“Nothing lasts forever. Not only happiness, but also sadness will pass by, too…”
I’ve been watching this Thing.
It’s a wonderful, glorious, hilarious, sweet Thing. It is, by turns, a vast, overarching saga of corporate espionage, a tale of revenge and redemption, a supernatural thriller, a murder mystery, a deeply sweet and funny love story, and a triumph of the new man over the old.
Telling you all that probably makes it sound very dramatic and sweeping; and it is. But it’s also one of the funniest shows I’ve ever watched.
It’s a Korean Drama by the name of Beating Again; or, if you want the literal translation, Falling for Innocence. This post isn’t titled as one of my These are a Few of My Favourite Things blog posts (mostly because I love the quote above and wanted it to be first), but just in case anyone mistakes, I’ll put this right here:
Because Beating Again is not just one of my Favourite Things when it comes to movies and tv: it is probably my FAVOURITE THING out of them all. I’m serious. It’s that good.
You look at the description and you think, Oh, rom-com. Well, I did, anyway.
“After enduring both business and family upheavals, a ruthless investment director has a heart transplant and finds a new way to look at love and life.”
Then you look at the opening credits and that impression is strengthened, along with an interest in the dude with the crazy hair, a faint interest in the one with a pretty face, and a brief worry that this cutesy-faced girl is going to be one of the annoyingly childish heroines who can’t make up her mind. (Spoilers: she’s not. She probably my all time favourite female tv character. EVER.)
It’s not rom-com. It’s a very deeply plotted tale of corporate espionage and redemption and love.
I will say this now: there are very few movies and tv shows that will make me cry. It happened when I was a kid and Matthew died in Anne of Green Gables. It happened a couple of years ago when I watch Guillermo del Toro’s Mama. It hasn’t really happened (that I remember) between those two instances. Maybe a slight sniffle toward the end of Princess Caraboo and a few throat-catching moments in The Hunger Games (you know when).
I cried twice during Beating Again.
So. The Premise.
As a boy, Kang Min-Ho saw his father displaced as chairman of the Hermia Company. He saw his uncle take his father’s place after charges of corruption and embezzlement. He saw his mother fight a losing battle to win back the honour of her husband; and, having failed, he came home at the age of ten to find his mother hanging from the ceiling of their house. That was twenty-five years ago. Now Kang Min-Ho is back…for revenge. The only thing that may stop him is his weak heart–and perhaps Kim Soon-Jung, a secretary of Hermia who doesn’t so much serve the chairman of Hermia as she serves the company itself.
Recurring threads to the base plot-line of Hermia’s gradual take-over by Gold Partners are a murder, Min-Ho’s swiftly failing heart, and the shenanigans at Hermia’s main factory. Also of great interest is the instant animosity between Min-Ho and Joon-Hee.
As Min-Ho is battling to take over and sell Hermia from under his uncle, his heart fails at last. He manages to faint on Kim Soon-Jung (he does that quite often, actually: a bit tropey but fun, nevertheless) who rushes him to the hospital. Kang Min-Ho gets his new heart–and a heck of a lot of new emotions that he never expected.
Suddenly the heartless businessman has a heart. Emotions. Perhaps even a conscience. Is he going to be able to finish what he started? Does he want to finish what he started?
And why does he feel so sick whenever he sees Lee Joon-Hee’s beautiful face? Is it just because of Soon-Jung, or are there other reasons?
I list him first because I love him the most. He’s just sheerly wonderful. Okay, to be honest, if you smile like this, you don’t actually have to do anything else to make me fall in love with you:
But Dong-Wook does so much more. He’s the fiance of Soon-Jung, who is a secretary at Hermia. He’s a detective, and he is currently very interested in knowing who is behind the leaking of certain classified materials from Hermia (or the creation of fake documents, as the case may be). He’s also interested in beating up people who upset Soon-Jung, being a lovable guy, and what he calls ‘photosynthesizing’ (aka, sunbaking):
Ma Dong-Wook is full of odd sayings and solid wisdom for today. There is no tomorrow, he says. Today is all there is. He and Soon-Jung are possibly my favourite screen-couple ever, and are a couple for whom I break my ‘if-you’re-already-together-at-the-start-of-the-movie-I-don’t-care-about-you’ rule. Their chemistry is undeniable and completely delightful.
