Review. I Need Romance 2012 is a 16 episode 2012 Korea Drama about a couple in long term relationship that has weathered many breakups. Can they survive another breakup? Is there any hope after she falls in love with another man?
What I liked about I Need Romance 2012
* Yeol Mae (Jung Yi Mi), our leading lady, was a successful music director and 33. She talked – a lot, was forgetful, selfish but loyal. Yeol Mae was never shy about expressing herself. The amount of dialog Jung Yi Mi had to memorize for this character must have been daunting. I did not love this character but respected her ability to keep going, keep loving, and keep striving in the face of rejection by the man she had loved since high school. When she met the perfect rebound man, Ji Hoon, she fell in love and grew to be a better person. It was a positive relationship. In the end she was faced with the choice, her first and long time love Seok Hyun or new and positive love Ji Hoon? Even after she made the difficult decision she felt pain over the loss of the relationship and hurting the other person.
* Seok Hyun (Lee Jin Wook), our leading man, was a successful writer and 34. He was adamant that he would never marry but would not reveal why. This anti-marriage stance caused his character to come off as uncaring and harsh when Yeol Mae, the woman he loved, begged him to commit to her or she would move on. I liked the friendship he maintained with Yeol Mae, Jae Kyung, Je Hi regardless of the on or off status of his relationship with Yeol Mae. The foursome’s scenes together seemed effortless and genuine. Seok Hyun never dallied with another woman. He stayed true to Yeol Mae, even when they broke up and she moved on. I will note she was NOT always an easy woman to love or get along with. He had the patience of a saint sometimes.
* Ji Hoon (Kim Ji Suk) was the fantasy rebound man for Yeol Mae. Ji Suk has a penchant for secondary characters that are more than they appear. But in this series, Ji Hoon was straightforward and simply too good to be true. Ji Hoon offered Yeol Mae a relationship with someone that openly reciprocated her feelings and was unbelievably positive and supportive. Who would not be drawn to the unconditional positive supportive love that Ji Hoon offered? He had been drawn to her in the past. She did not remember their initial meeting but he had never forgotten her. Another boost to her ego. He also offered Yeol Mae another view of herself. Her friends saw her a certain way but his view was different. She had a chance to reinvent herself.
* Jae Kyung (Kim Ji Woo) was the entrepreneur of the foursome. She was forthright and comfortable seeking love with her ex-boyfriend/business partner Jung Min outside her loveless marriage. During the series she dumped her husband which ended her cushy lifestyle and brought scandal down on her head. She persevered and rebuilt herself and shored up her business. During this time, she leaned heavily on her friends and they delivered. In return, Jae Kyung was a loyal friend. In the romance department, she did not seem to realize Jung Min was faithful and true and would have a breaking point where he needed her to commit or he would walk away. She almost lost love but recognized it in the end and got him back.
* Je Hi (Kang Ye Sol) was the naïve nice girl of the foursome. I found her journey, pressured to a sexual relationship that she did not enjoy, ending that relationship, exploring the next relationship, interesting. She evolved during the series into a more confident woman, not the most confident woman but there was improvement. As she extracted herself from a bad relationship she met the man, Tae Woo (character from I Need Romance 1), that as fate would have it, would be her next relationship. Their initial meeting when he overhears her having a frank discussion with her boyfriend about sex was amusing. Loved his supportive speech to her when she got on the bus after dumping her boyfriend. In the end they decided to marry though it was never portrayed as a great love but a comfortable one.
* Female friendship was strong and viable throughout the series. No one was ostracized or rejected for making dumb choices. These friends stuck together and supported each other throughout the series. They had fun hanging out together. I liked that and it made the show stronger. When Seok Hyun was added to the mix it was easy and natural among the four of them. Some of the best scenes were their interactions where the conversations were frank and honest.
What I did not like about I Need Romance 2012
* Story line was not substantial from beginning to end. This series definitely ebbed and flowed from stronger to weaker to stronger episodes. The writer, Jung Hyun Jung, has penned the I Need Romance trilogy (I Need Romance, I Need Romance 2012, and I Need Romance 3). The first in the trilogy, I Need Romance, had characters that did not resonate with me. I could not get into the show and did not watch to completion. The third in the trilogy, I Need Romance 3, was enjoyable and also had an unbelievably patient and kind male character, similar to Ji Hoon in this series.
For I Need Romance 2012, the second in the trilogy, story itself is reasonable, 4 long term friends, 3 girls and 1 boy, weather the relationship storms in their early 30s. But the depth and intricacy of story was lacking at times. More substance to the story for each character was needed. The characters were likeable but I did not love them. In the end, the characters and how they resonate are crucial for liking a show. I appreciated that each character had a story line. As I mentioned a strong point of the story was the 3 girlfriends’ wonderfully frank discussions about love, men, work, dreams, desires, forging forward, etc. There was no gaming between the 3 girl friends, no petty jealousies, just 3 friends that supported each other even when they disagreed. So thumbs up from me on the female friendships.
The issue came with the main characters’ romance. Seok Hyun and Yeol Mae had been dating for 12 years and the show started 3 years after their 5th breakout. The couple was engaged in a purely physical relationship. Except it was not really no strings physical but neither one of them was willing to push their relationship back to boyfriend and girlfriend. In the past Yeol Mae had wanted marriage but Seok Hyun refused to marry and pushed her away. Why Seok Hyun refused to marry piqued my curiosity but the reveal came so late in the show, it seemed designed as a bomb to destroy Yeol Mae’s new relationship. As I noted above Seok Hyun had the patience of a saint in the past as sometimes Yeol Mae could be likened to a little yappy dog surrounding him and wearing him down on whatever was on her mind at the moment.
After Seok Hyun refused to reengage in romance, Yeol Mae gave him fair warning that she would move on, but he declined. True to her word, Yeol Mae met and fell for Ji Hoon, an ideal man for her. After Yeol Mae was in love with Ji Hoon, Seok Hyun decided to intervene and asked her for another chance. This caused much anguish for Yeol Mae and Ji Hoon as she realized she had to make the toughest choice of her life. I can see if fans had invested in the Yeol Mae and Ji Hoon relationship they would be upset with their breakup because they were well matched. However the 12 year history and deep seated love between Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun trumped all.
Several times I anticipated the next episode. There were strong episodes. However, when I finished the show I was glad I stuck it out to see where every character ended up but “stuck it out” is not a rousing recommendation. If I am not being clear, this show was good but not great.
* Production values. The freeze frame shot during episodes is a signature of this series. I like the choice to have photos of key moments with voice over sprinkled throughout each episode. It is a nice emphasis to a particular moment in the episode.
Seven primary songs in the 12 track OST:
1. Title (Waru Waru) by Han Soo Ji
2. Only U bu Jo Sung Hoon and 10cm
3. Cocktail Love by OKDAL feat. Shin Jae
4. 바람을 타고 by Deli Spice
5. 그댄 내꺼예요 Page
6. I Could Give You Love by Lasse Lindh
7. 혹시라도 들릴까봐 by leeSA
Six primary songs from the OST in my YouTube Playlist (link or embedded below)