The Flash of Lightning Before It Thunders – | Review Score – 3/5
There’s Nothing Anyone Can Do – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Miracle Of Two People – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Best Feeling in The World – | Review Score – 3/5
The Gravity of Liking Someone – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Your Heart Is Safe Now – | Review Score – 4/5
Something I’ve Been Holding Back – | Review Score – 3.5/5
One is Bigger Than Any Other – | Review Score – 3.5/5
At first glance, Love Alarm is a formulaic, by-the-numbers romance, one that adopts all the usual tropes of this genre under the guise of its interesting dating app premise. Despite a slow start, Love Alarm settles into a consistent rhythm as it starts exploring its central cast of characters, asking some pretty profound questions about the benefits and drawbacks of our digitalised age, whilst continuing to develop a couple of interwoven love triangles into the fold. All of this builds toward the finale, where Jojo’s conflict reaches its climax and leaves things wide open going forward.
At the heart of all this drama is an interesting dating app called Love Alarm, which notifies you when someone nearby loves you. With Korea all but gripped in the sensation of receiving these little notifications, at the centre of this is Kim Jojo, a girl indifferent to the entire dating phenomenon. Happy with her boyfriend Il-Sik, when new boy Sun-Oh arrives at school and the two hit it off, what ensues is a messy melodrama as Sun-Oh and Jojo grow closer together. Complicating matters are Jojo’s jealous cousin Gul-Mi and Sun-Oh’s best friend Hye-Yeong, the latter happening to have a serious crush on Jojo.
This ultimately sets the foundation for what follows, as we learn more about Jojo’s past over the episodes, along with finding out just why Sun-Oh is so protective, why Gul-Mi despises her cousin so and more about Hye-Yeong’s affection toward Jojo. It’s all pretty standard romantic fare and at the heart of it, Love Alarm doesn’t really do very much different compared to other romance dramas. Make no mistake about it, Love Alarm is pure romantic territory and if I’m honest, Sun-Oh’s flawed, protective character makes him a difficult protagonist to warm to early on alongside Kim Jojo.
Love Alarm is a series you really need to persevere with to get to the good stuff. After watching the first episode you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a straight forward love triangle story and while the latter is true, the story is far from straight forward. From a murder in a park nearby, courtesy of an issue stemming from the app, to gay rights, privacy concerns and suicide, Love Alarm isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, exploring some pretty dark places across its episodes in a surprisingly mature and thought provoking way. The back half of this Korean drama in particular really hammers this home and there’s some pretty shocking moments here that definitely caught me off guard.
Aesthetically, Love Alarm looks great and adopts all the usual tropes you’d expect from a show like this. The OST (Original Soundtrack) is admittedly lacklustre, especially next to Korean dramas like Hotel Del Luna, but some of the visual cues, including twinkling indicators and subtle colour changes, are nicely implemented and certainly add a fantastical element to the series.
It’s not perfect and it certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel but Love Alarm makes for an enjoyable and surprisingly thought provoking romantic drama nonetheless. Questions around the dangers of digitalised love, privacy and equality spring up a lot here, and in the setting of dog-eat-dog high school society add an extra dimension to the series. The characters aren’t all likable but their backstories are explored in enough detail through the episodes to learn more about them as the series reaches it’s climactic third act. It takes a while to warm up but when it does, Love Alarm presents a warm, fuzzy romance with just enough of a bite to rise above mediocrity. I just wish it bit a little harder with some of its ideas.