I was pleasantly surprised with last summer’s drama Thirty but Seventeen (aka Still 17). It had been on my watch list for quite some time and I was anxious for all of the episodes to be available so I could start watching it. Unfortunately, DramaFever shut down before that could happen. After coming to the realization that it may be out of my reach forever I happened to find it on good ol’ Viki.com. Wasting no time, I quickly turned it on and was immersed in the story in no time.
At the age of 17 Woo Seo-Ri is involved in a severe accident that leaves her in a coma for 13 long years. When she finally awakens she has to learn to live all over again. Sadly, while she is dealing with the discomfort of physical therapy, no familiar people ever come to visit or encourage her. Where is her beloved uncle and aunt, the people who were raising her after her parents’ death? Once she is able to move on her own she grabs an opportunity to sneak out of the care facility and is able to make it back to her home. But her family is no longer there and other people are living in her house. After she gives them a very brief explanation of who she is and why she’s there, they allow her to stay with them, but only for a month, while she continues her search for her aunt and uncle. It doesn’t take long for stage designer Gong Woo-Jin, his nephew Yoo Chan, and their housekeeper Jennifer to be drawn to the darling 30 year old Seo-Ri who acts like a teenager. Chan always has a wonderfully fun time when he’s with this girl that seems like she’s 17, and Woo-Jin has an overwhelming desire to protect the naïve 30 year old woman. Could it be both uncle and nephew are falling in love with the same young woman they know very little about?
After being in a coma for 13 years, Woo Seo-Ri wakes up to a completely different life. Although in her head it’s just the day after the accident, in all reality more than a decade has passed and almost nothing is the same. She has to learn to walk/move again and even get used to having an unfamiliar face. Before the accident her life was all mapped out – she would study in Germany and one day be a world famous violinist. But she hasn’t held a violin in 13 years, can’t find her family, hasn’t graduated high school, has no work experience, and has no place to live. What to do?
When Gong Woo-Jin was just 17 years old he was involved in a tragic incident that changed not only his life, but his personality as well. The once smiling, happy teenager became a quiet, somber young man who just wanted to be alone and, in trying to run away from the emotional pain, left South Korea to live with his sister’s family in Germany. Not feeling deserving of being in any kind of close relationship, he has shut himself off from the world. Woo-Jin is a very talented set designer whose job and family obligations have just brought him back to Korea.
Yoo Chan adores his uncle Woo-Jin and is thrilled at the idea of living with him while his doctor mother is out of the country on business. He is the captain of his high school rowing team and tirelessly works to be the best he can be in order to win a gold medal in the sport. He has two very close friends who row with him and there’s one girl at school who absolutely adores him, although he doesn’t feel the same about her. Yoo Chan’s motto is a quote he attributes to Bruce Lee, “Don’t think, feel!”
Yoo Chan’s mother realizes her son and brother would fair better with a little help so she hires a live-in housekeeper named Jennifer to lend a hand while the two men are on their own for the next six months. Jennifer is 100% business. She knows everything there is to know about her job -cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry – and performs her duties flawlessly. She is extremely intelligent, very well read, and able to come up with a quote for just about any situation. The woman speaks in a monotone way, never cracks a smile, and seems to be completely void of emotion – more like a robot than a human. However, her compassion is difficult to hide.
When Kim Hyung-Tae was in high school he was head over heals in love with Seo-Ri, telling her he even intended to marry her. She was never in love with him but thought of him as a great friend. After Seo-Ri’s accident, Hyung-Tae changed his career goal and became a neurologist in the hope of being able to help his sweetheart recover from her coma. He has kept watch over her all these years and is thrilled when he is told she finally woke up. However, that joy quickly turns to horror when he discovers she is missing from the care center so he begins a tireless search for the girl he has loved for so many years.
Last but not least, there’s a darling, little, furry character in this show named Deok-Koo (aka Peng). Not much bigger than a bunny, Deok-Koo is a very tiny dog whom Woo-Jin took in because he was left behind when his owner moved in a hurry. His temperament is darling but his looks?… eehhh.
Information about Shin Hye-Sun, who plays Woo Seo-Ri, can be obtained by reading my The Hymn of Death review.
If you’d like to know a bit about the actor who plays Gong Woo-Jin, Yang Se-Jong, you can go to my Temperature of Love review.
