Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 13 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 14 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 15 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 16 -| Review Score – 4/5
Set in a music university and following a group of aspiring (and seasoned) musicians, Do You Like Brahms is ironically not really about music. While there are admittedly some incredible piano and violin performances, this Korean drama instead settles into a melodramatic rhythm for much of its runtime.
The music is simply used as a foundation for drama and romance, both of which combine to make this a compelling and enjoyable series but perhaps not quite what some may be expecting.
The story itself predominantly revolves around two different characters from very different walks of life. The first is Song-A who finds herself hopeful to become a violin major amongst stiff competition. Thrown out of an early performance for being the least talented, Song-A finds herself struggling to be heard and seen. However, talented pianist Joon-Young is one such person who sees her.
Having played in piano competitions across Korea and now on the verge of being famous, Joon-Young is our second lead here. He takes a fancy to this young player and tries to help her become better. Along the way there’s plenty of romance, drama and heartache between them as the pair find themselves caught up in a whirlwind will they/won’t they romance.
Things inevitably aren’t that simple though. Thanks to an infamous kiss back in New York, the arrival of Joon-Young’s long-time crush Jung-Kyung and her boyfriend Hyun-Ho brings up a world of trouble. In fact, as we soon come to find out, Hyun-Ho and Joon-Young are actually best friends too. Inevitably melodrama follows, with further entangled plot lines coming from Song-A’s best friend Min-Sung and resident violin fixer-upper Dong-Yoon.
Across the 16 episodes, there’s a steady blend of melodrama mixed in with more dramatic crescendos of heartache. This is very much a coming of age drama as our two leads come to terms with the direction of their lives and what they want from their future.
When this materializes around the midway point, this is where the drama slips up the most. When we first meet Song-A she’s hopeful for the future and despite set-backs, determined to make a name for herself and follow in Joon-Young’s footsteps. Without spoiling too much, that struggle never really comes to fruition and in fact, peters out around this midway poin.
It’s a shame too because there’s definitely some symbolic and intentional references to Brahms’ personal life. In particular, that heartache of desiring what one can’t have and the cost of being a great musician. Both of these ideas come across really well in the show but they’re unfortunately mired by some weak character choices along the way.
Ultimately though this feels like a melodrama designed exclusively for introverts. A lot of the problems the characters experience along the way could be so easily resolved if everyone just opened up and a bit and talked. It’s something that’s particularly irritating with rom-coms in the West, and here it’s a culprit for much of the run-time.
This isn’t an isolated incident; there’s umpteen number of times where characters are caught out for being silent and not expressing themselves. Then again, given the reserved nature of Koreans perhaps that’s intentional on the writers’ part. Either way, it makes for a pretty frustrating watch as you root for these characters to find happiness in the end.
If you’re in the mood for a music-themed drama that doubles down on the heartstrings then this is certainly a good one to choose. If you’re looking for something akin to Fight For My Way or Weightlifting Fairy though, you most certainly won’t find that here.
In the end, Do You Like Brahms serves up a pretty good slice of melodrama. While it doesn’t necessarily do anything outside the norm, it does manage to hit most of the right notes, making for a worthy composition worth checking out.
Verdict - 7/10