My Favorite Korean Melodrama of 2018: Just Between Lovers.
I’ve watched a lot of k-dramas in the past four years, but nothing quite like Just Between Lovers.
It really touches base on mental health. In South Korean culture, mental illness is often deemed as something ‘shameful.’ There is an enormously high suicide rate as well. The Mapo Bridge in South Korea overlooks the Han River, where there has been a surge in suicides since 2016. This bridge is actually showcased in a lot of dramas where, if you look closely enough, there are now uplifting, inspirational messages in an effort to deter suicide.
Whether it has any impact or not, I don’t really know the answer to that question. Nonetheless, the Mapo Bridge is dubbed as the “Bridge of Death,” so it’s safe to say mental health issues are prevalent in Korean culture — just like in any other culture around the world.
To be honest, I don’t stumble across many k-dramas that touch base on mental health and make it the pinnacle of the story. It’s a sensitive subject that is often absent in dramas. However, in Just Between Lovers, they break the mold and showcase mental illnesses and the repercussions of suffering from a tragedy.
I won’t lie to any of you. Just Between Lovers is a very heavy and mentally exhausting drama. Before you dive into my overall review/recommendation, I have various different posts talking about the drama. You can start here before you reach your final decision.
My Favorite Korean Melodrama of 2018:
Just Between Lovers
This has been a long time coming. I started this review and it got abandoned as a draft. This was such a great drama that I really struggled on how I wanted to end this review. Also, I might have avoided finishing this because I wasn’t ready to come to terms that this drama was over. As it’s the end of 2018, I’ve decided to give this drama the perfect send off.
Just Between Lovers centers around the survivors of the devastating S Mall Collapse.
Ha Moon Soo is at the S Mall on the day of collapse with her little sister. She also has plans to meet up with her first love/crush on the second floor at the ice cream shop. As the mall collapses, she manages to survive within the rubble until she’s rescued. While there, another boy her age, keeps her company and also keeps her calm. Through this boy’s help, she manages to be rescued first.
After she’s rescued, the mall begins to collapse even further and the rescuers drop her outside where she hits her head and forgets the details of the boy who helped her. As she continues to live and grow up, she’s racked with survivors guilt. Not only did her little sister die, but her first love was a victim in the collapse as well.
Moon Soo manages to live on and she ends up working in the architectural field where she builds models. She pays great attention to every, single detail making sure that there aren’t any design flaws that could potentially result in disaster. Her parents separated after the loss of her little sister. Her father mindlessly runs a noodle shop. Moon Soo and her mother stayed behind to run the women’s spa, where they also live.
Unfortunately, Moon Soo’s mother is so destroyed and devastated by the loss of her youngest daughter that she can’t cope. Not at all. She turns to the bottle and becomes a raging alcoholic. During this tough period, Moon Soo shoulders even more burden by looking after the spa, fixing things after they break, taking care of her mother, and then taking care of herself.
The only bright spot is that her mother finally has a pivotal wake-up call and decides to go into treatment for her alcoholism. It takes a long time and was ten years coming, but at least it finally happens.
Lee Kang Do just manages to survive–doing whatever he can to provide for his little sister. He lives in a crappy motel, has a bad limp from his injuries sustained in the collapse, takes odd jobs to stay afloat, and is a bit reckless. Kang Do has a great heart, but he’s quick to act and raise his fist, which gets him a lot of trouble. Moon Soo saves Kang Do’s life one after he was bloodied to a pulp in a nearby alley. She gets him to her father’s place and helps dress his wounds and look after him. It’s only after this moment that their lives begin connecting and we learn that Kang Do was the one in the wreckage with Moon Soon.
The two end up working for the same company. Their project is to work, together, on the memorial that Kang Do destroyed at the old S Mall site earlier. It’s a rocky partnership. Kang Do is abrasive and not the easiest person to work with, but somehow they connect and commiserate over their past struggles.
Romance eventually blossoms, although it’s not all smooth sailing. There are so many complications and barriers keeping these two apart. Despite everything they’ve been through, these two manage to stay together and have a relationship. Considering the heaviness of scope of the plot, I was honestly happy with the outcome.
Just Between Lovers is nothing short of incredible and mesmerizing. If you’ve ever personally gone through grief and loss of a loved one or suffered through a traumatic event, the psychological scarring and damage is portrayed very accurately in this drama. Even the OST is on point and blended perfectly with this drama.
Lee Junho, who was an unknown to me previously, impressed me the most this year. His acting range was incredibly versatile, and paired up with Won Jin Ah, he was utter perfection. Speaking of Won Jin Ah, who is also an unknown to me, she also did a lot of great work here and her chemistry with Junho was off the charts. Where We by Ryu Ji Hyun & Kim Kyung Hee still gives me chills and takes me back to this drama — even almost a year later. This song is breathtaking and fits the ambiance of Just Between Lovers. I highly recommend you at least give this song a listen.
While Just Between Lovers actually started airing at the end of December 2017, the bulk of episodes aired in 2018, which is why I’ll filing this one as a 2018 drama. Listen, I can handle a melodrama here and there, but it’s not something I seek out. Some are, frankly, too exhausting to muddle through.
When I saw this premise and trailers, I was a little worried how melodramatic and extreme it would be, but it was actually well-grounded and realistic in its character portrayals.
I won’t lie. This is a very, very morose and heavy drama. It won’t be for everyone, but there are some upbeat and positive messages taught in this drama. Plus, the eventually romance between Moon Soo and Kang Do added brightness to a dark story.
What’s even more impressive is the depth of character development with the secondary characters. Whether you love them or hate them, the writing makes it very easy to understand their actions and choices.
For that reason, Just Between Lovers is my favorite Korean melodrama of 2018.
This is available to watch on Viki. I’ve also included a MV that includes my favorite song from this OST – Where We by Ryu Ji Hyun & Kim Kyung Hee . Enjoy!
Note: This ranking is solely based on dramas I’ve personally watched. If you had a different melodrama you feel was better this year, comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.