Romance among psychology – in 2014 Korea gave us It’s Okay, That’s Love, last year (2015) we had Heart to Heart, Kill Me, Heal Me and Hyde, Jekyll, Me (all four, fantastic shows) and now we get to add 2016’s Madame Antoine to the list. Although they all deal with people battling a mental illness or trauma, this new show is much lighter than the other four.
The Madame Antoine Cafe is run by a charming woman by the name of Go Hye-Rim. In order to pay for her daughter’s schooling abroad she provides the extra service of telling her customers’ fortunes. She has learned to read the tiniest little nuances of the people she councils which makes the things she says seem more like prophetic warnings than the insightful guesses they really are. And to add some credibility to her “act” she speaks French, claiming she is able to channel Marie Antoinette, who is the real one giving advice. One day she gets the news that a young psychotherapist named Choi Soo-Hyun will be moving his practice to the second floor of her cafe. The old gentleman who owns the building, and is funding Soo-Hyun’s latest experiment, believes in Hye-Rim’s fortune telling abilities and asks her to be a councilor in Doctor Choi’s office. At first she refuses but quickly changes her mind just to bother Soo-Hyun, who was completely against the idea of her joining his practice. But when he decides to use Hye-Rim as his experiment’s subject, he’s more than happy to include her as a part of his office staff. And just what exactly is the hypothesis to his experiment? – “Women are incapable of real love.” Things begin to get a little complicated when Soo-Hyun decides to put himself into the experiment as well. Sounds interesting, huh? Well, this psychotherapist may not know as much about women’s hearts and minds as he thinks he does.
Throughout the show Soo-Hyun and Hye-Rim council some people with real mental illnesses – a woman with DID; a rude, spoiled idol in desperate need of being loved; an old high school friend who looses touch with reality in an attempt to please his mother; a rich old man with OCD; a little girl craving attention from her parents… Each one is an interesting case which adds flavor to the storyline. It’s a virtual smorgasbord of psychological problems and the writer works them all in naturally. I was quite impressed.
I thought it was a fun idea to have the French Hye-Rim speaks, to impress her customers, be phrases that would be taught on a “learning conversational French” CD. “Where is the bathroom?” “It’s a lovely day.” “Take me to the hotel.” She recites them from behind a fan, looking and sounding so mystical. It’s hilarious! I kept thinking, I wonder what she’d do if someone spoke French back to her? I’m so glad the writer let me find out!
For those of you who enjoy romance, this drama certainly has it. Since the show is based on Choi Soo-Hyun’s “love” experiment we get to see a lot of wooing going on. Bouquets of roses, fancy dinners, gifts, a trip, several real kisses… Even though most of it is just used for the sake of the experiment, this show is packed with romance and seduction.
Divorced, 35 year old Go Hye-Rim is a single mom who misses her pre-teen daughter studying in England. Her ex-husband left her for another woman and that incident has left a hefty scar on Hye-Rim’s heart. She allows herself to fall for Soo-Hyun even though she has proof he’s a liar and just using her for his research.
Choi Soo-Hyun is a well known and highly respected psychotherapist who still carries the pain of his mother leaving him at an amusement park when he was just six years old. He was raised by his gruff and emotionally distant father and a step-mother he was never really close to.
Choi Seung-Chan is Soo-Hyun’s half brother. He’s a retired baseball player with a generous, fun-loving personality. He agrees to be part of his brother’s experiment in exchange for a place to live. His assignment?… try and make Hye-Rim fall in love with him.
Won Ji-Ho is a young genius who is learning about psychology, up close and personal, from Soo-Hyun. He has a sweet, kind personality with a bit of naivete. He’s part of the experiment, like Seung-Chan, and is doing his best to make Hye-Rim love him.
Go Yoo-Rim is Hye-Rim’s little sister who is trying to become a documentary film maker. She chooses Ji-Ho as a subject and falls head-over-heels in love with the guy.
Bae Mi-Ran, once Soo-Hyun’s professor, comes to visit and decides to join his practice when she finds out Seung-Chan works there. She likes him the second she meets him but has no intention of confessing since their age difference is more than 30 years!
Aside from being absolutely dreamy, Sung Joon, who plays Choi Soo-Hyun, is an amazing actor who portrays any part he’s given convincingly. Since he’s one of my favorite actors I’ve seen him in lots of dramas. I loved him in this but my favorite character he’s played is Joo-Wan in I Need Romance 3. I was also very impressed with his shockingly good performance in Hyde, Jekyll, Me. I have no idea when he’ll be fulfilling his mandatory military service but if it’s not too soon, I hope he has another drama planned for the end of 2016. I don’t want to wait too long to see him again!
Born and raised in Los Angeles California, Han Ye-Seul, whose character is Go Hye-Rim, began a modeling career in 2001 after winning the SBS Supermodel Contest. She made her acting debut two years later and went on to perform in both TV dramas and feature films. My introduction to her was with the romantic comedy Couple or Trouble (based on the American film Overboard). She is fantastic in that and wonderful in Spy Mung-Wol, as well. I also enjoyed her in Birth of a Beauty. The gal is great at whatever she does.
There isn’t a lot to the soundtrack. The songs are decent but nothing’s amazing. I did, however, like Swing Magic. It’s the uptempo song played for the opening credits. I wish I knew if Sung Joon sang any songs for this show like he’s done for some of the other Kdramas he’s been in.
The scenery isn’t anything awe inspiring. There is a short scene on the beach but that’s about it for “pretty”. I think the best scenery is the Madame Antoine cafe. Its charming atmosphere made me want to go there for a cup of chai tea and a fortune reading.
Madame Antoine is one of the first Kdramas out this year. With 3/4 of the year’s dramas left to air, it will be interesting to see if it will be remembered come awards time nine months from now. I’m guessing, yes.
Sung Joon and Han Ye-Seul
Interesting psychological cases
Fun fortune teller idea
No bad guys
Han Ye-Seul’s amazingly huge wardrobe
Lots of good, real kisses
Nothing I considered bad