She’s the character (apart from possibly one other) who has the hardest time in this series. Soon-Jung is a secretary (pretty much THE secretary at Hermia). In one of the most amazing female power-scenes I’ve ever watched, she faces up against Kang Min-Ho and his cohorts by bowing and very politely asking where their visitor’s badges are. When they attempt to force their way past her, she simply holds up one hand in the most pleasant way imaginable, whereupon alarms go off and a bunch of Hermia’s heavies come out to Take Care Of Things. She does it without raising her voice, losing her cool, or becoming unladylike. And at the end of a very unpleasant scene, where one of the other secretaries asks her if she’s ok, she simply shrugs and says: “Why not? I even got a sticker.”
She is an anomaly. An actually, morally good female character. In her quietness and her reserve, as much as in her straight-talking, she does what is right. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a female character this much.
Evidently neither have either of the male leads in Beating Again, because both Crazy Hair Man (Kang Min-Ho) and Beautiful Face (Lee Joon-Hee) are in love with her.
Kang Min-Ho (aka, Crazy Hair)
It’s so hard to know where to start with this character. He’s such a beautiful, pitiful mess. I disliked him intensely when I first saw him. I thought he was going to be one of those really annoying K-drama ‘heroes’ who was a hero simply because of his scornful face and bad treatment of the heroine.
I’m so SO glad I was wrong!
We meet Kang Min-Ho as he is arriving in a party of one of Hermia’s majority stock-holder, Gold Partners. They are coming to call in loans and appoint a dispatched director, prepatory to taking over Hermia and selling it off. Min-ho is with them because he is seeking revenge on his uncle. When we first meet Min-ho, he is brittle, dangerous, and more than a little insane. He is also very fragile.
As the story progresses, we get to see the gradual changes that overtake his character. His fragility remains, but it is overshadowed by his growing emotions, and the transparency of those emotions–particularly when it comes to his newly budding love for Soon-Jung. Jung Kyoung-Ho, the actor who plays Min-Ho, has done such a stellar, nuanced job of this part, that all you can do is gasp at his completely child-like confusion as he experiences new things and grows in ways that he didn’t even realise existed before he was given a new heart.
The idea of new hearts, redemption, and the new man triumphing over the old is a very precious one to me, as a Christian. It’s a huge part of what I live and believe. And it was so refreshing to see it portrayed in this way. Make no mistake, I don’t believe this to be a Christian show. But this part of it in particular really resonated with me.
Lee Joon-Hee (aka, Beautiful Face)
So, so pretty. And you know right away that he’s Boy #2, a consistent K-drama trope. Boy #2 very rarely gets the girl. But he’s so pretty, and his suits are really lovely, guys!
Lee Joon-Hee is a director of Hermia, and at first it’s very clear where his loyalties lie.
The problem with Joon-Hee is that although we know he’s in love with Soon-Jung, and that he’s a company man, we don’t know whether or not he’s a murderer. That can be rather unsettling, because we watch all his tender moments and his insecurities and his triumphs. And all the time it’s in the back of our minds that this beautiful boy could be a murderer.
He and Kang Min-Ho do not get along well, but I suppose that’s to be expected since one is trying to bring down Hermia, one is trying to save it, and they are both after the same girl. This leads to one of my favourite scenes from Beating Again:
My one complaint: subtitles.
Guys. They translated stuff wrong. GUYS. I HATE THAT. I’ve seen enough of K-dramas now to recognise certain words, and to have learned their meanings. I have an affinity for languages, and I love learning them, so I try to pay attention when I come across shows I love in new languages.
And guys. They put swearing in where there wasn’t any. GUYS. This bugs me! Not only because it was an incorrect translation, but because seriously, if you think you have to put in swearing to appeal to a western audience–you don’t!
I ignored it because: a.) the original writers didn’t intend it, and b.) there was only one really bad swear. So if you’re someone who hates bad language, just watch out for the first episode where there’s one f-word randomly in the subbies, and don’t worry too much about the rest.
All in all:
My grateful thanks to Jung Kyoung-Ho, Kim So-Yeon, Yoon Hyun-Min, Jin Goo, Lee Si-Un, Jo Eun-Ji, Ahn Suk-Hwan, Nam Myung-Ryul, and a totally amazing writer, Yoo Hee-Gyeong. The acting and writing combined to make this a completely mesmerising sixteen hours of television.
And guys, I KNOW. It’s SUCH A LONG BLOG POST.
BUT I LOVED IT SO MUCH, GUYS. YOU HAVE TO LOVE IT, TOO.
(Also it’s on Netflix, so what are you waiting for?)