REVIEW: ‘Our Blues’ Hits Every Emotional Note

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Our Blues - But Why Tho

It takes a lot of finesse to pull off a story that spans a large ensemble cast, and that’s exactly what Netflix Original Our Blues has. Directed by Kim Kyu-Tae and written by No Hee-Kyung. The series follows a group of people through their lives on Jeju Island, connecting them to each other through the past and present.

Lee Dong-Seok (Lee Byung-Hun) was born in a small village on Jeju Island and now sells stuff from his truck on the island. When he gets involved with Min Seon-A (Shin Min-A), who has just moved to Jeju, the two begin to explore their trauma, healing from the past or at least trying to see a path to the future.

Choi Han-Su (Cha Seung-Won) was born and raised on Jeju Island, but he moved away to the mainland. The pride of his family, he’s returned to his hometown as poor as he was when he left, keeping the illusion of a perfect city man intact until he meets his first love Jung Eun-Hui (Lee Jung-Eun) again. Unlike Han-Su, Eun-Hui is successful. Owning multiple businesses, providing for her family, and acting as a matron for those at the fish market, her story intertwines with Han-Su but holds an important weight for the entire series. Eun-Hui is the linchpin of the series, an axis around which every story revolves and a common point to keep it all grounded.

Lee Yeong-Ok (Han Ji-Min) has been a haenyeo for the past year, but her bubbly personality and openness with the men around her has led to many rumors. Even so, Park Jeong-Jun (Kim Woo-Bin), a fishing boat captain, is a man with a warm heart who falls in love with Lee Yeong-Ok, but their relationship is as rocky as it is endearing.

Each of the adult stories in Our Blues hits on themes of love, loss, youth, aging, and coping with depression. As the title of the series directs, there is a lot of sadness in this series, but there is also hope. Each moment of vulnerability and pain comes with moments of joy and, at the very least, hope for the future, even if it’s fleeting.

In addition to the characters listed above, the most compelling story told in Our Blues is the one that surrounds two high school students. In love, Jung Hyun (Bae Hyun-sung) and Bang Young-Joo (Roh Yoon-Seo) have plans of going to Medical School in Seoul. Pushed by Young-Joo’s need to escape the small island, the two are a Romeo and Juliet of sorts, meeting behind their fathers’ backs. Children of singles dads and former friends, Jung In-Kwon (Park Ji-Hwan) and Bang Ho-Sik (Choi Young-jun), their plans are thrown into chaos when Young-Joo gets pregnant.

Our Blues uses this young couple to explore abortion and parenthood. The obstacles of being “too young” at 18 to have an abortion and the pressure from doctors to keep the child are on full display in this series. The series is cognizant of the reality that in 2019, South Korea’s courts ruled to finally decriminalize abortion, but acting on this was not quickly done, becoming effective only in 2021. But with that hope comes the crushing reality that decriminalization doesn’t mean ease of access, especially when fear keeps Young-Joo from seeking one early on in her pregnancy. While Hyun is present throughout this, he is supportive, respectful, and trying his best to do what Young-Joo wants and needs.

But it isn’t just the young couple that Our Blues explores; it’s also their fathers. Unpacking the impact of gang life and poverty through their fathers, we get to see how a friendship that was lifesaving can fall apart. Not chipped at over time but shattered with one word. It’s how the two families come together, how they fight, and disagree about the action to take that makes it the most compelling part of the series for me.

Our Blues - But Why Tho (1)

In truth, though, Our Blues has a storyline for everyone with a raw exploration of mental health, age, class, grief, fear, and more. With different windows into interconnected lives, viewers will be able to see themselves reflected in one way or another. Spanning generations, Our Blues manages to pull off a form of cross-generational storytelling that hits every emotion imaginable, from loving joy to earth-shattering grief.

Managing a large cast is tough narratively, but doing that while also executing numerous flashbacks and perspective shifts takes a skilled hand. And for that, it’s clear that every element of each character was dynamically crafted with care. Taking this one step further, even when diving into specific stories (each episode is titled after the person or people it explores), not a single episode feels detached from one another. To execute the sheer number of character studies that Kim Kyu-Tae and No Hee-Kyung do in this series without dividing them into individual vignettes showcases the beauty of telling a well-connected and people-first story.

All of that said, Lee Jung-Eun as Eun-Hei is the standout star of Our Blues. With a stacked cast of actors that fire on all cylinders, this feat is not a small one. As the axis of the series, Eun-Hei is vulnerable and fierce. She’s loving while also being stern. She is an unrelenting strength that, when explored, showcases why she has to be. Additionally, Our Blues features a moving OST, “With You” from BTS’ Park Jimin and Sungwoon. With a stunning melody and emotional core,  the song permeates the series. As emotionally weighty as it is loving, it pulls the series together.

Our Blues accomplishes a sweeping and beautiful story without sacrificing character growth or revelations. With such a large cast, it’s truly amazing how each and every character feels dynamic and complete. This is one drama series that is well worth the watch.

Our Blues is streaming in its entirety now, exclusively on Netflix.


Our Blues
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

Our Blues accomplishes a sweeping and beautiful story without sacrificing character growth or revelations. With such a large cast, it’s truly amazing how each and every character feels dynamic and complete. This is one drama series that is well worth the watch.

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