If you wanted to get a degree in film making you would be considered a student of the arts and thanks to director Oh Choong-Hwan that’s exactly what we get with the drama While You Were Sleeping – art. He takes Park Hye-Ryun’s superb script and embellishes it with his own brand of creativity and the outcome is an evenly paced, fantastically entertaining work of art!
When an ex-TV news reporter, a “newbee” prosecutor, and an impassioned police officer begin to have dreams about one another’s future, they decide to team up in order to change the unfavorable, and sometimes deadly, future that awaits them. How and why are their dreams connected, and can they really alter predestined fate?
Nam Hong-Joo has been having dreams about the future since she was a young teenager. They are usually warnings of impending doom, details of total strangers in perilous situations. Although she has tried to change things, the outcome has always remained the same as what happened in her dream. She foresaw her father’s death and has always blamed herself for not being able to prevent it. She has even seen her own demise which lead her to quit the career she dearly loved in order to try and prevent it from happening.
When Jung Jae-Chan was a teenager he allowed his tutor to talk him into cheating on his schoolwork to avoid pressure from his father about his grades. However, when he saw how upset and hurt his father was over his lies, he vowed to never disappoint him again. When his police chief father told him he hoped he’d become a prosecutor someday, Jae-Chan decided to make his dad’s dream come true. Although he’s the “newbee” of the prosecution team, he is determined to be the upright prosecutor his deceased father wanted him to be and attacks his new career with energy and enthusiasm.
Han Woo-Tak is a junior police officer who absolutely loves his job and is good at what he does. He lives alone, with his dog Robin, and wants to be just like his hero, Batman, saving others from the evil people in society. When he is rescued from what would have been a fatal car accident, he begins to have disturbing dreams about the stranger who saved him. He sees his new-found ability as a way to catch the bad guys and help his savior. But Woo-Tak is hiding something, a secret, that if discovered, will end his beloved career as a cop.
Lee Yoo-Beom has always looked out for himself and blamed others for his own mistakes. Talking people into doing things they wouldn’t normally do is no problem for him. He desires power, prestige, and money and will do whatever it takes to get them. Once a highly respected prosecutor, he moved on to become an expensive and highly sought after attorney at a big-wig law firm. Cover up, set up, and shut up – he’ll stop at nothing to win a case. Although his heart hates defending the bad guy, his head is always able to justify it. Once a case is put to rest, the enormous guilt he feels for being an unscrupulous lawyer is swept away after he literally, washes his hands of the whole thing.
Lee Jong-Suk, whose role is Jung Jae-Chan, began his career in the entertainment industry as a runway model and in 2005, at the young age of 15, he became the youngest male model to ever participate in the Seoul Collection program at Seoul Fashion Week. Five years later he made his acting debut in the drama Prosecutor Princess and the motion picture Ghost. Although he appeared in other TV and film projects (among them the amazing romantic fantasy Secret Garden) it wasn’t until 2012 that he received his first acting award, Best New Actor, for his role in the drama School 2013. He next received the male Excellence Award, and eight more (out of the 11 he was nominated for) for his performance in I Can Hear Your Voice. In 2014 he became the youngest actor to win the Best Actor award at the 27th Grimae Awards. Doctor Stranger and Pinocchio made him a huge star in China, which resulted in him starring in the Chinese film Jade Lovers. There is a statue of him in Madame Tussaud’s museum in Hong Kong, which he got to unveil himself at the ceremony. In 2016 he starred in the tremendously popular drama W – Two Worlds, winning the Daesang (grand prize) at the year end MBC Drama Awards for his wonderful performance as a James Bond-like cartoon character who pops in and out of the real world. Also in 2016 he made cameo appearances in Go Ho’s Starry Night and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo and had a co-starring role in the romantic fantasy webdrama First Kiss For the Seventh Time. Jong-Suk graduated from Konkuk University last year (2016) after having majored in Professional Motion Pictures and Art.
Bae Suzy, who plays Nam Hong-Joo, has received tons of recognitions during her entertainment career but two of my favorites are First Love Fantasies Award and the Goddess Award. Wouldn’t you just love to have trophies with those inscriptions on them sitting on your mantle? Suzy is a singer/actress/model and if you’re interested in learning more you can read what I wrote about her in my Uncontrollably Fond review.
