There are certain elements that one expects before watching a Park Hye Ryun drama (Dream High, I Hear Your Voice, Pinocchio) — warmth from everyday lives of the characters, humour, flawed but immensely likeable leads, moral values, high stakes — and the new SBS drama While You Were Sleeping fits seamlessly into this description. After 4 episodes, my first impression is that I really like it! For all the reasons I listed above and more.
The plot of the show was being described since ages about a girl whose tragic dreams come true and a prosecutor who tries to prevent them from becoming real. But I was happy to see that the drama had a lot more unexpected trajectories than this simple line repeated hundreds of times already. Our heroine is Hong Joo who lives with her mom, who runs a restaurant. Our hero is Jung Jae Chan who lives with his little brother.
We also meet the staff of Jae Chan which is a mix of interesting and funny characters. Jae Chan is at one moment all hero-like, cool, serious guy while the next moment, he becomes so goofy, struggling to impress his coworkers, and posing/ taking selfies. Lee Jong Suk is terrific in this role which includes him making all kinds of funny expressions, but also bringing his emotional range. He has a bitter history with lawyer Lee Yoo Bum (Lee Sang Yeob). For now, the latter seems like a bad guy painted with broad stroke. I would like to see more complexities in him rather than just plain bad. The surprise package of the drama is Suzy, who impresses with her acting. It helps that her role is so enjoyable — Hong Joo is so eccentric, well-meaning, spunky girl. I loved it when she misunderstood that Jae Chan likes her. The whole sequence was so funny!
I can’t write this post without spoiling a bit. Actually a lot. So we see that not only the heroine, but the hero also starts having dreams of future events. I wonder how their premonition is connected. But this helps in making him believe her sooner than later after some multiple cases. Also, I liked that the dreams are not all tragedies as she also sees the hero’s normal morning while sleeping. [That whole split scene set piece was beautiful where the two walk down the same path with a few minutes difference — creatively filmed].
Kudos to the drama for making me care for the relationship between Hong Joo and her mother, and Jae Chan and his brother in such a short span of time. There is an ominous feeling throughout the drama that something bad is going to happen to the beloved characters as the two leads’ go on changing fate. But then, there is also hope that the connection between Hong Joo’s and Jae Chan’s dreams might lead to saving of lives. The cliffhanger has left me nervous but I’m hoping that the two will again save little brother before it’s too late.
I did find some minor flaws in the effectiveness or intention of the narrative. Like the flashbacks regarding Hong Joo and her father. I already assumed that the little girl is her and so the last bit when we see her mom turning towards the camera, it didn’t have that dramatic surprise for me. Also, although the drama went to great lengths to hide Seung Won’s name — they even show Shin Jae Ha as Jae Chan’s little brother in the credits — I knew it was going to be him in that dream. Anyhow, this didn’t diminish the impact of both scenarios.
While You Were Sleeping also has that dreamy quality when it comes to romance and a breeziness to it. I’m already invested in the two main leads and their interactions are lovely, punctuated with humour and mutual understanding gradually stemming from going through similar situation. The show moves at a fast pace, and never gives any boring situation. We also saw a few cameos this premiere week — Kim So Hyun, Choi Won Young — all strong ones playing an important role. I wonder where the plot will move from here. Is the drama going to have an episodic turn or there is some other grand plot waiting? Only time will tell. For now, I’m happy with the warm sunshine I’m getting, albeit biting my nails and hoping we get a happy ending for the good guys.