The people in Record of Youth could very well be your neighbors, colleagues, family members, or friends. They battle difficulties, deal with heartbreaks and disappointments, and rejoice in theirs, as well as others, triumphs.
The story is about four young people who set out to achieve their career goals – two aspiring actors, one wannabe photographer, and a hopeful makeup artist in training.
Sa Hye-Jun says he inherited emotional stability and cultivated his motivation for success while watching his parents struggle. Because things were always financially difficult for his family, he voluntarily dropped out of college during his freshman year (his major was acting) so his older brother could continue his studies. Hye-Jin’s biggest asset has always been his gorgeous face so he decided to try his luck at modeling and that’s what he’s been doing for the past seven years. He made a name for himself in that industry and was actually a top model at one time but his popularity has wound down and he hasn’t had much luck as he’s tried to branch out into acting. Not one to give up, Hye-Jun works several part-time jobs to make ends meet as he peruses his dream of being an actor. He lives at home and shares a room with his paternal grandfather, the only one in his family that supports his career choice. He is a kind-natured young man who doesn’t believe in sacrificing the happiness of others just to get ahead. When Hye-Jun meets An Jeong-Ha during a modeling job, he is immediately drawn to her and can’t help but be disappointed when she fibs and tells him she is not one of his fans but actually likes his colleague, Won Hae-Hyo.
Because An Jeong-Ha came from a divorced family, trust is very important to her and she doesn’t care for unpredictable people. She’s also a bit cynical where love is concerned and hates the idea of having to be dependent on another person, so she chooses to live alone in the tiny apartment she owns. Jeong-Ha was employed in an office but quit to pursue her ideal job of being a makeup artist, because she believes they not only make people beautiful but also have the ability to heal people’s wounded hearts. She now works as a trainee in a fancy salon and does her best to get along with an insecure, competitive supervisor who really dislikes her. Jeong-Ha has been a humongous Sa Hye-Jun fan ever since he appeared on the modeling scene and, although she believes “only chaos awaits when fantasy meets reality,” she is thrilled when she not only meets her idol but gets to do his makeup for a fashion show, as well.
Won Hae-Hyo is what people would refer to as a “gold spoon” because he comes from a rich family and has received lots of financial support from his parents. He and Hye-Jun have been best friends since they were little boys, attending all the same schools side by side and entering the modeling profession together. Although they live in the same general area, Hye-Jun’s home is in the more humble part of town while Hae-Hyo comes from the well-to-do side, however, he has never flaunted his family’s wealth. Many models that know him say he does a lot of favors because he is softhearted and kind. Hae-Hyo’s fan base is quite extensive and he has been very successful in shifting the bulk of his work from modeling to acting. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, his mother has had her hands in every aspect of his career and does whatever she can to make sure her son is a top star.
The third person in the friends-since-childhood group is Kim Jin-Woo. Unlike his buddies, Hae-Hyo and Hye-Jun, his interests lie not in front of the camera but behind it. He works for a photography studio but dreams of having his own someday. He made the decision to perform his mandatory military service early and is happy to have that obligation behind him. He has fallen for Hae-Hyo’s younger sister and, because he’s afraid of how Hae-Hoo would react to the news, the two are secretly dating.
Lee Min-Jae worked for Hye-Jun’s manager but, because she didn’t like the way the young model was being treated, she quit her job the same day Hye-Jun left the company. She has decided to start her own entertainment company with Sa Hye-Jun as her one and only artist. She believes he has was it takes to become a superstar and puts 100% of her energy into making his dream of being an actor come true.
Hye-Jun’s mother has worked as a housekeeper for Hae-Hyo’s family for several years. She would prefer Hye-Jun to get a more stable job but hopes his dream will come true someday. His father works for a small construction company. He is very much against Hye-Jun going into acting and would much rather have him begin his military service, instead. Hye-Jun’s older brother works at a bank and also thinks Hye-Jun should quit trying to be an actor. His grandfather (and roommate) is very supportive of Hye-Jun’s career choice and is constantly encouraging him to persevere.
An Jeong-Ha’s family…
Her parents divorced when she was young and her mother remarried a man who didn’t have money. Although she loves her mother, she isn’t very close to her. Jeong-Ha’s father is an artist but she doesn’t classify him as such. He teaches drawing classes for beginners and gives lectures at cultural centers. Jeong-Ha has a great relationship with her dad.
Won Hae-Hyo’s family…
Hae-Hyo’s father is extremely rich and mostly concentrates on work. He insisted his children go to public schools even though his wife wanted them to attend private ones. Hae-Hyo’s mother has the first and last say in the house. She sincerely believes that simply because she is a mother she has the right to “rule” over her children. She tells Hae-Hyo, “I’m interested in your life because it is connected to mine.” Hae-Hyo’s younger sister has just been excepted to law school. Because the man she likes (Jin-Woo) has been her brother’s close friend since she was little, she is keeping the fact they are dating a secret.
In this drama, when An Jeong-Ha hints that Hye-Jun can do just about anything he teases, “It’s harder to find what I can’t do.” And that statement totally fits Park Bo-Gum when it comes to his amazing acting abilities. The man has perfectly portrayed every single character I’ve seen him play – a prodigy cellist in Tomorrow’s Cantabile, a psychopathic killer in I Remember You, a crown prince during the Joseon area in Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, a young man who works in the public relations department of a hotel chain in Encounter, and now (Hye-Jun) a model turned actor in Record of Youth. On August 31st of this year (2020) he enlisted in the navy military band as a cultural promotion soldier so this is his last drama for awhile. Kdrama fans will miss this amazing actor. We wish him luck and pray for his safe and speedy return. You can read more about Park Bo-Gum in my Moonlight Drawn by Clouds review.