The extremely handsome and talented actor who plays Officer Han Woo-Tak, is Jung Hae-In. He didn’t debut as an actor until he had finished his mandatory military assignment and graduated from Pyeongtaek University with a degree from the Broadcasting Entertainment Department. While in school he participated in various activities including acting in musicals. He made an appearance in AOA Black’s music video Moya in 2013 but his acting debut didn’t happen until the following year with the drama Bride of the Century. This is the first time he’s caught my eye, although he’s been in two other shows I’ve seen, Blood and Goblin. His acting in this drama made Woo-Tak wonderfully lovable and someone I would definitely want to be with. I really hope he can play a starring role in a romantic comedy soon. Even better, a spin-off where Han Woo-Tak is the main character/love interest.
Thirty-four year old Lee Sang-Yeob, who plays the sinister Attorney Lee Yoo-Beom, made his first acting appearance in the drama A Happy Woman in 2007. Since then he has been in six major motion pictures, including being one of the dubbed voices in the British-Hungarian movie The Nutcracker in 3D. He was in two of my favorite 2016 Kdramas, the fantasy/crime drama Signal and the very realistic My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week. His facial expressions in While You Were Sleeping are superb. From his fake, cheerful smiles to his nervous squinting eyebrows, it’s not difficult for the audience to read his thoughts but very unnoticeable to those around him.
Although the plot is simple – people dream about each other and try to stop bad things from happening – there are several different storylines that directly connect to that idea. Instead of writing one story and dragging it out for 16 episodes, the writer chose to hold our interest by giving the characters varied cases to solve and, happily, each story is introduced and wrapped up in just a couple episodes. Spousal abuse, an innocent man found guilty of being a serial killer, a man murdering his sibling for the insurance money… one story ends and another begins, keeping us glued to the screen and anxious to find out how things will eventually wrap up.
The way this story is presented is why I consider it art. Flashback scenes blend into the present, showing us how the past, present, and future are perfectly connected. Something will happen and then abruptly stop, and that’s how we find out what we just saw was one of the character’s dreams. In other words, if the dream feels real to the character, the writer wanted us to also believe it was real at first.
The synergy in this drama is no surprise since several of the actors, the director, and the writer have worked with each other before. I can’t help but wonder if the familiarity was partly responsible for the thumbs up outcome of this excellent drama. While You Were Sleeping‘s scriptwriter also wrote Pinnochio and I Can Hear Your Voice which Lee Jong-Suk starred in, along with Dream High which starred Bae Suzy. And Lee Sang-Yeob was in the 15th episode of Doctors which While You Were Sleeping‘s director, Oh Choong-Hwan, also directed. The actors all have wonderful chemistry which is crucial to making the characters’ chemistry believable. This drama just fit together perfectly!
Now, after singing While You Were Sleeping‘s praises since the beginning of this review, I’ll let you in on something that just wasn’t right – at the end of the show Hong-Joo’s hair is unrealistically long. You see, her hair is very short (never touching her shoulders) through almost all of the show and then at the end the words “one year later” come on the screen and the next thing we know, there’s Hong-Joo with hair more than halfway down her back! Even if you have hair that grows quickly there’s no way it’s going to grow over a foot in one year. Any of you have hair that grows over an inch a month? (It does that at the beginning of the show in a dream sequence, also.)
The music is excellent with the main stars, Bae Suzy and Lee Jong-Suk each performing their own song. Suzy sings the powerful ballad I Love You Boy and Jong-Suk sings the toe-tappin’ song Come to Me. When Night Falls, sung by Eddy Kim, is what I would consider While You Were Sleeping‘s theme song. It’s probably the one that’s played the most throughout the show. My favorite song is the beautiful ballad It’s You performed in English by Henry Lau (from Super Junior M). All the songs are great, adding a polished finishing touch to an already wonderful drama.
As for scenery, the main spots in the show are Hong-Joo’s house and her mother’s restaurant, and the prosecution office where Jae-Chan works. The stories unfold in many different places around the city and we even get to see the beautiful ocean when Jae-Chan takes Hong-Joo to the beach.
When I began this show I wasn’t expecting the artistic, engrossing, drama I got. I loved the characters. I loved the plot. I loved the stories/crimes. I loved the music. I loved the acting. While You Were Sleeping is Sarah Johnson’s third 10 rating of 2017.
Amazingly artistic directing and filming
Interesting multiple stories in storyline
Hong-Joo’s hair grows too fast