REVIEW: You Are My Spring
|[Please be advised, this review may contains spoilers.]|
(made available July 5 on Netflix)
In the opening moments of the first episode, a body falls to its death and a black cat turns up - a sign that You Are My Spring isn't to be taken lightly. I came for the romance, of course, but it turns out I'm in for a suspenseful thriller with a sociopath at the forefront. I can't say I'm disappointed, and based on the first episode, it appears we're in for a treat.
That sociopath, Chae Jun, was in the middle of asking Da-jung, our female lead, to dinner when she asks, "Alcohol, drugs, lying, cheating, perverted behaviors, ghosting, and assualt - have you done any of those?", and with this, You Are My Spring laid all its cards on the table. It's no mystery, the latest drama, starring Seo Hyun-jin and Kim Dong-wook, aims to make us uneasy, but in the best way possible. And I must say, it's achieved exactly that after only one episode.
You Are My Spring is loaded with uncomfortable topics, but it is domestic violence that appears to have shaped Da-jung's life, for she is incapable of meeting a man who isn't, in some way, abusive. Clearly, it is for this reason she continuously spurns Chae Jun's advances, but I do wonder...could it be that she senses something in him? Or is she simply opposed to dating men altogether? We will know for certain when she and our male lead, Young-do, eventually grow closer. When that time comes, will she shun him as well?
The first episode felt, at times, like a puzzle, with the writer and director placing each piece of the story carefully and meticulously, just so it makes the greatest impact. In the end, You Are My Spring is the story of two people, scarred by their past, who find their way to each other but, unfortunately, will have to go through a sociopath and perhaps a murder or two first. I, for one, cannot wait to watch it all and, thankfully, I won't have to wait long since a new episode drops today.
(made available July 6 on Netflix)
As impressed as I was with You Are My Spring after the first episode, there was always the fear that the rest of the series might not meet my expectations. It certainly wouldn't be the first time, but I hoped, nevertheless, that You Are My Spring wouldn't follow in the footsteps of, say, Cheese in the Trap. So I began to watch the second episode with my fingers crossed.
It wasn't long before You Are My Spring calmed my fears, for in the opening scenes, the image of a young man in a dive bar bathroom - in his underwear, desperately washing the bloodstains from his clothes in the sink - appeared. It was a moment I won't soon forget, and that is the allure of You Are My Spring. It's beguiling in its imagery and style. That's not to say that it's style over substance. In fact, it's a rare show in that it has expertly combined the two, for both are equally stunning.
In this episode, there were a few developments - the main characters confessing their reluctance to date, for instance, or Da-jung's surprising decision to date Chae Jun - but it's the ending that will resonate the most. Chae Jun falling, purposely, to his death was as shocking a moment as any I've seen in dramas, but I suspect his motive will shock us more, for it was just moments earlier that he left with Da-jung a truth buried in a paper rose - a combination to a locker, a class photo, and a note, "I finally found you". It is a truth so devastating, it caused Chae Jun to take his own life. Goodness!
I can't recall a time when I was as addicted to a drama as I am to You Are My Spring, and having now to wait till the next episode is torture. It's one reason why I prefer to binge-watch my dramas. But it's worth it, I'd say, since the show is so satisfying.
(made available July 12 on Netflix)
Following the death of Chae Jun in the last episode, I wondered what the plan was from this point on. After all, a protagonist falling to his death early on is unprecedented. For most of the this, the third episode, the answer seemed simple enough: begin to develop the relationship between Da-Jeong and Young-do, with Chae Jun's death as the catalyst. So it isn't surprising then that the two spent quite a bit of time together - in a car during a road trip, at the beach, and at a pizzeria while preparing a large order. In these moments, You Are My Spring so effortlessly transitioned to romantic comedy, with many wonderfully charming bits of humor that were perfectly suitable for this drama. The comedy, here, did not feel misplaced. In fact, it added an extra layer of complexity to an already complex drama.
The witty banter between Da-Jeong and Young-do was a smokescreen, of course, for in the closing moments of this episode, the air was clear once again. In a shocking twist, at the hotel in which she works, Da-Jeong unexpectedly comes across a familiar face: Chae Jun! But You Are My Spring's brilliance lies in the tiny details, so when, in a flashback, it was revealed that Chae Jun was, in fact, a twin, I literally jumped out of my seat. What?!
