Seok-joo (played by Seo Young-joo) is a grumpy teenager. His life isn't awful, really, but there's not really any apparent optimism. The first we see of the young man he's in the same general vicinity as another kid being bullied. In a more romantic drama this scene would take on romantic undertones, as Seok-joo learns to stand up for what's right. Here, though, there's no such reassuring cathartic release.
Nearly every character in this drama is miserable on a basic level. Seok-joo, the bullies, the kid who is bullied. They're all stuck in this cycle of almost apathetic violence. They're fighting not because there's any particularly good reason, but because there's nothing else to do. Seok-joo's the only one who's figured this out, though, and that's why he's the main sympathetic character. But just because Seok-joo knows he's in a bad place is no help as far as getting him out of it. Generic anger's about all the guy has.
"Drama Special - 18 Years" is able to get some good mileage for awhile out of exploring this bitter youth's psyche. Seok-joo makes bad choices less because he's a bad person and more because he doesn't really have ny good ones available to him. Even when a character tries to get Seok-joo on to the right track, well, the results don't go that well. It's a pretty classic case of misery loves company.
There's only so far a drama can sustain itself on these fairly negative emotions, though. More intense action sequences and plot events crop up later on- crimes start being committed and people end up send to jail. But the tone of the drama up until these points dips so close to lethargy that even these major sequences don't really inspire much of an emotional reaction. in many ways the drama is predictable. It's clear from the first scene we're not getting a happy ending out of this.
In many ways that might be the main point of "Drama Special - 18 Years". That to someone in bad enough circumstances, there's not really any way of avoiding an inevitably bad fate, and even the willingness to try and avoid the mistakes of our predecessors probably isn't enough in the face of vicious enough obstacles. It's an unsettling inertia that doesn't really go anywhere fun, so I don't know that I can really recommend the drama. But I suppose it is true to life, for whatever that's worth.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - 18 Years""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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