We’re not perfect and neither is life. We do what we can with the knowledge we have and hope for the best and then we need to remind ourselves – it’s natural I’ll go through success and failure over and over. Everyone does. Why? Because This is My First Life.
Thirty-eight year old, single Nam Se-Hee owns a house but requires a housemate in order to help him pay the mortgage. For $300 the person would get their own room in a lovely, well taken care of apartment-kind-of-home with the main duties being to sort the recyclable trash and look after his cat, so creatively named Kitty. Thirty year old Yoon Ji-Ho has been sharing an apartment with her younger brother but now that he is married she needs to find a new place to live. She has no money for a deposit so when a friend tells her about a room in a house where the rent is only $300 a month she jumps at the opportunity to move in, all the time believing the house belongs to a woman. Because of work schedules, Ji-Ho is already moved into Se-Hee’s house before they meet. When they finally come face to face, not only is it a shock that the person is not the sex they were expecting, but they’re embarrassed when they realize they’re not really strangers.
There’s no way either one would live with a member of the opposite sex they don’t really know! However, Ji-Ho loves the low rent, the beautiful room/house, and sweet Kitty, while Se-Hee enjoys the fact that he has help paying the mortgage and his housemate is clean, sorts the trash, and takes care of his cat. It’s the perfect set up. So what to do? Well, why not get married? “According to the sociologist Gary Becker, there has to be a bigger benefit to getting married than living single for people to get married.”
What you see is what you get with Nam Se-Hee. He is straightforward, no nonsense, and clinical. In fact, Ji-Ho notices, “… his brain seems to be shaped like a square. His heart too.” Se-Hee works in the IT business, on the design team of a dating app company. On the introduction board at work his card states, “Desired nickname: None. Likes: Cat. Dislikes: Stuff like this. Desired salary: Enough to pay back the loan before retiring.” When he sits it is with a straight back, looking straight ahead, legs slightly apart, and his hands are in a fist on each thigh. He can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than a minute, studying it and concentrating before he even begins the task. Se-Hee himself admits, “I’m only able to handle three things in my life and those are my house, my cat, and myself. I don’t need other things that require more energy and cost.”
Yoon Ji-Ho grew up in a patriarchal home in a small town near the ocean. Because she was a great student in high school she earned a scholarship to a prestigious university in Seoul. All she ever wanted to do was write and she achieved that goal when she landed a job as an assistant writer on a morning Kdrama. When that show comes to an end and she leaves the next project because of ill treatment, Ji-Ho takes a part-time job as a waitress at a cafe’. In high school she and her two best friends discussed their dreams – one wanted to be the CEO of her own company, one wanted to marry a self-made wealthy man and have children, and Ji-Ho’s dream was simply “love.”
Other than seeing his guest appearance in episodes one and two of the Kdrama Shut Up Flower Boy Band (which I loved, by the way) Because This is My First Life is pretty much my introduction to actor Lee Min-Ki, who plays Nam Se-Hee. However, just because I’ve only seen him in two things doesn’t mean he’s new to the acting scene. His first acting job came in 2004 with Drama City‘s show entitled My Older Brother. The following year he won Best New Actor at the MBC Drama Awards for his role in Be Strong, Geum-Soon! In 2006 he made his big screen debut in the form of a cameo appearance as “high school student #7” in the motion picture Riverbank Legends. His musical debut came in 2009 when he released a six track EP called No Kidding. The album is said to have a “very indie-electro rock sound.”
The character Yoon Ji-Ho is played by Jung So-Min whose acting debut came in the form of a supporting role in the TV series Bad Guy. It was that show that lead her to her first starring role as the lovable, darling high school girl Oh Ha-Ni in the classic Kdrama Playful Kiss. I also saw her in Can We Get Married? Although her acting was fine, I really disliked the depressing aspects of the show. My friends say I have a pretty cynical outlook on marriage and that story didn’t help to change my view. However, I loved where the writer of Because This is My First Life took the idea of marriage – marriage may not be the right relationship for every couple. Here’s some news in the romance department… it was confirmed by their respective agencies that Jung-So-Min and Lee Joon from MBLAQ, her co-star from My Father is Strange, began dating in October of 2017, the same month he began his mandatory military service. Hummmmm… so how is that going to work, then?
This show grabbed me from the very first episode. I was able to understand the characters because I saw them as genuine people with real dreams they hoped to achieve and real obstacles they struggled to overcome. Although Se-Hee seems to have built a wall around himself, there are little cracks in it. The robot he appears to be really is a man after all. And Ji-Ho may seem like a fun-loving, spontaneous young woman but she has a reflective, sensitive side as well.
I wasn’t thrilled with a choice Ji-Ho makes near the end of the show but, thankfully, the writer didn’t leave me in the dark. Although it wasn’t the move I wanted her to make, the writer subtly explained why she did what she did, and that helped me understand Ji-Ho’s heart.
The show often comes back to a scene. There’s one where a girl’s hair is suddenly shorter and the guy she likes doesn’t say anything about it having been cut. Then the next time we see her she’s in a salon getting her hair cut. I thought that was a major problem until the writer took us back to the first scene (where we first see her hair shorter) and finishes it. Boom, it made sense. It wasn’t a problem it was just out of regular sequence. But those things are all straightened out sooner or later.
I don’t want to give anything away but I will hint that in a small way Because This is My First Life reminded me of the 2004 Kdrama Sweet 18 with Han Ji-Hye and Lee Dong-Gun. The situations are different but some of the feelings are the same. Both shows are enjoyable but I think I liked Because This is My First Life better. For one thing, this story has three different couples with vastly different obstacles to overcome. The extra relationships add a nice bit of variety to the storyline.
The best thing about Because This is My First Life‘s music is that one song in particular is not leaned on too heavily. Each song is played frequently enough that it begins to sound familiar but none are over played and that’s not always the case with Kdramas. My favorite is a jazz song called I Want to Love, performed by MeloMance. It’s a mood lifter, that’s for sure. This Life, sung by Moon Sung-Nam, is probably my favorite ballad in the show – “Ah ha ya… stay with me.” It’s a reflective kind of song, kind of like the person singing it is deep in thought, trying to make a decision. Shelter, is a lovely duet that perfectly combines the voices of Song Hee-Jin and Lee Yo-Han, which I saw as a representation of the characters Se-Hee and Ji-Ho’s hearts and lives blending . Ben lends her talented vocals to the simple love song Can’t Go. There are other songs on the soundtrack that are just as good as the ones I just mentioned – Everyday, Star Figure, Marriage, and Tomorrow. The soundtrack is excellent.
I loved Se-Hee’s house. Although it isn’t anything spectacular, it is clean and comfortable… home. The location scouts give us a romantic kissing scene overlooking the ocean, and the tiny rooftop apartment Ji-Ho’s friends live in has character.
Because This is My First Life is an engaging love story we can immerse ourselves in because of the many wonderful, diverse characters we’re able to relate to. It’s not difficult to understand these people and that means we are watching friends.