If the plan is to ultimately unleash an evil twin on the denizens of You Are My Spring, then I am all for it. Although it is the sort of thing that might seem trite, I've no doubt that in the capable hands of director Jung Ji-hyun, it will deliver on the promise You Are My Spring has shown thus far. A promise that has drama fans' hearts pounding with anticipation.
(made available July 13 on Netflix)
Whether it was Chae Jun's twin or a doppelganger whom Da-Jeong ran into in the closing moments of the last episode, we simply do not know. It is clear, however, that Chae Jun and Ian Norman Chase are somehow connected, based on the flashbacks of their time at the orphanage. The show, for its part, has made clear the fact that there were at least two boys, bearing a strong resemblance to each other, who encountered Da-jeong as children.
This episode is significant in that we now know for certain that Young-do is smitten with Da-Jeong. If his obsession with the Mr. Hollow figurine hadn't given it away, he as good as confessed his true feelings (in voiceover) later in the episode. On her part, Da-Jeong isn't as forthcoming, though it is clear that she is drawn to him. Their pairing up is inevitable, we know that. I do appreciate, however, that things are developing naturally, and that the creators of You Are My Spring are so meticulous about the details. It makes for a much more enjoyable experience. Incidentally, how adorable was the vending machine sequence? Goodness, it was so sickly sweet, my teeth hurt.
It's truly remarkable how You Are My Spring can so effortlessly switch to and fro between thriller and romance. In fact, the entire show is the embodiment of quality - the cinematography, the script, the cast, the attention to the tiniest of details, etc. It is all top notch. It is an artistic masterpiece. Rarely are dramas so efficient in every aspect, yet You Are My Spring makes it look easy. I said this on Twitter last night: if it continues at its current level, it will easily be the best K-drama of 2021.
(made available July 19 on Netflix)
Although there was a stabbing of a young detective, which seemed to have gone unexplained, and a few scenes with regard to the murders and suicide, the darker elements of You Are My Spring were toned down this week. Instead, this episode was rather playful, attending to moments, both, lighthearted and funny. The latter, in particular, were quite wonderful and seemed to set a tone; of course, I'm referring to Seung-won's hijinks at the radio station, Ha-neul's impromptu "surgery" on a teddy bear, and Ga-yeong's seemingly mistaking Ian Chase's car for Patrick's. How positively glorious. The last one led to a funny bit, moments later, in the hotel lobby as a befuddled Ian Chase spoke of all the weird people he's come across. This poor man.
I must say, You Are My Spring's ability to pull off comedy in the middle of a murder mystery is masterful. It has even turned Ian Chase into a sympathetic character, though I'm not certain he is. This remains to be seen, however.
The romance-to-be of Da-jeong and Young-do took a giant leap forward this week and, interestingly enough, it was a snowfall that seemed to be the impetus. I say seemed only because the snow, serendipitously, descending from the sky had a little bit of help: the aforementioned stunt at the radio station by Seung-won, Da-jeong's mother's apparent fondness for Young-do, and lastly, a brilliantly philosophical ramyeon feast at a convenience store. All this led to the closing moments, as Young-do rushed to the rooftop to find Da-jeong...and what he will tell her, we will soon find out.
By the way, the annoying couple who comes into the coffee shop is low-key the funniest random bit in a drama ever.
(made available July 20 on Netflix)
It was seemingly date night on You Are My Spring in this episode, and because one wasn't nearly enough, we wound up with two. The first - on a snowy but pleasant night - Da-jeong and Young-do acted in a way that's fitting, for we've come to expect an artistry from You Are My Spring that leaves one positively spoiled. The usual simply no longer will do. As pleasing as the first date was, the second was equally so, though the events which led up to this were downright hilarious. Having had their homes hijacked for the night by the most intrusive of friends, our protagonists found refuge in the streets...and in each other. Like its snowy counterpart, this night was filled with a dialogue so intricate, one might require a map to follow along. At times, it feels as if the two are speaking their own language.
The stabbing of the detective has turned into a mystery within a mystery. Clearly, the objective was to absolve Ian Chase from the blame, who appeared just in time to aid the young detective. The footage shown of the perpetrator seemed to give nothing away, though any clue could be a red herring if he was, in actuality, a henchman.
