Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 13 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 14 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 15 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 16 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
When I Was The Most Beautiful is a show full of clichés and tropes. All the usual K-drama hallmarks are here, topped off with a couple of big plot holes that overshadow some of the better elements on display in this one. It’s a shame too because there’s some good material here but it’s hard to look past the faults in this melodramatic Korean drama.
The story itself revolves around the idea of first loves. At the centre of this conflict lies two brothers – Hwan and Jin. The former is a dreamer and a student who takes a fancy to his new teacher, Ye-Ji. The latter is a prolific and confident race-car driver.
Jin and Hwan essentially wrestle for the attention of Ye-Ji across the first part of this story, with a litany of time jumps rushing through to the subsequent reveal of Jin and Ye-Ji getting married.
This serves as the first act which paves way for plenty of drama to unfold as Jin is involved in a car accident. I won’t spoil more but suffice to say this is where the trouble begins both for our characters and this drama as a whole.
From here on out, When I Was The Most Beautiful flits between various different sub-plots before pulling everything together for a surprisingly satisfying finale.
Plotting woes aside, the actual themes here are actually quite good. The idea of first loves and what the difference between lust and love are become integral to the attitude and behaviour between the various characters.
There’s examples of love turning to jealousy and possessiveness, brotherly love, Father/son relations, and of course the two central love angles with Ye-Ji. On paper, this serves up decent food for thought but the execution is anything but edible.
There’s so many clichés that crop up in this one that it ultimately knocks this down into mediocrity. A rushed hospital visit? Check. Secrets spilling over into drama when a simple explanation could be given? Check. The evil Chairman who wants to cause trouble? Yep, that’s here too.
This one really is a guess who of various tropes and it holds the show back from the promising heights it begins with.
That’s before even mentioning the time jumps which discredit the characters and their relationships. Sword Art Online is another culprit of this and while the anime manages to hide some of that with fast-paced action, When I was The Most Beautiful doesn’t have that luxury.
Instead, the flaws are put on full display for all to see. For example, we get little time to see Ye-Ji and Jin growing affection for one another which discredits the whole basis of their marriage. This goes for the moments after Jin’s accident too.
Stylistically though, the show looks pretty good and there’s some lovely imagery used here. One such shot early on sees a camera pan across a lake while Ye-Ji and Hwan are walking together. It’s beautiful but a pity that the second half of the show dials back these moments to focus on melodrama instead.
And that’s ultimately where this one is at its strongest. There’s so many melodramatic moments in this but it’s also a mixed bag of uneven quality. There are some good examples (Ye-Ji and her Mother’s estranged past) but also some pretty contrived and poorly written ones too (Yeon-Ja and Hwan’s strained relationship.)
When I Was The Most Beautiful is certainly a turbulent ride. The show has a litany of problems right the way across its 16 episodes but the finale does well to bring everything together with a satisfying enough finale that doesn’t make the ride completely pointless.
First loves are painful, bittersweet experiences that ultimately help you grow and learn from your past mistakes. That, in a way, is a metaphor for this show as a whole. It’s a painful, bittersweet experience that ends strongly enough to feel like a reflection on the good, the bad and the ugly.
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Verdict - 5.5/10