KDrama Review: When the Camellia Blooms

When the Camellia Blooms was shown while I was in the middle of my KDrama fast. So despite the fact that it was top billed by my darling Kang Ha-Neul (haha), I just got the chance to watch it a few weeks ago. I was immediately transformed into a Kang Ha-Neul fan after watching him in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. And when the news broke out that he won Best Actor at the 2020 BaekSang Arts Awards, I knew that this should be put in my very long list of KDrama backlog that I need to watch! Hihihi!:)

I started watching it more or less a week after I finished the last episode of Because This Is My First Life. I did so without reading anything online, not even the synopsis on Netflix. That is why I became so confused as I was watching the first episode. I told myself, “Ahmmm. This is not what I signed up for!” I thought it was a light rom-com with the story of how a guy falls in love with a single mother. Ehhh. Wrong answer!

Photo from sbs.com.au

When the Camellia Blooms takes place in a fictional town of Ongsan. It’s known not only for being a food district but also for the tight relationship of the people within the community. Yong-Sik, played by Kang Ha-Neul, is a native of Ongsan who became a police officer not because of his intellect but purely because of luck and his sheer desire in solving crimes. Dong-Baek, played by Kong Hyo-Jin, is a single mother who moved to Ongsan to put up a bar that she called Camellia. Her life has always been filled with hardships, and things didn’t get easier because the people of Ongsan love to gossip about her. Things became even more complicated for her when Yong-Sik fell deeply in love with her.

I should have gotten the clue that this is not a typical romantic Korean drama from the fact that Kang Ha-Neul plays the role of a police officer! My eyebrows were always creased as I was watching this drama. This is just 2% romance and 98% a lot of other things! For starters, the quiet town of Ongsan was being haunted by a serial killer, Joker! Growing up watching all seasons of CSI, I already knew at first glance who Joker was, but the writer kept on throwing my thoughts off to confuse me. There are a lot of back stories surrounding Joker and the people of Ongsan. There were a lot of times when I would start to question my guess about Joker, pero nagpakatatag talaga ako! Hindi niyo ako malilinlang sa mga crime chenelyn na ganito! HAHAHA! I’ll discuss more about the plot later kasi medyo mixed feelings ako sa phasing nito.

After watching Kang Ha-Neul in Scarlet Heart, I knew that he could do more. He definitely showed versatility here in his portrayal of Yong-Sik. I kept on laughing at his antics which was so far from his role in Scarlet Heart. Muntanga siya dito, promise! Cute pero muntanga pero nakakaaliw pero cute. Did I say he was really cute here? Hahaha! His portrayal got me really engaged with his character. He was really funny, but he showed vulnerability when the scenes call for it. Basta, ang galing niya dito!

I’ve seen a few episodes of The Master’s Sun when it was shown in a local channel here in the Philippines, and that was the first time I’ve watched a KDrama starring Kong Hyo-Jin. Hindi ko natapos kasi sakto na nakakatakot ‘yung isang episode na napanood ko. Hahaha! I’m not really a big fan of Kong Hyo-Jin, but I have to say that she did really well playing Dong-Baek.

It took me a few episodes to appreciate Kong Hyo-Jin’s acting probably because everybody in this drama was so good! The child actor who played Dong-Baek’s son was so adorable! Grabe ang natural ng angst ng bata! Damang-dama ko ang stress niya sa buhay! It was also a delight to watch the actor who played Mr. No. Ang galing ng transformations ng character niya. Havey din ang asawa niyang divorce lawyer! 

If you’ve already seen this drama, I’m pretty sure that all the Ongsan ajummas made you irritated yet laugh at the same time. 

Screenshot from Netflix

Siyempre, hindi magpapatalo ang paborito kong lider ng mga tsismosa from Crash Landing on You na si Kim Sun-Young! Eye shadow pa lang, umaarte na!

It was my first time to watch Son Dam-Bi in a drama. Her character, Hyang-Mi, was so complex that I initially didn’t know what to make out of it. I first thought that her character was just a nuisance, but it ended up being the most confusing yet very pivotal part of the story. And maygulay, she definitely delivered! I was so affected with how her story unfolded!