Ian Chase is an enigma still. His character, it seems, is enshrouded in a cloud of darkness, though I'm not certain he is a bad man. His encounters with Da-jeong, certainly, are proof of that, as he comes across as gentler and kinder. Most of the time, however, a veil drawn over his head makes it difficult to know his true nature, for he is a calculated man. Of course, in the closing moments, and once the veil was removed, his instincts caused him to violently target his victim's throat - Da-jeong's throat, incidentally. This is an act of violence, an act not everyone is capable of, which makes one wonder what else Ian Chase is truly capable of. I suspect we will soon find out.
(made available July 26 on Netflix)
We've reached a point now in You Are My Spring where the characters have begun to reveal a part of them. It is an important step in storytelling and, of course, in character development, so I was thrilled that the show unveiled the backstories of a few, and in particular, Ga-yeong. Her character, although pleasing, seemed to lack depth before now, existing solely in Young-do's orbit as his ex-wife. It wasn't until she'd penetrated Da-jeong's that Ga-yeong, finally, befit her status as a main character. I'm quite pleased by this, especially since, as the former wife of our leading man, she doesn't fit the stereotype. It's a trap too many dramas fall into, sadly, but in You Are My Spring, Ga-yeong is supportive of her former husband...and, seemingly, of his new love interest. I must say, it's quite refreshing. Even more so is her and Da-jeong's newfound friendship.
Elsewhere, the reveal of Ian Chase's potential interest in Da-jeong was not as obvious. Clearly, she intrigues him, and although his behavior (and actions) are a telltale sign, he has yet to confess. In truth, I hope it isn't a love he feels for her since I believe a love triangle would negate, essentially, Da-jeong's feelings for Young-do. I'd advise against it.
And lastly, it was Young-do's turn to unmask in the closing moments of this episode. For Da-jeong's sake, it was a confession, I'd say, but I'm puzzled by his use of the term, friend, which typically doesn't pour out of a man's mouth if he's confessing his love. I wonder, however, if Young-do wishes to spare Da-jeong the heartache, for their love may very well be short-lived due to his health. In the end, Da-jeong's response was as subtle as a sledgehammer, as she embraced Young-do fully, literally and figuratively, no matter the consequences.
(made available July 27 on Netflix)
I've often praised You Are My Spring for its superiority in many aspects - simply put, the show is top-notch - so it isn't a surprise to see the show excel once more. This time, it is the integrating of the supporting cast into the core story: the love story of Da-jeong and Young-do. Without exception, the characters, from Ga-yeong to Ha-neul to Patrick even, seemed to represent a part of the lovers' subconscious mind, each symbolizing a reason for why Da-jeong and Young-do ought to be together or not. It's a clever approach, for it transformed a supporting cast into an ensemble, essentially, elevating each character's status to keep pace with that of the protagonists'.
Elsewhere, You Are My Spring pulled off, what I feel are, two of the most entertaining sequences I've watched in a drama in a long time. Firstly, the hugging sequence - a series of strangers illustrating the reasons for hugging - was a genius narrative technique because it so brilliantly captured the significance of the hug: the one between Da-jeong and Young-do. That was no ordinary hug, as it was the true catalyst of what is to come. And secondly, the Ha-neul training sequence was one of the most genuinely funny things I've seen...ever, so much that my stomach ached from the laughter. Well done, You Are My Spring.
You Are My Spring has spoiled us with some very climactic endings, and this episode may have topped them all so far, for that dreaded paper rose reared its ugly head in the closing moments. Da-jeong's reaction was my reaction, and I'm sure yours. So shocking was its appearance that I literally gasped, since it means You Are My Spring, and not surprisingly, is about to blow our minds once more. I think it's safe to assume that the man who attacked the homeless man is the man who stabbed the young detective and is the man who is the killer. But who is he? And what is his connection to the paper rose, and therefore, to Chae Jun and Ian Chase.
