Yong Pal ~ Review
“Star-crossed lovers always seem to find one another and fall in love;
The kind of love nobody dreams of.”
I started watching Yong Pal without any expectations and it just happened because i couldn’t think of anything else to watch at that very moment, but the drama’s ambiance eventually captivated me without remorse. The more i was watching the more i was being thrilled while everything was making more sense as the drama was revealing its cards; one step at a time. Not expecting anything in the first place makes the journey more intriguing. If you get disappointed it won’t have the same impact if you had gotten on board with great expectations, but if you get pleasantly surprised it only gets better if the pace of the drama is in a like-minded state of mind and heart.
Yong Pal managed to partition the ranks of international drama addicts, but it was avidly embraced by the Korean audience, it’s something that undeniably made it the most successful weekday drama of 2015 for now in terms of ratings. Despite the tons of rejection and mud it received from many international fans, Yong Pal never stepped back and maintained the status it started forging from the very beginning. It eventually rewarded those who actually enjoyed it for what it was and definitely not for what it wasn’t or should be.
Yong Pal presents the story of Kim Tae Hyun (Joo Won), a more than skillful surgeon and scalpel artist at Hanshin Hospital. Once night falls he turns into Yong Pal, an illegal house call doctor who mends the wounds of gangsters in order to pay back his debt and gather enough money to pay for his sister’s treatment. One day he finds himself on the 12th floor of the hospital and his life was bound to change once and for all the moment he met Han Yeo Jin (Kim Tae Hee), the rightful successor to Hanshin Group’s throne. Yeo Jin is locked up in the 12th floor’s restricted area, a glass prison where nightmares turn to reality, while her brother from the same father, Han Do Joon (Jo Hyun Jae) who’s married to Lee Chae Young (Chae Jung Ahn), treasures everything that was never supposed to be his own in the first place.
Yong Pal is the brainchild of screenwriter Jang Hyeok Rin (Reset) and director Oh Jin Seok (Modern Farmer). The cinematography was highly representative of such a grandiose attempt as it was evoking a clinical ambiance inside the hospital, a hi-tech sense of industrial isolation inside the restricted area, a discreet gloom or warmth during nighttime, a golden sense of faded luxury inside the household and a natural and vibrant surrounding ambiance while implementing beauteous landscapes. The closeups were always there to emphasize on the characters’ feelings and the excessive use of a wide variety of angles in emotionally fortified scenes was enriching the overall vibes making each and every moment multifaceted in its very own way.
Jang Hyeok Rin masterfully weaved a modern fairytale surrounded by a dreadful and distressing aura in a violent playground while in search of its dreamlike safe haven. Occasionally poetic but not verbose, meaningful without unnecessarily perplexing everything he wants to convey, simplistic but not unadorned and symbolic without seeming obscure are some of the screenwriter’s characteristics which he infused in Yong Pal’s gradually expanding universe. Blending together a wide variety of elements from fairytales to the harsh face of reality and from Christian values to common logic and beliefs he managed to present well-crafted dialogues and main figures who were escaping from many drama character development stereotypes while still remaining loyal to their status and points of view, something that was becoming more transparent as episodes were passing by.
Yong Pal prove for one more time that ill-natured ambitions corrupt people’s souls when it comes to a quest for more wealth and power by any means necessary. Given each and every character’s background, there’s a sense of raging immorality and alienation amid ongoing plotting, but there’s also the struggle of internal conflicts in the middle of ethical dilemmas as uncertainty and fear of the unknown unfold their wings.
High class society is an enticing world and everything begins once you start feeling indebted to a devouring environment you don’t belong to but you found yourself in. Not everything that shines is gold and the stench of a wide variety of crimes keeps lurking in the background. It’s a luxurious torrent in which lives weigh differently depending on the floor one belongs to and remaining loyal to one’s beliefs despite the omnipresent temptation in order not to be absorbed is an overburdened task which questions one’s consistency and conscience. Being an intelligent pawn while using the puppeteer’s hands to your own accord while the dragnet becomes more asphyxiating sometimes feels like the only way out.
Yong Pal brings to the surface the difference between masqueraded loyalty or circumstantial trust and utter sincerity in human relations. There’s a sense of sacrifice and duty against all odds while being adorned by one’s values in life where promises do matter as an extension of the utmost art of unconditional love and caring. Revenge and forgiveness, but also guilt and regret, being fueled by and eventually reflected through a nightmarish or soothing veil respectively is one of the drama’s main cores.
Yong Pal depicts solitude as a concurrent option and forced isolation as an inevitable condition and that’s when familial love and friendship through presence, but mainly through absence, play their own significant part. There’s a multifaceted prison presentation, but there’s also a sense of freedom through life’s redefinition without setting aside the struggle it requires to acquire everything back and the dangers it possesses as opposed to the simple yet most essential joys of life that can’t be calculated by numbers in a bank account or a paycheck.
Yong Pal offers a more pragmatic aspect when it comes to falling in love. Everyone who embraced love with his/her other half at least once in real life knows that it doesn’t have to take 15 episodes in a drama or a number of years in real life. It can happen all of a sudden and what starts taking place as a mutual and ever-expanding attraction can eventually blossom into something deeper and that was the case here if you take into consideration our main characters’ types of loneliness and emotional background.
