I was simply captivated with Dazzling (aka Radiant, aka The Light in Your Eyes) right up until the end of the tenth episode which left me dazed and confused. “What?” I asked myself. Then going on to episode 11 I thought, “Ohhhhhh, so…” – and then the minute the show ended I wanted to start it all over from the beginning in order to see it through the eyes of better understanding. It’s not a strange story, like I had originally thought, it’s just a regular old story told in an out-of-the-box way.
I can’t tell you everything I want to about this drama without ruining the ending for you so I’m afraid I’ll just have to perpetuate the misleading things written about it. Sorry I’m unable to lay things out simply for you but the vagueness of the synopsis is what will lead you to that “ah ha” at the end of its tenth hour and without that epiphany moment this is just your normal, run-of-the-mill Kdrama.
When Kim Hye-Ja’s father is killed in a car accident she decides to use the magical watch she found as a child to turn back time and save him. However, in order to achieve that goal she has to use the watch so many times that the whole world seems to have stood still while she aged decades, awaking one morning to find herself a 25 year old woman trapped in a 78 year old body.
Because Kim Hye-Ja was told she had a beautiful voice her career goal was to become a TV news announcer, desiring a job that would pay enough for her to be able to take care of her parents who struggle financially. At a class reunion she meets a news reporter named Lee Joon-Ha and, after only a few encounters, falls in love with the young man. However, when turning back time ages her to the point of being old enough to be Joon-Ha’s grandmother, she becomes desperate to find a way to get back to her 25 year old self. Sadly, she no longer has the magical watch that makes time travel possible and so she eventually resigns herself to being 78 and make the best of the little time she has left.
Although on the outside Reporter Lee Joon-Ha seems like he has a great life, internally he struggles with the feeling of his entire existence being a mistake. His mother left when he was an infant and his father is a selfish alcoholic who never loved his son. He was raised by his paternal grandmother and, although he dearly loves the old woman and is very protective of her, wishes he could turn back time and grown up in an orphanage in order to permanently get away from his evil father. Because of a mistake he made in trying to help his grandmother, he lost his job and now works at the Filial Son Senior Center. Other than his grandmother, Hey-Ja is the only person who has ever sincerely cared about him and he’s heartbroken she just disappeared one day, leaving without even a goodbye.
Hye-Ja lives at home with her father who drives a taxi for a living, her mother who owns and runs a tiny hair salon adjacent to their house, and her older brother who is a lazy man that prefers to run a YouTube channel instead of making a living to help out financially. She has two close childhood friends, Yoon Sang-Eun who has been an idol trainee for years without ever debuting, and Lee Hyun-Joo who helps out in her father’s Chinese restaurant.
Joon-Ha lives with his grandmother who gets by on as little as possible but shares with others as much as she can. Luckily, she owns her own house although it is tiny and very run-down. Joon-Ha’s father has been absent for most of his life, only showing up now and then to cause trouble. He is a horrible man who has no problem stealing from his own mother.
For some information about Han Ji-Min, the actress who plays 25 year old Kim Hye-Ja, you can go to my Familiar Wife review.
My Bride of the Water God review contains some information about Nam Joo-Hyuk, the actor who plays the part of Lee Joon-Ha.
The part of the elder Kim Hye-Ja is played by actress Kim Hye-Ja. That wasn’t a typographical error, the character really does have the same name as the actress. I was amazed at not only the career this veteran actress has had but at her personal life as well. She was born in 1941 during the time the Japanese occupied Korea and studied Living Art (I honestly have no idea what that is) at Ewha Women’s University before dropping out in order to become an actress. Her acting debut came in 1963 and she went on to star in film, stage plays and musical theater, and over 90 television dramas! In the drama Country Diaries she played a beloved mother for 22 years! She also had an amazingly long run endorsing CJ CheilJedang products for just short of 30 years! A turning point in her career came when director Bong Joon-Ho decided to make a film centered around Kim Hye-Ja and spent four years trying to talk her into the role. The movie was Mother and she said it was that role that “reactivated all the cells that have been dormant in [her] my body.” It was because of that film that Kim Hye-Ja became the first ever South Korean actress to be named Best Actress by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association! In 2013-2014 she was in a one woman stage play in which she played 11 different roles, one being a ten year old boy dying from cancer. She holds the record of having won the Daesang (highest award) at the MBC Drama Awards the most times (three, to be exact) and the only person to have won that same award four times at the Baeksang Arts Awards! She has authored four books, one of which all the proceeds go to underprivileged North Korean children. She has also been a goodwill ambassador for a nonprofit organization, visiting refugee camps in war-torn and poverty-stricken areas in more than 20 countries around the world! Such an amazing woman! I was surprised that Han Ji-Min received top billing in this drama when Kim Hye-Ja is in many, many more episodes than she is.