Lee Jung-Eun, the actress who played Dong-Baek’s mom, also stole my heart! Hindi ko na ma-review kasi maiiyak lang ako. Wahaha! Her acting was so effortless that I could literally feel her pain and longing.

I wanted to comment on the acting of the one who played Joker, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who still haven’t watched WTCB. He/she was so amazing!!! Once again, my guess was right from the beginning, but I still got so impressed with his/her portrayal! The darkness in Joker’s story was perfectly portrayed by ___. Ayoko ng spoiler talaga, so shut up na lang ako. Hihi! Basta, ang galing ng gumanap ng Joker!!!

I mentioned earlier on this post that I initially had an issue with the phasing of When the Camellia Blooms. I was quite hesitant to watch WTCB seeing that it has 20 episodes. Having watched too many Korean dramas in the past, I knew how such dramas usually start on a high note, have the climax in the middle, and eventually get stretched and boring in the end. But such was not the case for WTCB. It started out really well, but it got quite dragging around the second quarter of the drama. It eventually picked up, so I got hooked back. As I was watching it, I felt like there were a lot of things going on in the story. There were a lot of subplots that didn’t quite make sense in the beginning, but the storytelling and execution of WTCB were both so exemplary that everything fell into place. Even the smallest details and nuances were explained and connected to the main story. (Nagulat ako na kahit ang pink hat na akala ko e props lang, may kenekshens pala sa dulo!)  The intriguing and compelling storytelling made me so invested that I ended up having no choice but to stick to it. I totally forgot the boredom I felt watching the second quarter because the rest of the episodes were so intense. Both my head and my heart hurt in episode 19!

When I was starting to lose my interest, my longtime friend, Dianne, said that she liked WTCB because the message was really nice. She was right! Viewers will definitely realize a lot of things while watching WTCB. The joys and pains of being a single parent were thoroughly discussed here. The stigma and prejudice that every single parent goes through were realistically shown in this drama. Kaya sa totoo lang, sobrang importante ng role ng mga tsismosang ajummas ng Ongsan! I always feel a lump forming in my throat at times when the back stories of the parents were being explained. I could totally relate to the guilt of always choosing between providing for your children and staying beside them. There were a lot of powerful scenes that showed the pain and guilt of the parents as they blamed themselves for how their kids turned out.

I really appreciated the fact that WTCB has a lot of subtle messages that would make the viewers think. (PRO TIP: Magbaon ng brain cells habang nanonood.) Some of which will probably serve as an eye-opener for a lot of people. Should we really just blame the ajummas of Ongsan, or was Dong-Baek also at fault? (Pero ang ganda ng development ng relationships nila sa dulo!) There are two people with the same misfortunes in life, but why did Hwang-Mi feel that Dong-Baek turned out better than her? Should we really chase happiness? Are parents always at fault with how their kids choose their paths later in life? Does a mother’s love have a limit? This drama will definitely make you look at a lot of things with a different perspective. WTCB even put hidden messages in dumplings and planting!

Photo from asianwiki.com

When the Camellia Blooms is not your typical Korean drama. Watching it was really a roller coaster ride. I totally forgave the slow pacing earlier on because I realized that the foundation of the story was being properly laid out. Things started to get more intense and interesting around episode 10. Episode 19 was really the most memorable for me. The last episode made me feel really good, but it left a haunting feeling that I could not explain. Just like what I said, everything just made sense at the end. I finished watching WTCB last week, but I still could not muster enough strength to start another KDrama. Suffice to say, WTCB is now included in my list of all-time favorite Korean dramas.

P.S. Ako lang ba, o talagang kamukha ni Joker ang isang artista from the 80s na kapatid ng isang actor-politician na na-link sa isang sikat na TV host na galing sa isang prominent political family? Kung napanood niyo na at agree kayo, just comment YES KAMUKHA NGA pero huwag niyong sabihin ang name para hindi ma-spoil ang mga hindi pa nakanood! =))

P.P.S. When I told Dianne that I already knew who the Joker was even at the beginning, she told me, “Hala, writer ka nga talaga! Ako kasi may gulat factor pa rin.” Sa mga nakanood, tama rin ba ang hula niyo kung sino si Joker? :)

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