Yong Pal relies more on symbolic parallelism of events rather than the typical excessive use of coincidences one can find in almost every drama. There’s a very specific concurrence from the past which relates our main figures at the present, but then again, it’s an indirect one. The side-stories progressing during the first half of the drama possessed their own vibes, but they were the means that would unfold the drama’s main storyline during the second half along with everything the characters preserved to the fullest.
Yong Pal was brought to life through characters being so different yet so much alike under different variables and personal experiences which were visually presented through opposing prisms but were flickering in like-minded tones. The drama emphasizes on the impact of one’s decisions and actions in a world full of non-compromising yet intertwined figures where the female element was strong, determined and concrete despite each and every character’s weaknesses or burdens as human beings. The color of the characters’ outfits were either enriching every figure’s beliefs, thoughts and internal world or they were contrasting them depending on the occasion, especially during interactions.
Yong Pal wasn’t flawless, the flashback technique was overused, but there were times it was spot on and insightful as a matter of timing and due to the in between narrations. The soundtrack didn’t captivate me, it’s usually an essential part of every personal drama journey, but Yong Pal’s very soul and essence could overshadow it any time. There were a few matters of executive consistency concerning parameters that don’t apply in real life and despite not being flawless, Yong Pal was perfect for what it was: a modern fairytale embedding a wide variety of already used characteristics in many classic stories, but in a high-tech and luxurious environment which loses its perilous golden or clinical vibes once the dreamlike aesthetic overruns the drama’s veins.
Through ongoing examples of emotional intelligence and solid visualizations of unconditional love without neglecting one’s self, Yong Pal gave life to Tae Hyun, a magnificent and ever-shining despite his burdened yet humane past leading figure, and Yeo Jin with her weaknesses and faults, but also the reasons why, and most and above all her course from a nightmare’s hearse to a dream’s embrace and backwards in an attempt to rise anew. Yong Pal was an antihero forced by the circumstances, a necessary etiquette through which we met the real hero of the drama, Tae Hyun.
Joo Won was stellar while pouring life in Tae Hyun’s character, a character with the potential to elicit one’s intentions and/or feelings with a highly representative sense of internal conflict which was being masterfully crafted upon Joo Won’s face. Even when the circumstances weren’t permitting Tae Hyun to bring to the surface his emotional world, Joo Won’s eyes would do the talking. Joo Won made Tae Hyun an endearing figure beyond repair. He kept on reminding of everything that is precious without having a price and Joo Won was there with Tae Hyun’s concerns and beliefs, his minimal or explosive smiles and subtle or never-ceasing tears to preserve everything to the fullest. Joo Won was an insuperable part of Yong Pal in which he poured heart and soul and surpassed any expectations for one more time.
Kim Tae Hee was equally essential and highly representative of Yeo Jin’s demanding role. It was the first time seeing her acting and she earned my trust. While Joo Won was carrying on his shoulders the drama’s weight she was secretly infusing her figure’s arch characteristics and concerns through Yeo Jin’s presentation inside her glass prison. Yeo Jin’s twofold world and emotional maneuvers were masterfully being depicted through Kim Tae Hee’s acting. The way she was moving back and forth from one state of heart and mind to the other was exceptional. Kim Tae Hee wasn’t a porcelain doll, every emotional shift in Yeo Jin’s internal world was being filtered through Kim Tae Hee’s multifaceted stare and her eyes were vividly depicting everything Yeo Jin was going through. Kim Tae Hee was keeping her gleam in the dark side of the moon and when the timing was right she released it in full force. Joo Won and Kim Tae Hee looked irresistibly star-crossed as Tae Hyun and Yeo Jin and their chemistry was omnipresent and triumphant.
Chemistry wasn’t only Joo Won and Kim Tae Hee’s privilege, all of the actors and actresses partaking in Yong Pal were blending together in a remarkable way according to each figure’s characteristics. Chae Jung Ahn and Jo Hyun Jae were exemplary by presenting two broken figures with their own devastating past which had its own impact at the present, but the way they progressed as characters was the echo of their own ambitions and actions. Jung Woong In is an axiom, he was highly representative as Chief Surgeon Lee and his ongoing transformations. Song Kyung Cheol as Doo Chul and Yoo Seung Mok as detective Lee were delivering tremendous amounts of laughter, especially Doo Chul who was brightening the horizon when you’d least expect it!
Oh Na Ra and Kim Mi Kyung were always spot on as the emergency x-ray nurse and the head nurse respectively. Choi Byung Mo as secretary Min prove for one more time why do ambitious secretary roles suit him so fine! Last but not least and among others, Stephanie Lee shone both through presence and absence. It was only her second acting attempt and she effortlessly delivered the message that she only evolves. As Cynthia, she stole the impressions in Yong Pal with her charming and determined character. A more than bright acting future may be lying ahead and i will be there to witness it in the making.
Yong Pal’s very heart and soul was a utopia in reality’s scarred canvas and the dreamlike aesthetic it reflected against the shades was enchanting. Purple and fragrant as lavenders and spiritually fulfilling, royal and purposeful in like-minded tones, Yong Pal was a seed which managed to reach full bloom with all the intermediate steps parading one after the other in front of our very eyes.