A little love never hurts (2013) Initial Korean drama Review: Don’t Worry! It’s a great show but a bad title that does not really express the point of the show!

Hello. This is a Korean in America. Putting aside my current J-drama reviews in the pipeline, I am doing an ongoing review on my top K-drama currently airing, “A little love never hurts”. Oh! And it is a bad title…

사랑해서 남주나 (2013) 한국 드라마 리뷰

The English title “A little love never hurts” is not a bad translation of the Korean title. The other translation “Give love away” is not bad also. However, more accurately, it is also closer to the following with all the nuances .
 Loving is not a waste of time (In this case, waste is equated to being charitable). Love!.

The underling self-centered nature of the Korean culture is evident in the language. In any case, this does not have anything to do directly with this K-drama. However, it does provide some insight into the Korean psyche.

 This title in any form whether it be the Korean original title or the English translations does not fit with this K-drama series. You have seen, in various K-dramas, characters who don’t believe in love. The archetype is so prevalent in K-drama miniseries.  Using those archetypes, K-drama miniseries tell us love will save our miserable lives eventually.

Well…more accurately… the love of a pure poor girl will change one’s life if your rich ... will be the point of the fantasy!

However, if you have seen many K-dramas, you may have noticed that love is never the root of the problem. Rather, in many cases, love and its accompanied interference, control would be the root problem. “A little love never hurts” is a full series 50+ episode family drama about the pain parents caused to their child  by just being flawed humans. And the fact that, even though they love them, the pain continues to influence the children after they have become adults.

All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Plot description
A little love never hurts” tells the tales of 3 families each with their own damages. This 3 family triangle structure is now very common place in many family dramas. You have two families with intimate connections and a 3rd party family that comes in as marriage partners and then get entangled. Examples would be  “Dandelion Family” and You’reThe Best Lee Soon-Shin”.

At the main point of this triangle, you have the Jae Min's family with the two daughters and one son. The head of the family is the father, Jung Hyun Soo, who is a former judge and now widower. The event that caused the damage to the family is the fact that the father had an affair many years ago and the son is his bastard from that relationship. The mother took the son in and raised him like her own. While initially this seemed to not be known by the children, sometime before the mother death, it became known.

At another point, there is the Mi Joo's family which is much more complicated with the family split between the two marriages of the father. With the father previous marriage, there is a daughter and a son while there is a younger daughter with the current marriage. The damages in this family come from the fact that the children were left to wonder between the two families. The fact that the father is a real idiot ass also contributes.  

The final point of the triangle is Ha Kyung's family. There is a son and younger daughter in this family with both parents. This family is a more typical rich K-drama family. The parents are still together and seem to have the best relationship. However, the mother’s controlling behavior towards the son is causing damages.

Depiction of the Korean Family
The point of a family K-drama is to bring to the audience the catharsis resulting from seeing people go through stuff that the audience has emotional resonance to. It is a form of cheap therapy to help one just live one day at a time! In this aspect, “A little love never hurts” succeeds with flying colors.

A little love never hurts” realistically depicts modern Korean society in which many marriages fail and leave never healing scars on the children. For a Korean, many of the relationships and character types are familiar even if your parents are still together. In family dramas, unlike more flashy miniseries, most of the characters are created to represent a cross-section of Korean society in at least emotional areas.

As a Korean, you have seen a person like the father in Jae Min’s family who seem to be the most respectable person but has a weakness he cannot hide from. You know people like the mother in Ha Kyung's family who is overly controlling. And God forgive if you know a father like the father in Mi Joo's family! However, you may have seen someone like him around the market.

A little love never hurts” is a series about seeing how the children are still being affected by the sins of the fathers and mothers. The interesting thing is that, at no point, is there a lack of love in the series. It is evident that the father in Jae Min’s family loves his children. This is the same for the mother in Ha Kyung's family. In the case of the father in Mi Joo's family, he is a sociopath. So that does not count! Both mothers in Mi Joo's family do love their children and are even kind to the children from the other mother.

So, the lack of love is not a problem! Rather, it is the fact that the scars never healed in those families and thus no one really recovered from the pains of the past which is influencing their present and future.  

In other words, the title sucks!

Other Pros
For a family K-drama, “A little love never hurts” is excellent! All the characters are interesting on their own with the damages of childhood subtly working underneath the adult features. The relationships and chemistry between the actors are great with care put into slowing developing the relationships.

It is also a rare example of having decent pacing for a family drama. Or, to be more accurate, the pacing is slow like most family dramas but has enough character material to fill in the time without feeling like filler.

At the present, a total of 9 episodes have aired and I am not without complaints. 

First, father in Mi Joo's family is a problem. I get that he performs a function in the story and we are not meant to like him as a character. At the same time, he is the comic relief. The actor, Kang Suk Woo, has made a career playing these type of character. However, it is easy for the father in Mi Joo's family to get on one’s nerve if not used sparingly in that capacity. The issue is that, at the present, the scenes with the father in Mi Joo's family has been increasing to fill in empty time since the show is only at the 20% mark of its run.

The second problem is the son in Mi Joo's family. He is a total junk of a character. He has no real role to play in the series. It is like they are saving him to use as filler down the line. His time on screen is small but also slowly increasing.

The final problem with the series, at the present, is the second daughter in the Jae Min's family. While the character is a very complex character with serious daddy issues, the actress, Han Go Eun, seems not up to par with the requirements of the role. In scenes when she is required to bring her A-game, she only brings, at most, her B performance.

After thoughts
At the end, with only seeing 9 episodes, this is my favorite K-drama currently on air with “Secret” at a close second. It is interesting to see characters who receive love but cannot accept it because of the scars of the past. It is nice to see a K-drama that takes characters seriously. Just be ready to see a lot of damaged characters. I mean , it is actually difficult to find character with good mental health in this huge ensemble cast!

As a full series family K-drama, A little love never hurts” shows what the genre can do! 
I just hope that it does not fall on its head like many series of that genre. And the title sucks!

When a child first catches adults out -- when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just -- his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Score: A

Follow up article: Mid Run Review


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