Not a single star in this drama is on my favorites lists so I didn’t begin the show with high expectations. However, a little more than halfway through the first episode I was enamored with More Than Friends, completely hooked and 100% invested in these people’s lives.
“There are too many ways to love in the world. There is no wrong way.” – More Than Friends
This story is about an 11-year journey of six high school friends and their experience with the ecstasy and heartbreak of love.
Since she was 18, Kyung Woo-Yeon has been in love with Lee Soo. Sadly, when she confessed her feelings to him before he flew off to America to go to school, he matter-of-factly explained that, to him, she is nothing more than a good friend. Crushed, Woo-Yeon tried to forget him and date other guys but her feelings for Lee Soo were so strong they prevented her from sincerely liking anyone else. No matter how nice the men were, her relationships never lasted more than a few months. After ten long years, Lee Soo, now a famous, sought-after photographer, is back in Korea and he doesn’t seem too happy to see his old friend, Woo-Yeon, enjoying the advances of a kind, handsome, and rich publishing CEO named Oh Joon-Soo. Is it possible Lee Soo’s feelings for Woo-Yeon have changed?
Kim Young-Hee and Shin Hyun-Jae have been together since their days in high school. Hyun-Jae absolutely adores Young-Hee and after a little more than a decade of dating he is anxious to marry her. But life has been a constant series of struggles for Young-Hee and she cant help but wonder if, as a wife, she could bring anything but trials and misfortune to the man she loves.
Acting on the encouragement of her mother, Han Jin-Joo has concentrated on schooling and a career, putting off having a relationship until someone like Lee Min-Ho came into her life and, as a result, she is still single. Although Jin Sang-Hyuk claims Jin-Joo is just a friend, he seems to be a little more concerned about her than a platonic friend would be.
The only example of a male/female relationship Lee Soo is familiar with is that of his parents. They ended their marriage when he was a child but slowly became friends again over time and that made him resent them which, in turn, prevented him from being close to them. Subconsciously he learned that if you want to remain next to the person you care about, the relationship can’t develop any further than friendship. Although, while in high school, all indications clearly pointed to the fact that he liked Woo-Yeon, he insisted she was only a friend. After studying in the U.S. at The Art Institute of Chicago, Soo is an extremely successful, famous photographer. With pictures he had taken from all over the world, he won awards from many competitions and has been sponsored by multiple corporations.
Kyung Woo-Yeon has the heart of an artist. While in high school she proved to be a talented writer, by winning multiple writing contests and held hopes of being a professional calligrapher. However, things didn’t turn out as planned and she now works Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at a café and teaches kids after school on Tuesdays. When, as seniors, Lee Soo began to take interest in her, Kyung Woo-Yeon developed feelings for him and was devastated when his response to her confession was that she will always be just a friend to him. Woo-Yeon has dated and broken up with so many men over the years (13 to be exact) that her parents have come to feel sorry for any guy she dates. Her friends call her an “ex” collector, a serial dater, and claim she once took a test to see what dating type she was and the answer came out – “player.”
On Joon-Soo comes from a wealthy family and is the CEO of a leading publishing company called Metaphor Publishing. He is handsome, intelligent, sympathetic, successful, and has a killer smile – the man is a real catch. He had been in love with a young lady and, because he put off telling her how he felt, she ended up marrying his older brother. Learning from that mistake, when he becomes interested in Woo-Yeon he doesn’t beat around the bush and lets her know right away how he feels. Metaphor Publishing hires Lee Soo and Woo-Yeon to make a photo book and Joon-Soo isn’t happy when he discovers Soo is the guy that broke the heart of the woman he now loves.
Kim Young-Hee has struggled with trials all her life. When she was still a young teenager her father passed away, leaving the family financially destitute which made her mother very bitter. She has a younger brother who is just starting high school and her relationship with her mother is chilly at best. She works as an assistant manager in an office and does her best to financially take care of the family on her meager salary. Although she has loved Shin Hyun-Jae for as long as she can remember, she struggles with feelings of inadequacy and can’t help but think he deserves to be with someone that can offer more than what she is capable of bringing to a marriage.
Shin Hyun-Jae comes from a large family. They aren’t extremely rich but have enough money to not have to worry about finances. He is a teacher by profession and no longer lives at home. Since Hyun-Jae and Young-Hee have been dating for over a decade, his family is starting to put pressure on them to get married. Hyun-Jae truly loves Young-Hee and always puts her needs above his own. This wonderful man has a kind, understanding, sympathetic, forgiving, and long-suffering heart.
Believing her mother, that if she prioritized her education and career over having a relationship she would one day meet a Lee Min-Ho or Hyun Bin kind of man, Han Jin-Joo attended the prestigious Seoul National University, passed the bar, and now works as a prosecutor. However, still single, she would love to have a boyfriend and is on the lookout for that Lee Min-Ho type guy her mother promised would come her way.
Jin Sang-Hyuk runs a small but successful restaurant which happens to be the main gathering place of all the old high school friends. He is a congenial young man who is close to everyone. He enjoys coming up with new dishes to serve to his customers and often has his friends taste and rate them before adding them to the menu. He is interested in Jin-Joo but hasn’t let on about it to anyone. Sang-Hyuk is almost always happy and possesses a positive attitude about life.