Twenty-nine-year-old Park So-Dam (An Jeon-Ha) became interested in acting after watching the musical Grease in high school. During her years at university, after about 17 audition rejections, she began to get roles in independent films. Then, in 2015, she broke into the mainstream media with the film The Silenced, which won her a Best Supporting Actress award. That same year she took to the small screen and starred opposite Choi Min-Ho in the TV drama Because It’s the First Time. She then went on to work with Jang Hyuk in the 2016 Kdrama Beautiful Mind. Later that year she starred with Jung Il-Woo, Ahn Jae-Hyun, and Lee Jung-Shin in Cinderella and Four Knights. In 2019 she had a main role in the Academy Award-winning movie Parasite. Most of her filmography lies in movies.
Byeon Woo-Seok (Won Hae-Hyo) began his entertainment career the same way his character Won Hae-Hyo did – he started modeling in 2015 and then branched out into acting the following year. He seemed completely new to me but when I did a little research I discovered he had been in other things I had seen. I read that he had a cameo in both Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, but the second I discovered he had been in Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency something clicked and I realized I did know him – he played the loner-Casanova, Do Joon, in that drama.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two actresses that stole, pretty much, every scene they were in – Shin Dong-Mi (Lee Min-Je, Hye-Juan’s manager) and Shin Ae-Ra (Kim Yi-Young, Hae-Hyo’s mother). These women made their characters into people who were fun to watch and easy to relate to. Min-Jae’s insecurity in trying to succeed at something she knows nothing about is totally understandable. We root for her and feel proud when she makes even one small step in the right direction. We sincerely want her to succeed. Yi-Young is a mother that wants the best for her children and is positive she knows what that is. We can see she tries to be supportive but takes it way too far and is unable to see how controlling she is. She’s just trying to emulate how her mother raised her, and although we see that’s wrong, we understand her desire to see her kids succeed over all else. Three cheers for these two wonderful actresses. I’m not positive I would have liked these characters so much if they had been played by other people.
One tremendous strength this drama possesses is the growth its characters go through. All of these people change for the better – they become smarter, more understanding, and more at peace with themselves and those around them. Excellent writing.
Record of Youth allows the audience to hear the characters’ inner thoughts now and then. It’s a fun idea that gives us a closer peek into these people’s personalities. A very clever idea, indeed.
The characters’ chemistry is excellent. It isn’t just the male/female leads that click, every single person bounces off the others perfectly and the result is superb. Every once in a while, for just a second, I would forget these folks were not real people. The cast had to have gotten along well in real life to have pulled off such successful chemistry.
Director Ahn Gil-Ho films Record of Youth with some very interesting camera angles, like looking down or up at a scene. Too much of that sort of thing has a tendency to get on my nerves but Director Ahn uses those shots in moderation, so it’s all good. The slow-motion isn’t overused either but adds dimension to the scenes where it is applied. Ahn Gil-Ho is also responsible for directing several other dramas – the gritty Watcher, the mesmerizing Memories of the Alhambra, and the excellent webdrama Her Lovely Heels, to name just a few. I’m not sure if it was the writer or director’s idea but Record of Youth uses an editing technique called “foreshadowing.” We see a scene in one episode that reappears more detailed in the next. I was confused at first but after it happened a couple of times, and I realized what they were doing, it grew on me. So if somethings seem a tiny bit out of place, don’t worry. It will all be filled in during the next episode.
What about the show’s ending? Well, all I’m willing to say is that it’s consistent with the character growth I was telling you about. Is that good? I’ll let you decided.
Here’s a fun challenge – watch for a Ji Sung picture and a Kill Me, Heal Me promotional poster on one of the walls in Lee Tae-Soo’s office. (He’s Hye-Juan’s rotten former manager.)
Unfortunately, this very good drama has way too many “oops.” Here’s two you can watch for in episode six – in one scene Hye-Jun’s black suit coat gets wet from he and Jeong-Ha getting caught in the rain. They decide to go to her apartment to dry off and when he leaves, he’s wearing a light-colored jacket. The other “oops” is when Hae-Hyo is filming a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts commercial. He picks a doughnut from a box and bites into it but when we see the box again the wrong spot is empty. And when we see that same box a third time a completely different spot has a doughnut missing. Ahhhhh!
“Whatever you feel, it’s gonna be okay,” a positive message inside a great upbeat song entitled Go, performed wonderfully well by Seung Kwan from Seventeen. EXO’s Baek Hyun lends his soothing voice to the emotional ballad Every Season. Spotlight, sung by Bobby, has a distinct beat and an electric guitar is highlighted at the end of the piece. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this drama’s soundtrack is that the songs are evenly mixed between ballads and uptempo ones and they’re all played often enough for us to recognize the piece and hum along with the artists, yet not so much that they become monotonous.
As far as backgrounds/settings go, in episode two Hye-Jun and Lee Min-Jae (his soon-to-be manager) fly off to Milan Italy so Hye-Jun can participate in a fashion show. Unless they were able to conjure up some amazing CGI work, it certainly looks like the show actually took the two actors and a small filming crew to Italy for those few scenes. The most memorable background, in my opinion, is when Hye-Jun and Jeong-Ha hang out at an amazing place – the walkway area has been made to look like the black and white keys on a piano and there is a grand piano sitting out in the open for passersby to play. In the distance, the colorful city lights against the pitch-black sky serve to make this scene not only lovely but also quite romantic as Hye-Jun serenades the woman he has come to love. Beautiful.
Adversity, triumph, disappointment, joy, heartache, love – we watch as the young characters in this drama confront life head-on. I guess you could consider this story a Record of Youth.
Excellent character growth
Directing (minus the “oops”)
Amazing chemistry with all characters