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“Record of Youth” – A Kdrama Full of Hope and Hard Work

From the beginning of 2020 to the end, the year was full of powerhouse kdramas. At the very beginning, there were dramas like “Itaewon Class,” that came out and hit upon deep themes and attention-grabbing characters. In the middle of 2020, there were dramas like “Psycho But It’s Okay,” that brought tear-jerking episodes every time and continuously kept you enthralled. And towards the end of 2020, there were dramas like “The Penthouse: War in Life,” which showed a dynamic lifestyle and complex characters that made you want more. Amidst it all, there were quieter—but just as amazing—dramas. One of which is “Record of Youth,” a kdrama that came out quietly and reserved but definitely deserves attention.

The “Record of Youth” Kdrama – Summary

“Record of Youth” is a drama about two actors—both friends—and a makeup artist. It follows along their story of struggling to achieve their dreams while fighting with (or against) the life they were born into. Each character has a goal—a dream they’re trying to reach—but they also have things that are trying to stop them from reaching those goals. Some of which include each other.

You can watch this drama on Netflix here. And you can watch the trailer here.

Main Characters and Their Stories

Sa Hye-jun (actor Park Bo-gum) is an aspiring actor. He recently got out of the modeling business and is trying to break into a new career. However, it proves to be difficult with his family background. He wasn’t born in a family of wealth, instead he was in a family that had more debt than anything. And, unfortunately, everyone in his family except one—his grandfather, and later in the drama his mother—didn’t really support him in his dreams. So Hye-jun had to carve his own path, working hard for everything he wanted without regret.

Ahn Jeong-ha (actress Park So-dam) is a makeup artist just trying to survive. As a goal, she wants to make an impact in  the make-up world. Though she’s the most independent character in the drama, her story is also entangled with that of her family background. Her mother—who never supported her dreams—would only come around to police her life or ask for money. And her father—who had been kicked out of the house when Jeong-ha was still super young—is trying to mend the broken relationship they have. Jeong-ha works endlessly to achieve her goals all while keeping a steady face and unbreakable character.

Won Hye-hyo (actor Byeon Woo-seok) is already a successful upcoming actor. He’s in dramas and commercials, taking the acting scene by storm. As a long-time friend of Hye-jun, Hye-hyo hopes for his friend’s success without knowing just how fabricated his own is. Out of all of the characters, Hye-hyo’s story is the one most entangled with his family. He comes from a rich family, full of strict expectations and hand-outs he didn’t realize were hand-outs. Hye-hyo ends up in a battle between what he thought was real and what he learns is fake.

What makes the “Record of Youth” kdrama unique?

When you watch a romance kdrama, there are things you always expect to see: a cute plotline, a love triangle—sometimes a love square—and a happy ending. “Record of Youth” has…. most of these. There’s a cute plotline. Though, it’s far more realistic in terms of drama and relationship than most I’ve seen. There is a love triangle. However, the love triangle doesn’t quite play a role in the drama like what you’d expect it to. And, unfortunately, this drama isn’t quite a happy ending. It’s not a sad ending, far from it. But it’s closer to an open ending than a happy one.

Because of these slight differences, “Record of Youth” stands out in the romance kdrama genre.

The Open Ending vs. the Happy Ending

If you’re like me and you specifically go to romance kdramas just to see the two main characters ride off into the sunset with love and happiness surrounding them… then you might need to prepare yourself for a lack of that in “Record of Youth.” Though, if you think about the ending scene, you might be able to argue that they’re still “walking off into the sunset” together as the scene fades with the two walking down a pathway talking. But, ultimately, it’s just not the same.

That’s not saying it’s not an amazing ending. In fact, I don’t think this drama would have been as good if it did end with the typical happy ending. I’m quite happy with how this drama ended, despite my love for the overly cheesy and cliché happy endings.

With the way the storyline progressed, the open ending was most likely the happiest moment this drama could have ended on. There were so many things going on by the end of this drama that it felt more like a slice-of-life drama—a story of true growth within a person—rather than a romance drama. The ending fits it perfectly.

The Not-So-Typical Love Triangle in the “Record of Youth” Kdrama

As usual with most romance kdramas, there’s always a love triangle—or, more accurately, two people like the same person. The love triangle typically revolves around who’s considered the “main” main character—meaning, the main character whose story we follow along with the most. However, the main characters in “Record of Youth” each seem to get their stories told more evenly. So, by default, the two main male characters—friends, too—both fall for the main female character.