(made available August 2 on Netflix)
I must admit, I've become accustomed to the cliffhanger endings in You Are My Spring, but in this episode, though not as shocking, the ending was oh so satisfying, for it came with a kiss. That is the beauty of a slow-moving romance, the first kiss is just a little more rewarding. And quite a kiss it was; so sensual and erotic. First kisses are often a key indicator of whether the lead up to was successful, and in this case, I'd say, You Are My Spring passed with flying colors. Da-jeong and Young-do's strong desire was, certainly, proof of that.
In the meantime, Ian Chase's interest in Da-jeong continues to grow. He even attempted to give her a gift at the cafe before the sudden appearance of the paper rose foiled his plan. What are we to make of this? On the surface, it does seem as if a love triangle is at play, but it requires Da-jeong to play her part and I'm not certain she will, though her past may have a hand in how she handles this. We mustn't forget that she is drawn to unsavory types, and Young-do is the antithesis of unsavory.
It is clear now that Da-jeong's father will make his return. The only question is how and when.
I want to take a moment to speak on Seo Hyun-jin's performance in this episode. There isn't a doubt in my mind that she is one of the most skilled actors in the industry, but if there was any, it was quickly dispelled by the scene in which she confides in Young-do about her heartbreaking past. It is a scene that, believe it or not, could make or break a show, but in the capable hands of Hyun-jin, we witnessed a performance truly worthy of an award. You Are My Spring, incidentally, is worthy of one, as well.
(made available August 3 on Netflix)
For about the first 30 minutes, this was the most fun episode in the series thus far. Much of the cast seemed to let loose on a camping trip, and it was truly a joy to watch. The laughs were certainly plentiful, and the horseplay on display could put a smile on the face of even the most cynical. I'm still quite amazed how effortless it is for You Are My Spring to cause one to laugh heartily one moment and gasp in horror the next, and somehow make it all seem normal. It makes me wonder if we haven't been put under a spell. After all, there was talk recently of hypnosis, and the show tends to mesmerize quite easily. I jest, of course, but I suspect my theory is not as implausible as one might think, for the tone and pacing of You Are My Spring exists to serve a purpose. My guess is it's to lull us into a state of inertia so that the shock of the climactic endings pack more of a punch, and it has worked.
I've noticed lately, and I'm not sure it if it's been happening the entire time and I just didn't notice, but Ian Chase almost always never appears in the first half of each episode. I'm certain this has been the case in, at least, the last two episodes. I wonder if this is intentional, and if so, what does it mean? With You Are My Spring, I often feel as if I might miss the hidden meaning, for even the most random of conversations appear to mask a lurking threat. That is the mastery of You Are My Spring. It set a cryptic tone from the very start, and now anything or anyone might be a clue to a mystery.
The events of this episode have made matters a bit more clear, though with You Are My Spring it's never quite as crystal, but it appears that the murders are part of a larger mystery, involving the children of the orphanage, or more likely, only the children in the photo. We have a conspiracy on our hands, folks, and although we already know that the children were sold, I suspect that it's just the tip of the iceberg. There are only six episodes remaining, so we will soon know what it all means, but I imagine the murder of Ian Chase's attorney will catapult us into a world of confusion and chaos. Bring it on, I say.
(made available August 9 on Netflix)
Admittedly, I wished to see Da-jeong's father return for the drama, so when the family were told of his death, I felt a bit let down. I wondered why tease, then, his return if it's, presumably, in an urn. But this is You Are My Spring, so I should've known better: his death came with an enormous debt and the revelation (by Da-jeong) that he'd failed to keep his promise. He, in the end, went looking for his family, which sent shivers down the spine of a young Tae-jung and many years later, an adult Da-jeong. I previously spoke on Seo Hyun-jin's performance in You Are My Spring - award-worthy, I believe I called it - but her struggling to control her emotions after realizing that Tae-jung, too, lived with fear of their father is, thus far, the most harrowing moment in You Are My Spring.
You Are My Spring has granted us some of the best sequences I've seen in dramas in a long time: the hugging sequence, for instance, or the Ha-neul training montage, and of course, the camping trip. We can now add the very funny clips of Da-jeong and Young-do's dining out, or lack of, I should say. As enjoyable as it was, their escapades were far from over when, later in the evening, the two decided to eat in. From the mutual awkwardness of a delivery of a virility concoction - my, my - to the intrusion of a nosy friend, it was a night of capers. You Are My Spring does this sort of thing well, but I must commend the talented cast for their comedic timing, for it's not easy to pull off.