Dazzling isn’t nearly as depressing as My Mister but it is a very weighty drama. There’s not really a place for joy in the midst of so many people’s trials and sorrows. Every single person in this story has a problem they are struggling to deal with. Although Hye-Ja’s mother’s hair place is called Happy Beauty Salon there is sadness in abundance at that shop. We are introduced to some of the elders at the senior center and they all have trials that break your heart. I spent 12 hours feeling sorry for everyone in this show. However, as difficult and heart wrenching as this story is, Hye-Ja tells us, “There wasn’t a single day in my life that was not radiant.”
The screenwriters, in the form of 78 year old Hye-Ja, teach us about the law of exchange and equivalence. Have you ever heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Well, that’s what the law of exchange and equivalence is all about – you have to sacrifice something to gain something else. In order to save her father’s life Hye-Ja gives up her youth, her dreams, and her love but she never once says she wished she hadn’t saved him. Everyday we all live the law of exchange and equivalence – trading our time for money, sleep for conversation, slimness for ice cream… the list goes on and on. All we can do is be sure we’re making a trade that will make us happy because no one can really turn back time.
Will you need some tissues to finish the show? Maybe. I didn’t cry but I had a huge lump in my throat. The entire thing is loaded with emotion and lessons that touch our hearts.
One thing I discovered through watching Dazzling is that in South Korea it is believed if you dream of pooping you will win the lottery. Interesting. I once dreamed I was helping someone look for something they had misplaced and every closet, drawer, and cupboard I opened was filled to the brim with brand new rolls of toilet paper. Does that count?
I loved the lesson Hye-Ja’s mother tried to teach her – “To be talented is something you are born with but living well is by your own effort.” Something for us all to internalize.
Watch carefully when episode nine begins. There is a TV playing in the distance and it happens to be showing The Third Charm. I thought that was fun.
We know what Hye-Ja looks like when she’s young but, for us, her friends in the senior center have always been elderly. The director does this really creative thing and shows us old pictures of each of the characters when they were younger (I’m guessing they are real pictures of the actors/actresses) as they are driving to the beach in a van. The pictures are shown next to the faces of the characters as they are obviously reflecting on their long lives, reminding us that elderly people were once young, too. It’s clever, artistic, and emotional.
The drama was shown on cable TV which makes its ratings even more impressive, the last episode garnering a decent 9.731% nationwide.
Maytree performs Always in My Heart, hands down one of the best Kdrama songs of 2019 so far. It has a wonderful, toe-tappin’ beat with a sound that can’t help but make you smile and the harmony is absolute perfection! The simple ballad Trip is performed to the accompaniment of a solo piano and features Harim’s voice. Dazzling Days is a nice song but Nam Se-Ra’s extremely high soprano voice sounds like she’s constantly out of breath. The background music in Paint is very original. Unfortunately, Kim Yeon-Ji’s voice overwhelms those interesting sounds.
There is some pretty scenery in this drama – a romantic walk through autumn woods, a touching proposal by a beautiful river, a reunion at the ocean during sunset. The three most used backgrounds are the senior center, the Happy Beauty Salon/Hye-Ja’s house, and a little eatery where Hye-Ja and Joon-Ha go to drink and eat udon noodles.
Dazzling provides us with a somber look at aging, something we do our best to avoid because no one longs to be an old person. It’s something we agree to in order to continue living but we try to postpone it as long as we can. Fortunately, there are some good things to living a senior life, but I’ll let Hye-Ja tell you about those.
“The past filled with regrets and the future filled with anxiety… please don’t let that ruin the present.” – Kim Hye-Ja
Cute old people
A few smiles/silly situations
A bit emotionally heavy
Confusing at the end of episode 10