For information about Ong Seong-Wu, the actor who plays Lee Soo, you can click on my At Eighteen review.
The character Kyung Woo-Yeon is played by Shin Ye-Eun. You can read a bit about her in my Welcome review.
The seven main characters are genuine and 100% likable. I wanted each one of them to be happy. Though they all have diverse personalities, everybody sincerely cares about each other so I, in turn, cared about them.
While watching dramas I have often been frustrated wondering, “What in the world is that person thinking?” However, the characters in More Than Friends were very easy for me to understand…
*In Lee Soo’s mind, romantic relationships don’t last. He wanted to keep Woo-Yeon near him and because he had observed his parents’ dysfunctional relationship, that meant she had to stay a friend forever. That made perfect sense.
*Because Kyung Woo-Yeon was deeply in love with Soo, even though she tried to put her feelings for him aside and find someone else she could build a relationship with, things of course didn’t work out. That made perfect sense.
*Since On Joon-Soo had made a mistake by not expressing his feelings to the woman he loved, he lost her. He not only was not about to let that happen again but he was going to protect the new lady in his heart from the pain she had felt from rejection in the past. That made perfect sense.
*Kim Young-Hee wasn’t about to ruin her relationship with the man she loved by burdening him with her personal trials when he had such a nice life. Contemplating putting an end to their relationship while still on good terms would save her from having the man she loved resent her. That made perfect sense.
*Shin Hyun-Jae so dearly loved Young-Hee that her difficulties were not trials to him but an opportunity to help the person he cared so much for. He understood that when you truly love someone you take the bad with the good and was willing to help carry her burdens. That made perfect sense.
*Because Han Jin-Joo put her schooling and a career ahead of romance, she ended up watching her friends enjoy love which just served to rub salt in her relationship-lacking wounds and she began to resent following her mother’s advice. That made perfect sense.
*Jin Sang-Hyuk was not about to ruin the ambitious plans of the lady he liked – her education and career came first – so he kept his feelings to himself. Keeping her as a friend was his only option. That made perfect sense.
There were several times throughout the story that I wanted to sit down with these characters and have a friendly-advice conversation with them. Often someone was just too close to the forest to see the trees and my desire was to negate misunderstandings by letting them know what I was able to see. I guess after a while I began to feel as if I were their friend.
More Than Friends is a romance story that kept me wondering. Will they get together, won’t they… will they break up, won’t they?… After watching The Third Charm, I’ve realized that what I think might happen may not be what the writer has in mind. Kudos to scriptwriter Jo Seung-Hee for making this drama so much more than normally predictable.
And while I’m handing out praise, three cheers for Director Choi Sung-Bum who, aside from a few “oops,” did a fantastic job. There are several split-screen scenes that add tremendous creativity to an otherwise normal picture. In one really creative shot, Woo-Yeon is looking in a car side-view mirror at Lee Soo standing on the street behind her and, as the car drives further and further away, we see the writing on the mirror that said, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” making reference to the fact that Woo-Yeon had no idea how much Lee Soo really cared for her – he was actually closer than he appeared. Now that’s clever filming!
I liked the fact that the two main characters didn’t have typical jobs – Lee Soo is a famous photographer and Woo-Yeon is a calligrapher. When was the last time you saw a Kdrama whose character wrote calligraphy? Can’t think of one, can you? I’m not able to come up with a show that has a photographer in it, either. I’m sure there must be at least one, I just can’t come up with one off the top of my head. Anyway, the main professions in this story are fairly unique, and that’s a nice change of pace.
More Than Friend’s soundtrack is just like the drama – excellent from start to finish, and I suggest you give it a try. Each song compliments the story perfectly – they sound like what we are observing. Mentioning just a few – Serendipity, performed by Ha Sung-Woon, is a lovely A+ song. The ballad I’m Still Here has a melancholy sort of feel – its sound of hope has an underlying bit of sorrow to it. Talented Bernard Park sings the swanky, finger-snappin’ Close Your Eyes. Each Other, performed by OKDAL, is a sweet, innocent-sounding song with a waltz-type rhythm. Rightfully, Ong Seong-Wo (Lee Soo) croons the heartfelt ballad cleverly entitled Late Regret. It’s a beautiful song that represents his character’s feelings perfectly. Boy, that man’s voice is gorgeous!
Some of the filming was done on Jeju Island so we get to see lovely palm trees and a beautiful ocean. The photo book Soo and Woo-Yeon work on together takes them to many diverse places in Seoul, and that was fun for someone like me who has never been there.
While watching More Than Friends, I told my roommate I resented the fact that I needed to stop watching it so I could go to bed. For me, it is, without question, one of the most enjoyable romance Kdramas out there. I suggest you give it a shot.
Doesn’t have an obvious, predictable ending
Seamlessly-smooth, effortless acting
Clever, artistic directing
Three separate couples with their own love story
No bad guy
Beautiful music (especially Late Regret)
Excellent show from beginning to end
A couple minor “oops”