Based on the 2018 Lee Do-Woo novel of the same name, When the Weather Is Fine (aka I’ll Go to You When the Weather Is Fine) is not a story that you can just watch to simply be entertained. It is written in a way that forces you to think and feel, and it’s so good I gave it a perfect score.
This is one of those dramas that is better to go into blind, knowing as little about the plot as possible, so my synopsis is deliberately vague.
When Mok Hae-Won was in high school she moved from Seoul to the tiny mountain village of Bookhyun to live with her grandmother and aunt. Im Eun-Seob, a quiet young man in her class, instantly fell for her but never let on. In fact, Hae-Won hardly even knew he existed. After graduation Hae-Won left the village and went to Seoul to teach cello lessons at a private music studio, coming back once or twice a year for a few days at a time to visit her aunt (her grandma passed away while she was still in high school). Now, after ten years, Hae-Won is fed up with her teaching job and decides to escape Seoul by going back to Bookhyun for the winter. Eun-Seob is very happy she’s back, especially when he discovers this time she’ll be around longer than her usual week or two.
Things were fine when Hae-Won first went to live in Bookhyun Village. Kim Bo-Young, one of the girls in class, instantly took a liking to Hae-Won and they became fast friends. However, a “misunderstanding” occurred which ruined the friendship, and things never got resolved before Hae-Won left for Seoul. As a little girl Hae-Won was close to her aunt but things became strained between the two when her mother was not able to take care of her and Hae-Won had to live with her aunt and grandmother in Bookhyun. Although Hae-Won would like to have a better relationship with her mom they only see each other twice a year, long enough to eat lunch together and then the two go their separate ways.
After graduating high school, Im Eun-Seob served his time in the military and then went back to Bookhyun and opened Goodnight Bookstore. Although it is the only place in the village to actually purchase books, it is also used as a kind of library, Eun-Seob loaning out books or people just coming to read while enjoying a free cup of coffee. During the winter, he’ll close the bookstore for a few hours now and then to help his father run Bookhyun’s ice skating rink. More than anyone else in the village Eun-Seob is the authority on the mountains. He is comfortable roaming around the forests and knows the paths, and places off the paths, well. Eun-Seob has liked Hae-Won ever since the day she set foot in his classroom but he’s never been able to get up the courage to tell her how he feels, content to simply love her from afar. However, he is very easily able to express his thoughts and feelings in his journal which he keeps on his laptop. His Goodnight Bookstore hosts the village’s book club, just a handful of people of varying ages who get together once a week to laugh, talk, and read. Eun-Seob is kind, selfless, quiet, and methodical – just shy of being perfect.
When Shim Myeong-Yeo became Hae-Won’s guardian they went to live in Bookhyun with Myeong-Yeo’s mother who ran a guest house called Walnut House. After her mother passed away and Hae-Won left for Seoul, Myeong-Yeo found running the guest house a burden and closed it down. She now lives in the big place all alone with her puppy, Chestnut. She had a boyfriend for many years (breaking up with him on a regular basis but then always going back to him) but called things off for good when she became Hae-Won’s guardian. At one point in time she was a very famous best-selling novelist but she hasn’t written anything for awhile.
“Weird, cold, mean, and scary” – that’s how Myeong-Yeo describes her older sister, Hae-Won’s mother, Shim Myeong-Joo. She has distanced herself from everyone and only visits her daughter twice a year, pretty much because she feels she has to. She didn’t even make eye contact with Hae-Won when she went to her own mother’s funeral. She resides alone and hasn’t even told Hae-Won where she lives.
Ever since they were young, Lee Jang-Woo has been Eun-Seob best friend. He proudly admits to having been the number one ranking student every year of his life, from kindergarten through his senior year. His excellent academic standing earned him a spot at the prestigious Seoul University, which could have been his ticket to a high paying job in Seoul, but he came back to his tiny hometown village and got a job at City Hall, knowing that it is there in Bookhyun that he is the happiest.
When Hae-Won first arrived at Bookhyun Village Kim Bo-Young took her under her wing and they became best buddies. Sadly, there was a falling out between the two girls when Bo-Young broke a promise she had made to Hae-Won and they haven’t spoken since high school. Although Hae-Won hardly knew Eun-Seob existed, Bo-Young was able to recognize the young man’s upstanding character and good looks early on and has had a crush on him since they were teenagers, although she has yet to tell him how she feels.
Im Hwi is Eun-Seob’s younger sister. She is a junior in high school and has fallen for the top ranking guy at school who happens to be a year older. Always full of energy, she loves to speed everywhere on her bike yelling, “Out of the way,” as she weaves in and out of people. She adores her big brother but always complains that he is their mother’s favorite.
