The Leaf Umbrella
MBC’s latest Wednesday/Thursday night drama gets off to a wonderful start as the opening 2 episodes lay for the foundations for this story to follow.
With a wonderful musical score, some nicely placed comedy and lots of bubbling romance, When I Was Most Beautiful may prove to be an essential watch for romance fans.
We begin episode 1 of When I Was the Most Beautiful in Summer 2013 with optimistic student Seo-Hwan riding his bike.
The warm sun soon clouds over as the heavens open up and drench our student. After putting his raincoat on, he passes Ye-Ji who happens to be using a leaf as an umbrella. As he admires her, he falls off the bike.
In class, Seo-Hwan sits with his two friends Da-Woon and Jung-Il and discusses marriage. As fate would have it, their new teacher happens to be that very same lady he admired outside – Ye-Ji. She tells the class to make good use of her and Seo-Hwan shyly smiles as she looks around the room.
Her first real introduction to him comes at the Baekhyang Gallery where she looks upon a beautiful painting he’s created. On the way out of school, Seo-Hwan puts his coat around her shoulders to prevent her getting wet from the rain.
While this is going on, out on the race-track two drivers come to blows over dangerous driving. Given it’s only a practice round, bad-boy Seo Jin presents himself and the team immediately change their tune toward him. As it turns out he’s been discharged from military and intends to pick up right where he left off.
However, he’s interrupted by his ex-girlfriend – and daughter to the Chairman – whose given a rude greeting by Seo Jin. He turns her away and walks off.
The next day, Seo-Hwan continues to paint until Ye-Ji arrives and drops back his coat. When Jung-Il gets frustrated with his work, Seo-Hwan watches in admiration as Ye-Ji grabs a paintbrush and shows her own talent, using his smudges and marks to complement the picture nicely.
Back home, Seo-Hwan sits with his Father and helps him make Kimchi. Da-Woon is there too and the group all sit and laugh while eating. As we soon see, Seo-Hwan’s parents aren’t together and Seo-Hwan is forced to take the bus across town to deliver the smelly food to his Mother.
In the apartment block, he visits his Mum but she’s clearly changed her locks and acts really coldly toward him. She stuffs some notes in his coat and tells him to get a taxi home. Seo-Hwan is clearly hurt by this and struggles to hold back tears.
Meanwhile, Ye-Ji stumbles out a bar drunk and dismisses her ex boyfriend, telling him she broke up and doesn’t want to see him. As she heads outside, Seo-Hwan runs into her and guides her across to a park.
Ye-Ji intends to check herself into a motel but Seo-Hwan refuses to let her. Instead he calls a taxi and, realizing she’s pretty hard work, lets her fall asleep at home.
When she awakens in the morning, a very embarrassed Ye-Ji tries to sneak out of Seo-Hwan’s house but finds him passed out outside. Grabbing her shoes, she hurries away while Da-Woon finds Seo-Hwan and wakes him up.
At school later that day, Seo-Hwan brings Ye-Ji a drink to help her hangover. As they talk, Seo-Hwan admits that Ye-Ji spoke openly about everything – including her first love.
After school, Seo-Hwan drives his new student teacher up to see his Father, Sung-Gon. Only, she knows exactly who he is and happens to be a massive fan of his pottery work. She also meets Seo Jin for the first time too who also happens to be Seo-Hwan’s brother.
As the action spills over outside, Seo-Jin meets his Father again after all this time. As we cut back in the past, we see the result of Sung-Gon’s injuries, which seem to have occurred as part of a rock climbing incident.
The rest of dinner goes as expected but when Ye-Ji misses her bus, Jin agrees to drive her home. Seo-Hwan, ever the pleaser, allows his brother to do just that. Jin shows off and speeds down the road in a bid to catch up to the bus. Eventually he does and she gets public transport the rest of the way.
Back home, Seo-Hwan and Seo-Jin discuss Ye-Ji, with the latter asking outright whether he can date her. While they talk, Ye-Ji finds herself reminiscing over old memories of her Mother. Those memories turn to her eyes welling up and threatening to cry as the episode ends.
The Episode Review
With some lovely character work, this Korean drama does a wonderful job laying the foundations for our characters to build from. Ye-Ji in particular sees to have had a pretty traumatic past and hopefully we;’ll see more of this explored in the upcoming episodes.
It also looks like we’ve got another love triangle on the table, folks. With Seo-Hwan playing the nice, sensitive guy and Seo-jin playing the bad boy, I’d imagine this will cause some brotherly tension going forward.
Ye-Ji is adorable though and her scenes with the cat while drunk were really heartwarming. It helps that the music is just wonderful in this and there’s some really nice piano motifs to complement the score.
So far so good, When I Was Most Beautiful gets off to a pretty good start here.