And lastly, in the dark corridors of You Are My Spring, Ian Chase, in a face-to-face with Young-do, set the tone for what's to come between them..and Da-jeong. Their's is a twisted "love triangle" based on a shared past and, evidently, many secrets. I get the sense that Ian Chase is keeping a secret - about Young-do's childhood, perhaps - and, at any moment, might reveal it. I'm not sure what it could be, but I do hope it's worthy of You Are My Spring, which, up to this point, has set the bar very high.
(made available August 10 on Netflix)
Two things occurred to me during this episode: firstly, there are only four episodes remaining and the mystery involving the murders and the children at the orphanage seems to have just started to unfold and, secondly, the customary main couple split, which typically occurs in Episode 15, came much too early.
The mystery of the murders, which started quite straightforwardly, have somehow devolved into a conspiracy involving goons in black suits and vehicular assaults, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it. In fact, I'm fascinated by the developments every week, but with so little time left, I fear we are in for a rushed finish, or worse, loose ends. This being You Are My Spring, however, I'm hopeful - optimistic, even - that the ending will do the show justice.
Like many drama fans, I dread the anticipated split by the main couple, so I was hoping You Are My Spring would spare us. Sadly, that is not the case, though I will say this: Da-jeong and Young-do's split was not entirely unexpected, for theirs is a story that constantly hangs in the balance due to Young-do's health. So it was quite naturally done. I, particularly, loved the way it came about: words of encouragement by a concerned mother...
"Don't get sick."
...and the sudden health crisis that followed. So profound, yet heartbreaking.
In the end, Young-do used Da-jeong's past with men to cruelly end it with her. I do wonder though, was it an act or is Young-do not as honorable as he appears. I fear the answer is in the way Ian Chase treats him, and I am not ready for it.
(made available August 16 on Netflix)
The episode prior was my least favorite, thus far, so I was hoping for an improvement this week. An improvement it was, I'm happy to say. Following the sorrow of their split, we saw Da-jeong and Young-do reconcile in what was an extraordinary sequence of events that, ultimately, led up to a moving confession caught on video. I mentioned a while ago, how impressive the use of the supporting cast is in You Are My Spring, and in this episode, they were instrumental in reuniting their two friends. I'm glad too because, thankfully, the episode ended with a kiss. Unlike the first kiss on the rooftop, which saw the two reluctant lovers shy away from each other afterwards, this one felt like it's for keeps.
It appears that Chae-jun's suicide was, in fact, an act of coercion. This, we know, was due to a threat to murder Da-jeong, made by the actual killer. Did Chae-jun, then, love Da-jeong, because I never quite got that impression. He was smitten with her, I thought, but was it truly love? My sense tells me Chae-jun ended his life in order to protect someone, but I'm not convinced it was Da-jeong.
The murder mystery, or conspiracy rather, is a bit of a tangled web, and I'm not quite certain what it all means. Although we now know the killer's identity, it seems the murders are simply a symptom of a bigger plot. Is it a matter of covering up the events at the orphanage, and if so, who stands to lose the most if the secrets are revealed. Eun-ha's father arrived on the scene this week and I wonder if it was simply a coincidence. I suspect not, and his ownership of Gugu building might be a clue. This is the brilliance of You Are My Spring, for its canvas is one big puzzle and it is up to viewers to put the pieces together. And I cannot wait to see the finished product.
(made available August 17 on Netflix)
It's fascinating to read the fans' reactions to You Are My Spring because it isn't the sort of drama one can easily label. In the early days, one could be forgiven for having wondered why the promotional items for You Are My Spring were so bright and colorful - spring-like, if you will. "But this is dark and gloomy," fans expressed. Fast-forward several weeks, and the sentiment now seems to be antithetic. "Where once was a darkness, there is now light," they note. In both instances, the fans are correct, for the show has seemingly moved away from the darker elements, though some do linger.
You Are My Spring is now a story about healing and loving, and recognizing that it isn't important where one begins but where he ends up. One needn't be a victim to his past forever. That is, in essence, the story of Da-jeong and Young-do, but theirs is a story of fate, as well. It was fate - a red lollipop in the ground - that, essentially, was the start of their journey. It's a soul-stirring story that has, in my opinion, been told with the utmost warmth and elegance, and it's the reason why, in my mind, Da-jeong and Young-do are now a top drama couple. In this regard, You Are My Spring has excelled.
