At Eighteen (aka Moment of Eighteen) isn’t just a teenage love story. This drama hits home as a call for each of us to strive to be our better self.
After being forced to transfer schools, when he voluntarily took the blame for something he didn’t do, eighteen year old Choi Joon-Woo decides to be the type of student that is seen and not heard. Because his mother is a partner in a small restaurant and can’t afford to leave her livelihood to go with him, Joon-Woo makes the move alone. Unfortunately, he gets off to a rocky start at his new school when he is once again blamed for something with which he had nothing to do. Things go from bad to worse when, this time around, Joon-Woo refuses to admit he did anything wrong. Then, when Joon-Woo won’t willingly transfer, the top guy in the school gets involved and tries to make life miserable for him. But with a little help from a new friend, the girl he likes, and a sympathetic teacher, Joon-Woo finds the courage he needs to face his difficulties head on and becomes stronger because of them.
Life wasn’t easy for Choi Joon-Woo. He was raised by a loving, single mother but never knew his father, the “first love” his mom always spoke of so kindly. Because he was often left alone at night while his mother worked, Joon-Woo grew up sleeping with the lights on in order to keep the “monsters” at bay. He enjoys doodling and is a pretty good artist. Althouh his childhood friend believes “… our lives were ruined the day we were born,” Joon-Woo has a brighter outlook – “Who cares if we were born with a twisted life? We can undo it, don’t you think?” He is employed at a small convenience store where he is known as Park Yeong-Bae because he wears the work vest of the employee he replaced. He is a serious, quiet, methodical, hard working, young man with an amazing ability to empathize with others. He may not have the highest grades in the class but he is a deep thinker.
Although Yoo Soo-Bin’s parents are married they reside in different places and she lives with her mother. Soo-Bin does well in school but not well enough to satisfy her mother’s impossibly high standards. Schooling, studying, tests – those come first and foremost to her mom. Although her mother puts tremendous undo pressure on her, Soo-Bin knows she is loved. She has better than average grades but isn’t at the very top of her class. She is outgoing and well liked by the other students. She has been friends with Ma Hwi-Young, the top guy in class, since they were very young and, although he has a serious crush on her, she just thinks of him as a buddy.
Eleventh grade’s head student is Ma Hwi-Young. He seems like he has it all – wealth, status, brains, popularity, looks – but secretly Hwi-Young is falling apart. His father is a tyrant who rules the house with an iron fist, abusing both his wife and his son emotionally and physically. His mother puts on a good show but is only able to cope with her life thanks to alcohol. Hwi-Young is very insecure and can’t ever be wrong. He deals with the stress that has been heaped upon him by violently scratching his wrist.
Oh Han-Kyeol starts out as a substitute homeroom teacher but earns the permanent position a bit later in the year. He has an uncanny ability to look inside his students and understand their hearts. He cares about his kids and wants the best for them. Teacher Oh understands the students that struggle with getting good grades because he also went through difficult academic times when he was younger. He has a strong sense of justice and refuses to be manipulated, threatened, or payed off by parents. He wants to be able to teach his students about life and character, not just normal school subjects.
The part of Choi Joon-Woo is played by 24 year old Ong-Seong-Wu. He participated on the second season of Produce 101, finishing in fifth place which earned him a spot as a member of the boy group Wanna One. Although the group lasted just a short year and a half, Seon-Wu continued on solo. As an actor, there were only three things he appeared in before he got the part of the lead character in this drama – Short Film Project: Beginning, another short film entitled Seong-Wo is Alright, and the mobile drama Idol Fever. Not many people are able to say their acting debut was a leading role, but Ong-Seong-Wu can. (At Eighteen can be considered his official acting debut with Choi Joon-Woo being his first leading role.) He even won a Best New Actor award and a Hallyu Star Award his first time out for this amazing performance as sweet Joon-Woo. Ong Seong-Wu attended Hanlim Multi Art School and later graduated from Dong Seoul University as a performing arts major.
