might have done something so drastic. Watch it on Viki here.

**Full show spoilers below the image. If you do not wish to be spoiled, do not proceed**

Ending Type: Shockingly this show had as happy an ending as it possibly could have? Not everything was sunshine and roses but all major plotlines were resolved in a way that was both satisfying and fitting given the journey these characters went on, and the overall feel of most of the final episode was one of hope. The final scene of Seon Ho standing in the school grinning at the camera really got me in the feels.  
Characters: I’m going to do something a little different with this drama because it was different than any other K Drama I’ve seen by a long shot. There were far too many characters that were far too important to leave out of my usual analysis and I think something would get lost if I tried to talk about them individually, so I’m just going to link the AsianWiki page here and highly encourage you to check it out.
I do have to take a second to praise Choo Ja Hyun (who played Seon Ho’s mother and was arguably the main character, though a cool thing about this show was that it wasn’t totally clear whose story we were being told–it was instead all interconnected and moving but that is neither here nor there). Ja Hyun truly had to do it all in this drama–the range of emotion her character was required to show, and the depth of it, and how constant it was–wow. And she NAILED it. Like man watching her left no question for me in any scene ever exactly what this woman was feeling, going through, and thinking. Mad props. That level of acting is rare and I am very grateful to have witnessed it.
Relationships: Like with above I am reserving this discussion for the final comments below because trying to parse out relationships I think would do a disservice to the whole point of the show. Plus this was not a romance K Drama so there isn’t a romantic relationship to discuss, which I honestly didn’t know going in but I am so, so happy I watched anyway.
High Points: I need to talk about the main song/theme song “Letting it Go,” as this song was used…. so incredibly perfectly in so many different scenes and really drove the overall feel of the show and its emotional direction.
Low Points: I considered just deleting this section from this post but I don’t want to be called out for reneging on my own template. To be clear, however, there was no low point about the writing, production, or acting of this show. What a freaking masterpiece.
Final comments: Let’s start at the beginning shall we? One day I was sitting on Viki putting together a “to watch” list for myself. That was right after this drama’s premiere had aired so it was all over Viki and my social media ads. I figured I needed to watch more shows with young talent and this one had two teenage kids on its posters, so I started it. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.
This was the first K Drama I watched in real time as it aired, and I am honestly really glad I did. This was a much more serious show than I am used to and it lacked the comedic relief/levity that normally appears in even the more intense K Dramas, so I am not sure it’s as bingeable as these shows normally are. I honestly don’t know if there’s a whole brand of K Dramas out there that are straight melodramas the way this was, totally and entirely lacking comedy or the silly riffs that normally balance out the emotional stuff, but I definitely spent the first six episodes expecting the tone of this drama to shift and then was shocked (but not upset) when it didn’t. This story was intentionally serious, intentionally heavy, intentionally intense, and it was relentlessly all of those things in a way that was appropriate to the content and unbelievably compelling.
I cannot praise the writing and direction and acting of this show enough. In the first few episodes I was primarily compelled by Seon Ho’s parents, by their agony at what happened to their son and their conviction that something was not right. I was moved by Seon Ho’s younger sister, who, like most 11-12 year old kids, responded to the tragedy her family was facing with anger. I was in love with how imperfect and real this little family was, with the way they reacted to their situation in the most human way possible, with moments of anger, moments of doubt, with an inability to really lean on each other because they were all so busy dealing with how the trauma was impacting them, even if they were good and well meaning people and loved each other a lot.
I was intrigued by the underlying mystery of the whole thing, by the way it was clear Seon Ho had not jumped, at how Joon Seok’s mother was clearly hiding something and how Joon Seok had this sinister edge to him.
But I fell in love with the show because of the characters, especially Seon Ho’s mom In Ha. The way she handled the parents of the kids who had been bullying Seon Ho made me want to have her as my mom, and the way she so persistently fought for her family, even when she occasionally made some missteps, was absolutely moving.
About 3/4 of the way through this show I thought it was a strong meditation on family, on the important role parents play in their children’s lives, on how shaped kids are by the environment in their home. I still think that’s true. While the whole mystery of what exactly did happen on the roof and what happened with Dae Hee remained an underlying factor of the show, so much more of it was about the boys and how they were dealing with their various situations and how that reflected on their family lives and relationships to their parents. The spotlight, of course, was on Seon Ho, who was a sweet kid with incredible integrity thanks to the guiding influence of his morally upright father and warm, tenacious mother. It was also on Joon Seok, who was supposed to be his best friend, who lived in a home with a mother who had no identity outside of being his mother and a father who was cold and absent (and also like, super evil). It was on the way those environments shaped not only who the boys were, but how the fallout from Seon Ho’s fall impacted them individually and shaped their story in reverse.
There were so many important nuggets of wisdom and profound moments in the interplay of family relationships and the unfolding drama about what had really happened that night and I was just constantly in awe of everything that was happening and how it happened and how it was portrayed.
This was also a show about taking responsibility, finding forgiveness, and learning to move past mistakes. Some characters learned this lesson well, and their growth was really beautiful to watch. Some did not.
Oh my gosh I have so much to talk about but I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Some of the things I really, really loved about this masterpiece included: the glass house Joon Seok and his family lived in and all that symbolized, the many times Seon Ho’s mom wanted to commit violence but chose not to because she was human but also a good human, the friendship between Seon Ho’s sister and his classmate, the one kid in the gang who stood up to Joon Seok and had a growth arc but never became a hero type character, Teacher Lee and everything about him, the cute side story with the kid Seon Ho’s father was mentoring, and so much more.
I also need to take a moment to address the way the sexual assault of a minor was handled in this show, because this is something I am like, REALLY sensitive about as a narrative in TV shows and am almost always deeply disappointed by. This show impressed me in a big way about how it was handled, especially due to the complicated nature of how the sexual assault narrative tied into the overall narrative about Joon Seok and Seon Ho and the fight that led to Seon Ho’s accident. The fact that this sexual assault story was a piece of the boy’s story but was also given its own moment and its own treatment, and the assault survivor was given her own voice and allowed to feel confident in herself and in her story was incredibly powerful. It’s such a delicate topic and I was absolutely moved by how well the show handled that subject matter and story while maintaining its very real and human feel. The whole show is defined by how people are just people and don’t always do the right thing or react the right way to every situation, and the writer’s found a way to keep that realism and overall tone while also telling a very powerful narrative about how these situations need to be handled by both parents and society as a whole. It was also very explicitly clear who was at fault, and that the victim bore absolutely no blame in the whole situation, while still acknowledging the shame and confusion and fear she had to be feeling. Just. Wow, incredibly done.
Overall this may have been the best show I have ever seen, American or Korean or otherwise. It was just absolutely perfect in every way and I just… yeah.
Cannot recommend enough. I look forward to getting back to my cute and fun K Dramas but I also hope I accidentally come across more shows like this, assuming they exist.

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