By now, K-Dramas are infamous for their love-lines. And not always for the best of reasons. They can be quite predictable, can’t they? The same structure (female lead who’s either too feisty or too sweet, first male lead who doesn’t treat her with the greatest delicacy, and the loveable second male lead who’s doomed in love from the start). The same predictable characters with exhausted stock personalities. And the same dead-fish kiss (The Heirs, anyone?)
Individualist Ms Jiyoung (or, the Happy Loner) is a mini-drama focusing around the love of two characters. So you’d think it’s something you’ve already seen, right? Well, this two-episode drama premiered in May 2017 and, in the year since I first watched it, I haven’t stopped singing its praises.
True to form, the plot is simple and predictable. Jiyoung (Min Hyorin) is a loner; she doesn’t believe in the magic of love, and her one relationship goes down the drain pretty quickly. She lives right next door to Byuksoo (Gong Myung) a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who cycles through relationships like he’s getting paid for it.
But the plot isn’t what matters. It’s these two characters. This is an incredibly realistic and poignant drama because the leading characters are incredibly realistic and poignant.
Min Hyorin takes on the fantastic transition of Jiyoung pretending to be disillusioned with life to being honest about her fear of people’s judgements. Hyorin the strongest actor in Individualist, bu this doesn’t mean that Gong Myung doesn’t pull his weight either.
This drama turns the point of ‘what makes someone happy’ on its head. It plays with your expectations (even though you think you know what you’re expecting) because it’s all about the small details. Jiyoung keeps her distance from people, but she’s a nurse, caring for patients she’ll never truly know. And when her heart lightens and she hesitantly welcomes human intimacy, her scenes with Byuksoo pales in comparison to the emotional potency of her interactions with her coworkers.
Both characters are far more complex than we’re used to seeing from a typical drama. But then, this isn’t a typical drama. It’s shot like a film and explored like a long book – exposing intricate understanding of the characters layer by layer until you can’t help but fall in love with them too.