Persona: The aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others.”
This show had been sitting in my Netflix queue for over a year as I inadvertently pushed it further to the bottom by adding newer dramas to the list month after month. And then, finally, I told myself, no more waiting!
Persona is an anthology drama comprised of four separate stories, each one written and directed by a different person, and each wrapped up in around 20 minutes.
*The first story is about a young woman who is determined to stop her father from having a relationship with her English teacher which leads to the two females battling each other on the tennis court.
*The second story is about a man who broke off his engagement to one woman so he could be with a beautiful, mysterious young lady who, to his surprise, turns out to be a callous, shallow, narcissist.
*In story number three a teenage girl’s drunken father butchers her hair while she’s asleep as punishment for (what he perceives is) her promiscuous behavior, and the girl’s friend talks her into getting revenge on her dad.
*The last story is about a young couple who go for a peaceful stroll in the evening, reminiscing about their relationship while conversing about the delicate subject of death.
This is the part of my review where I usually go into a character analysis but because the stories are so short there isn’t a lot I can write about these people. So, because IU is the main star of this drama, and the only person that appears in every story, I’ll just briefly touch on her characters.
*The tennis girl hates the idea of her father enjoying another female’s company but we’re never told why that is. I wasn’t sure if her cold exterior was because she had inside information that made her dislike that particular woman (her English teacher) or because she was insecure and jealous that there was another female in her father’s life.
*The gal in the second story is an immature, b*tch who only thinks of herself. She doesn’t mind using people to get what she wants and doesn’t care at all about throwing them away when she becomes bored with them.
*The high school girl in the third story is strong-willed, has a slight rebellious streak (she smokes), and lives by the saying “An eye for an eye.”
*The more she talks to her boyfriend, the more the young lady in the last story seems to regret her choice to leave him. We discover that even though she had been surrounded by people, she had been battling feelings of loneliness for quite some time.
If you’d like to know a little about Lee Ji-Eun – we know her best as IU – the actress that stars in each of Persona’s four stories, there’s some information about her in both my Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Producer reviews.
Here are a few thoughts I had while watching Persona.
*About half of the first story is just the two women playing tennis – no dialogue, they simply play and play and play until we see the sweat pouring off of them. IU’s character even falls and skins her knee but keeps going as the blood is running down her leg and into her sock. The audience is forced to wait a ridiculously long time to find out what the result of the bet the women made will be. I can see how the director/writer might have considered that long tennis game as a way to show the two women’s tenacity, but I thought everything after the first minute of the match was redundant and boring.
*Parts of the second story’s visuals are quite clever. Unlike a “normal” Kdrama that lets us hear what a character is thinking, Persona shows us what’s going on inside the dumped guy’s head and his thoughts are quite vivid in their symbolism.
*The thing that stood out to me in the third story (aside from the fact that 28-year-old IU was able to convincingly play a teenager) was the setting. Forget the bustling city of Seoul, the home in this story is located in a mountainous village area – no neighbors nearby and there’s a chicken coop in the yard.
*Have you ever had someone ask if you dream in black and white or color? Well, the writer/director of the last story made it patently obvious that the leading male character was a person who dreamed in black and white. Filming the whole thing colorless was sheer genius! I loved it.
The people who wrote and directed the four stories in Persona are impressively multi-talented.
*The first story, entitled Love Set, was written and directed by Lee Kyoung-Mi who has been credited in feature films, short movies, and on television as an actress, sound engineer, assistant director, cinematographer, writer, and director. She also wrote and directed The School Nurse Files.
*Yim Pil-Sung wrote and directed the second story, Collector. He has worked on 17 different films, including Persona, as a director, editor, producer, screenwriter, and actor.
*Jeon Go-Woon is the writer and director of the third story called Kiss Burn (aka Kiss is Sin). She is an actress, a director, a producer, and a screenwriter and has received two Best New Director awards and one Best Screenplay award.
*And the last story, Walking at Night, was written and directed by Kim Jong-Kwan who has worked on 23 short films, four feature films, and two omnibus films, in various capacities such as director, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, art director, and producer.
Watch for a huge “oops” close to the end of Love Set. IU’s character injures her knee but keeps on playing as the blood from the wound trickles down her leg. The problem is that the injury switches from one leg to the other. How could a seasoned, talented director miss that?
While writing this review I wasn’t able to remember a single song in the whole show so I turned to YouTube and found one called Happiness of Love from the Walking at Night story. I’m not positive but it looks as if it’s sung by IU herself. (If I’m wrong, please let me know so I can correct this.) The song is soft and slow – just her voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Certain parts of it vaguely remind me of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love. Check out the two songs here and here and then tell me whether or not you agree with me.
As for backgrounds and settings, the first story takes place entirely on the tennis court. The second is mostly indoors at a restaurant/coffee shop type place. I’ve already mentioned the village atmosphere in the third story. And the last story takes place at night on the streets of a small city. Each spot is perfect for what’s going on in the story.
This show isn’t your normal, run-of-the-mill Kdrama. As I mentioned previously, Persona is comprised of four completely different stories written and directed by four completely different people. It won’t take up much of your time so you might as well give it a try.
IU is great playing all four characters
Forth story filmed in black and white
Vivid symbolism in second story
Tennis match is way too long and boring
Bloody knee “oops”
No memorable music