There are many other characters in the story and I liked every single one of them. Sometimes I didn’t like what one did but never disliked them personally. The fantastic writing and tremendous acting turns these characters into real people who are dealing with their own trials and triumphs the best way they knew how. They definitely aren’t perfect but all have good intentions.
For information about Park Min-Young, the actress who plays the part of Mok Hae-Won, you can go to my Queen for Seven Days review.
Seo Kang-Joon, the outstanding actor who plays lovable Im Eun-Seob, has the amazing ability to convincingly play quiet, kind, thoughtful, all around wonderful characters. Eun-Seob reminded me quite a bit of darling Oh Joon-Young, his character in The Third Charm, and the kind AI Nam Shin 1 in Are You Human Too?, which is where you can find information about him, if you’re interested.
Huge accolades to screenwriter Han Ga-Ram. When the Weather Is Fine’s writing is nothing short of stupendous! It’s a drama that makes us feel. We don’t just sit back and observe, we become invested in the lives of these people, people that seem oh, so very real. What makes them tick? Why do they do what they do? We wonder, are slowly given answers, and then begin to understand their thoughts and hearts.
It’s not just the writing that’s excellent. Han Ji-Seung’s directing is also superb. He has a way of giving the drama an appealing, diffused look, like we are seeing things through a soft lens. And the romantic/kissing scenes are very realistic and innocently amorous.
Much of the story is told through flashbacks, sometimes ones that are only an hour old. At first, with the little information I was given I couldn’t help but be judgmental. I formed opinions and then would come to regret making them once I was shown details. Back and forth I went pre-judging, learning, regretting, and sympathizing. My advice to you would be – while watching this, don’t be so quick to think you know. Give these people the benefit of the doubt.
Also, much of the story is told without talking. It’s a show we watch to find out what’s going on. At first I disliked all the prolonged silence but once I stopped expecting dialogue, and began paying close attention to facial expressions and body language, I didn’t seem to mind the quiet as much. It takes a talented actor/actress to tell us things without speaking.
Pay very close attention to the endings of each episode, which happen to be named after chapters in the book. We get to read some things in Eun-Seob’s journal at the close of each one hour episode and those entries give us more insight into the characters and plot. They are very important, so don’t skip over them.
The village is so small that everyone knows everything about everybody but that just serves to make them closer, like a family more than neighbors. And, like family, they have a way of knowing just what buttons to push when they want to dig.
This is a drama you’re going to want to talk about. I often tell my roommate that the drama I’m watching is funny, or intense, or a mystery, or fantasy, or… but we very seldom talk about the story. I’ll hear, “ So, what’s it about this time, Sara?” and I’ll give a quick answer like, “A girl who falls in love with a hologram,” (My Holo Love) or “It’s a medical one,” (Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim 2). But this time I actually went into details and asked, “What would you do if…?”, and we had a real conversation about the events in the drama. That hasn’t happened since when I watched When the Devil Calls Your Name.
The drama does have some timing I found strange. I was under the impression (from a calendar) that Hae-Won came just after Christmas because they mention the new year. But the high school reunion was called the “autumn” reunion. Maybe I was mistaken but it did make me wonder, “Huuuummm.”
Every song on the soundtrack is wonderful but I have two favorites – Kwai Jin-Eon softly sings the lovely ballad Like a Winter’s Dream. The song begins with just a lone piano accompaniment, then adds some strings, and finally percussion. But even though the music builds, his voice always stays at a peaceful pianissimo level. It’s so calming. The second song is the one Cho Kyu-Hyun (Kyuhyun from Super Junior) lends his golden voice to, All Day Long. It’s beautiful, just as we have come to expect from Kyuhyun, and unlike Like a Winter’s Dream, this song builds to a booming crescendo. Those two songs are very different, as are the two voice that sing them, but both are amazingly exquisite.
The scenery/backgrounds/setting is so charming. I wanted to visit Bookhyun – stay at Walnut House, browse through Goodnight Bookstore, play at the skating rink, hike the mountain trails, and visit the quaint shops downtown. Life seemed slower there and less stressful, which gave me a chance to abandon my hectic, city life for a few hours a day.
I sincerely hope you don’t let this drama slip by. It’s very worthy of your time. If I allowed myself more than 20 titles on my favorite dramas list, When the Weather Is Fine would definitely be number 21!
Wonderful, realistic characters
Unique way of telling the story
Makes us think and feel
Possibly the timing of the autumn reunion