The young woman who plays Yoo Soo-Bin isn’t new to the acting profession. Kim Hwang-Gi began her career as a child actress in the film Heart Is… when she was just six. At the age of ten she not only had a role in the motion picture Wedding Dress but sang a song on that movie’s soundtrack, as well. When she was 13 she won her first of what would eventually add up to be ten awards – four Best Young Actress Awards, one Best New Actress Award, one Best Supporting Actress Award, two Popular Star Awards, one Popular Actress Award, and she won her first Best Actress Award just this year. Kim Hwang-Gi has the distinct honor of being able to say she had a starring role in the third most viewed film in South Korean film history, Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds.
The guy who plays Ma Hwi-Young is 23 year old actor and model Shin Seung-Ho. He is very new to acting, beginning his career just last year (2018) with the webdrama A-TEEN quickly followed by A-TEAM 2. His acting skills on those shows resulted in him being dubbed “the prince of webdramas.”
I’ve seen 35 year old Kang Ki-Young, the man who plays the part of lovable Oh Han-Kyeol, in 13 dramas – High School King of Savvy, Reset, Oh My Ghostess, Please Come Back, Mister, Let’s Fight Ghost, W – Two Worlds, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo, Tunnel, Queen for Seven Days, While You Were Sleeping, I’m Not a Robot, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, and Familiar Wife, but he’s been in many, many more I haven’t seen. Sadly, he’s always played small or supporting roles, never a lead. However, his performance as Teacher Oh was so good that he received the Excellence Award, [for an] Actor. Hands down, Teacher Oh steals the show. He is so down-to-earth and genuine you can’t help but love him, thanks to Kang Ki-Young’s superb acting. I hope this drama served to finally get him cast in a leading role, preferably a romance.
At Eighteen is an excellent slice of teenage life Kdrama. The show is more about the people than it is about a plot. The writer did an excellent job giving us diverse yet realistic characters to follow. One student lives with her grandmother, another lies about being wealthy, one girl just wants to be loved by the guy she has a crush on, a guy is pressured into dating someone he doesn’t really like, another is trying to stay one step away from debt collectors, a young man desires to be acknowledged for how smart he is, another is kissing up to Hwi-Young in order to get ahead educationally… We observe A+ character development with all these students!
The three sets of parents in this show are very, very different and believably realistic. Hwi-Young’s mother runs damage control, always fixings things so there’s a perfect outcome for her son. Soo-Bin’s mom is consistently on the offensive, manipulating things so her daughter can be guaranteed a cushy life. Joon-Woo’s mother is loving, trusting, encouraging, and always upbeat. The fathers are also vastly different. Hwi-Young’s father is abusive and completely without affection. Soo-Bin’s dad cares for her but is almost as emotionally distant as he is geographically. And Joon-Woo’s father is simply nonexistent.
The ending of a story plays a pivotal role in whether or not the show is good, and At Eighteen is good. Not everyone may appreciate the way the show ends but I thought it was perfect. It’s fine on its own but also gives the story a shot at a sequel, should the cast and crew desire another go around.
I was unable to find any fault with this show; with its characters, yes, but not with the drama itself. The writing, acting, and directing are very smooth.
Yes, Ong Seong-Wu sings in the drama, and on the soundtrack, a stirring love song entitled Our Story. You can find a video of him recording it, along with clips from the drama, on YouTube. His voice is exquisite; tender and powerful in the same song. It’s one of my favorite Kdrama songs of 2019. Christopher Nissan, a Danish singer, beautifully croons the ballad Moments in perfect English. The song is not only pretty but carries with it a powerful message of perseverance.
The students attend Syeonjeong Magnet School for High Achievers which waves a banner boasting – Named Best High School for Learning. It’s a classy, clean place whose looks definitely live up to its reputation. A stark contrast is made between Joon-Woo’s tiny, bare rooftop apartment and the big, expensive house Hwi-Young lives in. As we see Joon-Woo in his old apartment we realize his living space may be almost empty but the relationship he has with his mother is full to overflowing. Whereas, Hwi-Young has so much around him and yet the relationship he has with his parents is completely hollow.
As I said in my opening paragraph, At Eighteen cries out for us to strive to be better, our best selves. It’s a story that teaches us humankind would be much happier if we all lived the golden rule – treating others the way we would like to be treated. We all have the ability to be kind, understanding, sympathetic, and helpful. We just need to use those abilities more often. The story also suggests we would do well to avoid judging others because appearances have a way of being deceiving.
Uplifting, encouraging moral
Nothing comes to mind