When love triangles start coming into play for these dramas, it’s usually because they’ll cause the drama at one point. They’ll usually give the person in the middle a hard time trying to “choose” between the two that have fallen for them. It’s not like that at all in “Record of Youth.”

From the very beginning, even though we know Hye-hyo also likes Jeong-ha, it was always Jeong-ha and Hye-jun. Always. Their relationship blossomed slowly, but so beautifully. (I have to say, the chemistry between the two of them is beyond beautiful. I fell in love with their love.) And though there are moments where Hye-hyo and Hye-jun started pulling apart, it wasn’t mainly because of Jeong-ha. There were so many factors coming between all of them that it couldn’t simply be explained as the love triangle’s fault.

This makes “Record of Youth” something special. Usually, love triangles are there to explain it all. The misunderstandings and the rough patches between the main characters. But “Record of Youth” went against that, they went more towards a realistic drama of dreams clashing and friendships bringing hardships. It’s truly something refreshing to see.

The Main Actors/Actresses of the “Record of Youth” Kdrama

Park Bo-gum (playing Sa Hye-jun)

Park Bo-gum, born in 1993, made his acting debut in 2011. He played a supporting role in the thriller film Blind. From here, the actor took to acting in both films and television series.

 

His roles ranged from the main actor to supporting. Some of his more popular appearances include Reply 1988, Hello Monster, Wonderland, and even Itaewon Class (which he only made an appearance in the last episode for a few minutes).

However small his appearance was in these shows and films, Park Bo-gum definitely brought something special to each. He’s known most for his ability to play really diverse roles, so he outstanding performance in “Record of Youth” shouldn’t come as a shock.

Park So-dam (playing Ahn Jeong-ha)

Born in 1991, Park So-dam wasted no time in chasing her dreams. It’s said that she first began her career by participating in independent films. She first appeared in a short film called No More No Less in 2013. It wasn’t until 2015, with her performance in the film The Silenced, that Park So-dam broke into mainstream’s eyes.

However, we need to mention one of her biggest roles (at least, the one she’s most well known for at the moment). In 2019, she played Kim Ki-jung (or Jessica) in the film Parasite. After Parasite, Park So-dam had broke further into the public’s eyes.

But that’s not all of her amazing work. She’s also acted in Cinderella and the Four Knights (2016) and Beautiful Mind (2016), both very well known dramas. As with all of her other roles, her role in “Record of Youth” was beautifully done.

Byeon Woo-seok (playing Won Hye-hyo)

Byeon Woo-seok made his acting debut in 2016 with a few minor roles—including ones in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo. In 2019, his popularity started to grow with his roles in Search: WWW and Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency.

Since his appearance in “Record of Youth,” Byeon Woo-seok’s popularity has been growing steadily. So, after this, I’m sure we’ll start seeing the actor in many more things to come.

To Watch or Not Watch: the “Record of Youth” Kdrama from 2020

Though this drama isn’t quite typical with its open ending, this is one of the best dramas I’ve personally seen. At first, I felt rather disappointed in the openness of the ending—I wanted something happy. But it’s been awhile since it came out, and I find myself still thinking about it. And not the ending, actually. I think most about the characters and the relationship between them all.

The way each character interacts with each other—whether that’s Jeong-ha and Hye-jun, Jeong-ha and Hye-hyo, or Hye-jun and Hye-hyo—brings so much to the drama. I’ve never seen such a well put together grouping of actors/actresses. And, like I mentioned before, I absolutely adore the chemistry between Jeong-ha and Hye-jun. There was something so refreshing in seeing the couple try to work through things in their lives together. There was hardly any crazy jealousy or misunderstandings (of course there were some, but not as many as usual). And it truly looked like they were comfortable with each other. So many dramas have instances where the leads look uncomfortable when acting like a couple, but this drama didn’t have any of that.

Give the drama a try. Cause, even if the ending isn’t the full happy ending like you might want, the drama itself will leave you feeling hopeful and determined. Whether that’s for yourself or for the characters in the drama.

Need some other dramas to watch?

If you’ve finished watching “Record of Youth” and are in the mood to watch more amazing kdramas, check out our posts in our Drama Category. We’ve written about many amazing dramas that are definitely worth your time. We also have a few lists of dramas that could help if you’re in the mood for a specific kind of drama!

And, if you just want to look into more things about Korean culture, you can check out the posts we have on our Blog Page. We’ve talked about nearly everything the Korean culture has to offer, so I’m sure there’ll be something that piques your interest!

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