How does a romantic evening abroad beside a charming stranger sound to you? Park Bo-Gum and Song Hye-Kyo heat things up in the yummy love story, Encounter (aka Boyfriend).
While the sun sets over a beach in Havana, Cuba, a woman, groggy from taking sleeping pills, is saved from nearly falling off the wall she’s been sitting on – a young man securely holds onto her as she snuggles next to him, safely napping with her head on his shoulder. Because her purse had been stolen, when she awakens, she unashamedly asks for the man’s help and the two end up spending some time together eating, talking, and dancing. Although names are never exchanged, when the evening is done and he sends her back to her hotel in a cab, the encounter becomes a dear memory for both of them. Days later, back in Seoul the young man discovers the woman he met that fateful evening is his new boss. Now the question is, will things be kept between the bounds of an employer/employee relationship or will the two strangers pick up where they left off in Cuba?
Cha Soo-Hyun is the daughter of Seoul’s former Mayor turned Assemblyman and her mother has her heart set on being the First Lady of South Korea some day. In order to propel her father’s political career forward she was forced to marry Jung Woo-Seok, the heir to the powerful Taegyeong Group. However, their union didn’t last long, Woo-Seok openly admitted to having another woman, and Soo-Hyun received Donghwa Hotel as part of the divorce settlement. Although she is no longer a member of that family, as part of the divorce she agreed to continue attending special family events. Her secretary, Jang Mi-Jin, is her only friend and her father’s old buddy is her driver. People at work have dubbed her the “Ice Princess” because she never smiles. “She’s more expressionless than the store’s mannikins,” one person points out. She is lonely, sullen, and usually needs medication in order to sleep.
Kim Jin-Hyeok is kind, understanding, helpful, and claims to be an “adult-like child. “There’s no such thing as ‘sad’ in my life,” he tells others. Jin-Hyeok comes from a very loving and close-knit family – he is the oldest of two boys, his mother is a homemaker, and his father owns a tiny fruit store. When he got back from serving in the military he went to college and graduated with a degree in hotel management. After working tons of odd jobs he managed to save enough money to go traveling throughout Cuba and, as luck would have it, as soon as he gets home he begins working in the public relations department of Donghwa Hotel aside his childhood friend, Jo Hyde-In, who (unbeknownst to him) happens to have been in love with Jin-Hyeok since high school.
Here’s a tiny bit of information about thirty-seven year old Song Hye-Kyo, who plays the part of CEO Cha Soo-Hyun. She won the SunKyung Smart Model Contest at the age of 14 and began her entertainment career as a model for the school uniform company. From there she received her first small acting job in the Kdrama First Love. But it was her role in the smash-hit drama Autumn in My Heart that first made people sit up and take notice. After that drama her fame rose throughout Asia and she was considered a Hallyu star. Her popularity continued to climb as she starred opposite Lee Byung-Hun in All In, and after she appeared alongside Rain in Full House she became one of the most well known Korean actresses in Asia. From there she went to San Francisco and Seattle to study English and then it was back to work in Korea making her big screen debut in My Girl and I. She made a photobook entitled Song Hye-Kyo’s Moment which was shot by top photographers around the world. Here’s something I thought was interesting – in 2009 she won the 43rd Taxpayer Day Prime Minister’s Commendation award and then five years later made a public apology and paid 3.7 million (U.S.) dollars in fines for committing tax evasion. She claimed her accountant had mishandled her paperwork without her knowledge. In 2017 she married her Descendants of the Sun costar, Song Joon-Ki.
For some information about Park Bo-Gum, the darling and charming actor who plays sweetheart Kim Jin-Hyeok, go to my Moonlight Drawn by Clouds review.
When fans first discovered Song Hye-Kyo would be starring opposite Park Bo-Gum in a romantic drama they were very skeptical and didn’t like the idea. Why? Because Park Bo-Gum is close friends with Song Joong-Ki and folks didn’t like the idea of Bo-Gum kissing and romancing his friend’s wife. When I read that I thought it was silly. “These people are professionals in their craft. It’s just a job. If Joong-Ki is fine with it what’s the big deal?” was what buzzed around in my head. Then I watched the show and I’ll be honest, the sweethearts’ chemistry isn’t all that wow but I still thought it was weird to see Bo-Gum and Hye-Kyo trying to act all lovey-dovey. Maybe the fans influenced my thinking, or maybe the fictional couple seemed more like friends than lovers to me because the real people are friends.
Although Encounter is a good romance drama, honestly I don’t think I would have liked it as much if it had starred anyone other than Park Bo-Gum in the role of Kim Jin-Hyeok. Both the actor and the character made this movie for me. Although Song Hye-Kyo is excellent (as always) her character, Cha Soo-Hyun, just wasn’t as easy to love as Jin-Hyeok. Soo-Hyun is quite similar to other character’s Hye-Kyo has played in past dramas – Autumn in My Heart, That Winter the Wind Blows – a somber, self-sacrificing, almost depressing character. The way I saw it, Jin-Hyeok was such a positive, happy character he deserved someone who didn’t carry as much baggage as Soo-Hyun had. On the other hand, he was just the type of guy Soo-Hyun needed to help her successfully deal with the stressful, negative situations in her life.
Like Memories of the Alhambra, Encounter was aired on a cable channel and pulled off very high ratings. As much as I enjoyed Encounter, in my opinion, for sheer entertainment value Memories of the Alhambra is hands down far and away the better show!
When I think of this drama’s music, the first thing that comes to mind is the song If I Manage to Kiss You (Si Llego a Besarte) performed by Omara Portuondo, the song Jin-Hyeok plays for Soo-Hyun when they first meet. It has a seductive sound, just perfect for a flirtatious first encounter. And here’s something interesting, if you find that song on YouTube you’ll enjoy reading all the comments that say the Kdrama Encounter is what lead them to that particular song. I enjoyed every song on the soundtrack except one, Take Me On. The problem I had with it was the words. Like I’ve mentioned before, if you’re going to sing an entire song in English then, for Pete’s sake, have the words make sense! The music isn’t wonderful, the vocals (on both the male and female version) are whiney, and the words are weird – “… the feeling of adore, oh, take me on to you. Oh, take me on into your arms. I’ll go wherever world you’re on.” Nope. If you’re going to sing English words then have someone fluent in English write the song, please!
One plus for the backgrounds/settings in this drama is the fact that some of the show was filmed on location in Cuba. It gives the drama a unique look, at least in the first episode. Jin-Hyeok’s humble middle-class lifestyle is a fun contrast to Soo-Hyun’s extravagant CEO ways.
This is a good relax-and-go-along-for-the-ride kind of drama. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have a romantic Encounter, here’s your answer.
Park Bo-Gum’s acting (darling portrayal of his character)
Decent character growth
A couple no big deal “oops”
One very annoying song