I’m always on the lookout for a good new drama in the tradition of the classic K-rom-coms – you know, with the traditional trope of a chaebol’s son falling for a poor, spunky heroine and lots of fun and screwball scenes amid the emotional drama. But these days they are hard to find. A lot of current K-rom-coms seem to prefer the weird and heavy. Nothing against weird, which can be intriguing and innovative, but it would be nice once in a while to watch a well-plotted K-rom-com with lead characters who are simply normal – and not heavily traumatized, socially disabled, schizophrenic or with multiple personalities.
Anyway, I just found a Chinese show that clearly harks back to the classics. Far Away Love is about a rich family’s son who finds himself intrigued by a 28-year-old who’s devoting her life to raising her nephew. Usually super non-confrontational, she’s feisty in her dealings with our hero – a dynamic that really reminded me of the interactions of the lead couple in Secret Garden. The drama hits all the right spots and thankfully the plot doesn’t go astray. It’s a fun watch.
The show was a huge hit in China. According to marketing research company VLinkage, the last episode, on March 18, 2016, was viewed by 130 million people and was more popular than that day’s episode of Descendants of the Sun (which was also a blockbuster in China). And the male lead, Park Hae Jin, just won the Actor of the Year award at the LETV Entertainment Awards in Beijing for his role.
Here’s the detailed review (for a condensed version and more K-rom-com recommendations, go here):
Far Away Love
Do you particularly love the classics when it comes to K-rom-coms? Then I’ll bet you’ll like this drama. It’s a Chinese production, released in 2016, but has the feel of favorite shows like Secret Garden (2010) or Lie to Me (2011). Maybe it’s because it was produced not long after, in 2013, when these K-dramas might have functioned as role models.
Right away, we have a similar set-up – a son of a wealthy family fighting with his mother about a woman not to her liking. In Far Away Love, it goes like this: Straight-laced and emotionally numb rich guy Shen An, a CEO of a food conglomerate, keeps having run-ins (and later gets entangled) with Meng Chu Xia (played by Li Fei Er), a clumsy, soft-hearted but stubborn 28-year-old who’s raising her nephew by herself. Then, in addition to this familiar K-drama premise, there’s the choice of a Korean actor – popular heartthrob Park Hae Jin from My Love from the Star and Cheese in the Trap – as the male lead, which enhances even more the Korean rom-com-feeling. But, most important, this drama has the same tone and similar structure as those archetypal K-rom-coms: Lots of funny, cute and screwball-ish parts in the first half of the series, while later episodes add emotional depth and drama. Plus an excellent ending.
Nitpicking: As I’ve noticed with other Chinese dramas, the beginning of each episode previews too much of the plot (to remedy, just skip the first minute and 40 seconds). The side stories about Chu Xia’s friend Fei Fei, who keeps dating different men, are a little boring and not really relevant for the main story, so in case you don’t like those, you can skip them and not miss out on the main plot. The OST is so-so. While the main song is fine, even if played a little too often, there’s also a truly cringeworthy song in Italian. And, in the second half, the drama drifts a few times into too-obvious soap opera territory (bad acting, super contrived set-ups, over-the-top-melo).
Otherwise, an excellent show. With 36 episodes (each 45 minutes), it’s longer than your usual K-drama but the storyline is great and it was so much fun hanging out with the characters that I didn’t mind the length at all. In fact, I could hardly wait for the next episode to start.
Southeast and Guangdong TV (China). Written by Mi Tian Hui.
Photo (above): Park Hae Jin and Li Fei Er aiming for the cutest selfie
Photo (below): Poster for Far Away Love