I was completely blown away with the writing and acting in this show and relieved the writer realized Seo-Ri needed to act and talk like she was 17 years old because in her mind she was 17. Of course the poor girl would be shocked with her situation and I was very happy Shin Hye-Sun was able to convey that bewilderment so well. Sorrow, fear, confusion, anger, self-pity, regret – those are the exact emotions anyone would feel after coming out of a 13 year coma and the writer did a superb job making sure Seo-Ri showed us she was experiencing them all.
Shin Hye-Sun did an amazing job playing, convincingly, the part of a 17 year old high school girl. I wasn’t at all surprised she won the Top Excellence Award, Actress in a Monday-Tuesday Drama. But she wasn’t the only one that did an amazing job. Yang Se-Jong received the Excellence Award, Actor in a Monday-Tuesday Drama, Ahn Hyo-Seop took home the Best New Actor award, Ye Ji-Won earned a Best Supporting Actress award, and Park Si-Eun (who plays the part of 17 year old Seo-Ri) got an award for Best Young Actress.
One of the things that keeps this story moving forward is its mysteries. What happened to Seo-Ri’s uncle and aunt? Who is the girl in the yellow shoes? Why is a world renowned violinist insecure when she hears Seo-Ri’s name? Why did Woo-Jin become an emotional recluse? Is Yoo Chan really good enough to win first place in the rowing competition? There are so many situations that keep our interest and propel this story forward.
I appreciated the uniqueness in this show. Woo-Jin’s occupation is a stage designer and the sport Chan is involved in is rowing. I’ve never see either one in a drama before and, as you know, I’ve seen hundreds of Kdramas.
Thirty but Seventeen is void of any evil, back-stabbing, destructive characters. The conflicts these people deal with are the product of reality, life, and choices. I think the biggest obstacle to their peace of mind and happiness is the lack of sincere communication. If everyone had explained “their whole picture” things would have been solved much, much quicker. Seo-Ri mentions she was in a coma but only tells one person it was the result of an accident and she leaves out details so the person she’s talking to is void of any real knowledge of the situation. I am often accused of giving people way too much information when I speak so this very limited conversation stuff is foreign to me. Instead of simply saying “Ow,” “Ouch, I just got stabbed in the leg by a nail that was sticking out of the fence over by the library and my shin is bleeding pretty badly,” gives the person you’re talking to a complete picture. There’s very few misunderstandings when you add information to what you’re saying. Too bad the characters in this story didn’t realize that.
There is a lot of pretty classical music in this show, with an emphasis on the violin, of course. I remember how impressed I was with the fact that the actors in Tomorrow’s Cantabile really seemed like they were playing their instruments. The director made sure the camera angels were positioned so we didn’t closely see the fingering of the instruments and the actors really did a wonderful job with their musical pantomiming. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with that aspect of Thirty but Seventeen. It doesn’t look tremendously fake, but it’s far from looking real.
I was able to find two parts to this show’s soundtrack on YouTube. One is the songs that are sung and the other is the instrumental songs. Both are excellent and worth listening to. Just Stay, sung by Hyolyn, is the ballad I remember best. It’s played often throughout the drama but never gets monotonous. Another song we hear a lot but don’t get tired of is Get Away, performed by Bonggu. In staying with the show’s name, there is a song called Seventeen and another entitled Thirty Waltz. Out of the two, my favorite is the latter. Lucia sings a thoughtful sounding ballad called Tears in My Heart. It’s so pretty. I could listen to that song on an endless loop. Perfect Moment, sung by Migyo, is an upbeat song that still has a soft feel to it, kind of like If You Love Me from the drama Operation Proposal. Walk With Me is a peaceful ballad sung by Park Jae-Jung whose voice complements the song perfectly. He is able to sing powerfully without being too loud. That’s a great talent. There are two songs on the soundtrack that appropriately feature a very simple violin solo – Get Away and Thirty Waltz. Great touch for a show whose main character is a violinist.
The backgrounds and settings in this show are great. The house Seo-Ri grew up in is complete with a tiny, hidden room under the stairs, a storage area in Chan’s room via a net close to the ceiling, a large sitting area at the top of the stairs, and a window on the ceiling in Woo-Jin’s bedroom that actually opens. It also has a beautiful yard. One pretty outdoor scene is at a lovely lake where we get to watch Chan and his buddies in their rowing race. And there are some nice beach scenes.
Thirty but Seventeen is an entertaining love story complete with likable characters and top-notch acting. As for the writing – good beginning, good middle, good ending – good drama.
Personable, likable characters
Unique occupation and sport highlighted
A few “oops” but none of them are glaring mistakes
The actor/actresses don’t look like their characters are really playing the violin