I had anxiously waited for When I Was The Most Beautiful to be out in its entirety, so the second Viki.com posted the final episode I began watching it. Finishing the whole thing in just four days, I was captivated from the first to the last episode. However, “That did not end the way I was hoping it would,” was what came out of my mouth the minute the drama was over. The plot in a nutshell? – two brothers fall in love with the same girl.
As Seo Hwan is riding his bike to school, he is captivated by a young woman walking in front of him with a giant lotus leaf over her head in an effort to avoid the rain. He can’t help but admire her beauty as he quickly catches up to her. Then, before entering the school, he sees the same lotus leaf, sheltering a stray cat in the bushes and realizes she had deliberately positioned it there to keep the cat from getting soaked – a tender-hearted person, indeed. Hwan is thrilled when the woman that had captured his interest walks into his classroom and introduces herself as the new art student-teacher, Miss Oh Ye-Ji. When Ye-Ji expresses her wish to teach her students ceramics she is told to talk to Seo Hwan about the possibility of using the kiln at his father’s studio workshop. Hwan is overjoyed at the thought of being able to help the new student-teacher he has a crush on and takes her to his home to meet his father. While there, she is introduced to Hwan’s older brother Jin who has just returned from military service. Ye-Ji stays for dinner and, when she misses the last bus home, Jin offers her a ride, using his race car driving skills to catch up to the bus. Their short time together is enough for Jin to decide he is enamored with the young woman and concerned about his brother’s feelings, flat out asks Hwan if he likes his teacher. When Hwan isn’t honest with his brother, Jin confesses that he likes Ye-Ji and plans to date her.
Oh Ye-Ji has had a difficult life. Her father passed away and her mother went to prison when she was still very small so Ye-Ji was raised in her paternal aunt’s home. Although her uncle and cousin were fair and understanding, her aunt treated her like she was Cinderella, making her do much of the work at the boarding house they ran. Luckily, Ye-Ji was able to major in education at a top university and do her student teaching at a high school in the country. Ye-Ji tells her students she’s not a particularly interesting person, but she listens well and smiles a lot. When she is presented with the opportunity to work and learn ceramics from the Seo brothers’ father, the artist she admires and respects, she forgets about becoming a teacher and instead takes on the role of student at Yeon Am Ceramics. After being raised without affection, Ye-Ji desperately clings to the happiness she feels from being with the men in the Seo household, people who genuinely want her to be part of their family.
Seo Jin postponed his military enlistment, choosing to race cars and finish grad school first. He is an excellent race car driver and is the coach of his own racing team which is in the top class of the nation. Jin had been involved with Carrie Jung but broke off their relationship before he began his military service. He has deliberately put distance between himself and his father and brother because of the guilt he feels for something that happened when he was a child. He fell for Ye-Ji the minute he saw her. Because Hwan claims his older brother is a “womanizer,” when Jin tells him he wants to date Ye-Ji, Hwan replies, “Don’t you dare mess with my teacher.” But Jin’s feelings for her are sincere and he wants to win her heart.
Seo Hwan is an easygoing, unassuming young man. Although he comes from a wealthy family that could easily provide a car for him, he prefers to ride his bike to school each day, even in the rain. Hwan’s neighbor, Jung Da-Woon, has had a crush on him since they were young but he thinks of her only as a friend. Taking after his father, Hwan is quite a good artist and even won the grand prize in the Freestyle Portrait competition at school. Hwan is captivated by Teacher Oh Ye-Ji the minute he sees her and is truly interested in her happiness. He is frustrated that he is still so young and unable to do anything about his feelings for her.
Carrie Jung not only works for Goryeo Oil but she is very close to its Chairman, Bang Young-Geun (Jin says Chairman Bang is Carries “sponsor” which means she is kind of like his mistress). Carrie is directly responsible for Goryeo Oil’s financial support of Jin’s racing team. She and Jin dated for a while but when Jin asked her to choose between him and Chairman Bang, Carrie refused and Jin ended their relationship. Carrie is obsessed with Jin and is determined to make sure nothing gets in the way of her possessing the man she desires.
Jin and Hwan’s father, Seo Sung-Gon, was the founder of Jinhwan A&C Architecture and Construction. However, after a mountain climbing accident left him unable to walk without a cane, he turned the management of the company over to his wife, Kim Yeon-Da, and she has been the CEO for many years now. Sung-Gon turned his attention to creating things from clay and is now a well-known ceramist who owns Yeon Am Ceramics, a workshop which is just a few feet away from his house. He is a soft-spoken, caring, philosophical gentleman whom everyone loves. CEO Kim decided to separate from her husband soon after his accident and now lives in a lavish hotel penthouse in Seoul. Her relationship with Jin and Hwan resembles one of boss and employees more than mother and sons. She is fearless, dictatorial, matter-of-fact, and cold, even with her own family.