Conversely, its seems to have dropped the ball on the murder mystery, though it is too soon to tell. There are two episodes still, and although it seems to have floundered a bit, I'm hopeful the story will come to a proper conclusion. This week, much was made known in regards to the twins' abandonment and separation, but I feel things get muddled a bit after the boys turn 18. I suppose one could decipher the events that led to the three murders, using the clues given, but it somehow seems a wasted effort, for in its attempt to present a spellbinding mystery with puzzle pieces, it seems that You Are My Spring has hidden some of the pieces. And as someone who adores puzzles, there is nothing more frustrating than a missing piece, so I hope there is more clarity in the next episodes and not much of the same.
(made available August 24 on Netflix)
We're one episode away from the finale, so I went into this one anticipating some clarity on the mystery surrounding the murders, and although there was clarification, I'm afraid it was all rather jumbled. Having waited for so long for the puzzle pieces to come together, it seems a disappointment to see You Are My Spring present its much anticipated reveal in such a hodgepodge manner. Ian Chase's confession, though revealing I suppose, was delivered in a series of quick flashbacks, all of which we've seen before, that were anti-climactic and so hurried, they left very little impression.
In truth, I'm dumbfounded that a drama that had been so meticulous with its details and pacing would, in the end, set forth such a slapdash effort. It seems almost unthinkable.
I've racked my brain since last night in an attempt to somehow make sense of this, and the only thing I can conclude is that the creators made a conscious decision to cut back on the darker elements of the show, as well as the potential of a love triangle, in response to criticism from fans early on. There simply can be no other explanation for why Yoon Park's airtime was drastically reduced and his story rushed. I'm merely speculating, of course, but one has to wonder. I read, recently, that production was still ongoing (for later episodes) while the show was airing, so it isn't beyond the realm of possibility.
My hope is that the finale will remedy this, but I'm expecting much of the same: very little focus on Ian Chase and much on the Da-jeong and Young-do romance. It isn't entirely a bad thing as the love story has been a joy to behold, but I do wish for a little more balance and a proper ending for a major plot, as befits a worthy drama.
(made available August 25 on Netflix)
This was, evidently, the final episode of You Are My Spring and, I'm sorry to say, it ended not with a bang but a whimper. It's disappointing, really, as there was much promise. In truth, I don't know what to make of this episode, which was a mishmash of clips, mostly, of random characters doing random things over voice-over. In one particularly puzzling sequence at a convenience store, we are shown various strangers paying-it-forward, seemingly. It's nice, I suppose, to see human beings treating others with kindness, but I fail to see why it was featured here. In the finale, no less. In this way, You Are My Spring tried hard to be clever but failed.
The rest of the episode was no better. It was a clumsy attempt to bring storylines, that were not truly developed, to a close - the Eun-ha and Tae-jeong secret affair, for instance, or the silliness with her father. Elsewhere, Ahn Ga-yeong's filler romance with Patrick ended as eventfully as it began: that is to say, in a borefest. Ga-yeong was one of the most fascinating characters in You Are My Spring, and her use was wasted. I'd have preferred an unconventional romance, perhaps, with Ian Chase, and I was almost certain it was in the plans the moment Ga-yeong mistakenly stepped into Ian's car. Such a missed opportunity.
To say I am disappointed with You Are My Spring's conclusion is an understatement. In fact, it's difficult to make sense of it. What started as a first-rate fusion of murder mystery and romantic comedy, somehow, devolved into a patchwork of absurdity, featuring a rudimentary supporting cast that seemed destined to exist in a bubble of randomness and poorly developed storylines. What once was a diligence worthy of admiration - no detail was too small - emerged, along the way, as a disregard for cohesion and purpose. In the end, You Are My Spring exhibited signs of having too many (amateur) cooks in the kitchen, each taking a turn to add their special ingredient to an already made five-star gourmet meal. A shame, really.
You Are My Spring (2021)
Cast: Seo Hyun-jin, Kim Dong-wook, Yoon Park, Nam Gyu-ri
[Click here to watch on Netflix.]