The part of Oh Ye-Ji is played by actress Im Soo-Hyang. You can read a bit about her in my review of My ID is Gangnam Beauty.
By clicking on my Your House Helper review you can get some information about Ha Seok-Jin, the man who plays Seo Jin. (I think this handsome actor looks like a cross between Song Seung-Heon and Choi Si-Won.)
Ji Soo is the actor who plays Seo Hwan. There’s a little information about him in my Fantastic review.
When I Was the Most Beautiful is a melodrama that fits in perfectly with dramas such as Angel Eyes, Winter Sonata, Save the Last Dance for Me, The Snow Queen, and My Love Eun-Dong. If you enjoy melodramas like those, don’t miss this one.
The story of Oh Ye-Ji and the Seo brothers spans just shy of a decade, which makes it nearly impossible for me to go into any detail because I’ll be ruining things for you if I hint at too much. What causes all the turmoil in the drama? Well, Ye-Ji hits the nail on the head when she says that she had been so starved for love that she jumped at the chance to be part of a kind family that saw her value and actually wanted her to become one of them. That yearning for belonging, her desperate desire for love and attention, kept her from thinking straight and that brought about all the problems these people have to wrestle with. The characters weren’t bad or wrong, they just made poor choices.
When I Was the Most Beautiful reminded me a tiny bit of Autumn in My Heart in that there is a “too familiar” love. Traditions and social acceptabilities that prohibit certain kinds of relationships have to be dealt with. The entire unfortunate situation was completely messed up to begin with which makes it virtually impossible to unwind so don’t expect to be content with the ending. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, it didn’t end the way I wanted it to.
As I watched the drama Summer Scent I remember getting more and more frustrated with the characters’ personality flaws which made it difficult for me to love the show. Unfortunately, I felt the same kind of thing with When I Was the Most Beautiful’s main characters. As an observer, I had an obvious advantage over the folks in the story because I could clearly see in advance that the many unwise choices they were making would surely end in misery for all involved which they, being too close to the situations, couldn’t see. I was definitely able to understand what lead them to make those bad decisions but I was still very frustrated with their actions. Ye-Ji and Hwan knew full well what the consequences of their actions would bring and they still made the decisions they made, so I wasn’t able to experience the heartbreak the writer was trying to make me feel.
There is an older Kdrama out there which deals with brothers falling in love with the same girl – My Nineteen Year Old Sister-in-Law – but it’s not anywhere close to as good as When I Was the Most Beautiful is. If you’ve seen both dramas let me know whether or not you agree with my opinion.
Unfortunately, this drama has lots of errors – “oops.” They’re just little things but there’s way too many to simply brush off with an “oh well.” As we get into the last half of the drama the mistakes become fewer and fewer, but the first several episodes are just peppered with them and, in my opinion, that’s just plain sloppy. Directors, actors, editors – please pay attention to details. We do notice.
The lovers’ theme song in Summer Scent, Schubert’s Serenade, which has a heartbreaking sound, is the same song that plays most often during the love scenes in this drama. What I found most interesting is that it accompanied scenes between Ye-Ji and Jin as well as ones with Ye-Ji and Hwan – a clever way of telling the audience that the depth of feeling and the haunting outcome was pretty much the same for both relationships. The original songs for the show are all very pretty ballads. The indie male duo group 1415 sings my favorite of the bunch, Go With. I don’t know which guy did the singing but the voice enhances that already beautiful song so well. I highly suggest you listen to the entire soundtrack. I think you’ll enjoy every single song on it.
Yeon Am Ceramics and the Seo family home, where most of the show is filmed, are located in the countryside which lends itself to some lovely scenery. We also get to see the two different couples at the ocean a few times. The scenery that stands out most in my mind is a gorgeous and romantic nighttime scene at the beach. We see from behind Jin and Ye-Ji sitting near a warm fire with a gigantic moon over the black water in front of them. I’m sure the moon was just CGI but it’s still exquisite, even if it’s not real. Just a quick comment on wardrobe – if you watch the show, count how many times Ye-Ji wears pants. (It can’t be more than maybe five or six.) We almost always see her in dresses or skirts.
When I Was the Most Beautiful isn’t the best love story out there but it’s original and I, for one, am very glad I spent my Kdrama time on it.
Seo Sung-Gon is a wonderful character
Characters ill-thought-out choices are frustrating