Sometimes I find it hard to write a review because I want to talk about EVERYTHING, but people don't like spoilers...hence, I am going to write this in two parts. Part I: Spoiler Free and Part II: Spoiler-full - well, sort of - so enjoy! If you haven't watched The Snow Queen, (a) you should and (b) you can watch it on DramaFever here. Be warned, the pictures are in no particular order. They just are. And Hyun Bin is my K-drama 첫사랑...so there will be LOTS of screenshots of him. I don't think anyone will complain.
Part I: Spoiler Free (well, there are lots of pictures which might spoil it a little...)
The Snow Queen is really a beautiful drama - oh let me count the ways...first off - Hyun Bin - do you need another reason? Well, if you do - here are some more reasons. It's based on one of my childhood favourite fairy tales - The Snow Queen. The fairy tale is super interesting, and the drama really uses it well to talk about life and feelings and hurt and forgiveness and love and rescuing the people that we love. On a side note, I find it really interesting how K-drama loves to use fairy tales - storytelling is an ancient art, and when modern story-telling forms use older ones, I LOVE IT!!!
And as usual Hyun Bin kind of steals the show. He really is such a phenomenal actor, and it always amazes me how believable he is as any character, and his portrayal of mathematics genius Han Tae Woong is just superb. He plays him with all the sadness, vulnerability, and struggle that Tae Woong needs to make us care about his character. Han Tae Woong is a math genius who loses his best friend, and pretty much it derails his life. And then the drama is about him learning to pick up the pieces and defrost his frozen heart. And really, who wouldn't want to see Binnie look fabulous?! (The first time he appeared in a suit, I think my heart stopped for a minute).
Enter heroine/icy princess - sort of. Sung Su Ri was fabulous! I liked her fiestyness. Even though she could be a little shrill at times, she wasn't your totally ditzy K-drama heroine that unfortunately proliferates the K-drama world. She was at turns vulnerable, icy-hearted, insightful, determined, but mostly just genuine. That's probably what I can't say enough of for this drama. It was just so genuine.
And Im Ju Hwan - he was delightful. He is just so sweet and lovely I had to mention him. And the lovely basketball-loving math professor (Kim Beol Rae) - he was just a lovely gem. I just loved whenever he came on screen. As usual Chun Ho Jin delivered an excellent performance. Okay, that's enough for the supporting cast.
At no point did I feel like the plot line was too contrived. Everything seemed like something that could happen in real life - including the way that characters reacted to things. The noble idiocy portions were actually not very drawn out - yippee!!! And the pacing of the drama suited the authentic feel of how people deal with love and loss and healing and the general unfairness of life.
The director and cameraman seemed to be on the same page which really helped with the pacing of the show. It has this sort of organic, whimsical way of unfolding the story. I guess one way to describe the feel of the drama is a sort of quiet, indie piece. The cinematography excellent! It was just beautifully shot. There were just all these gorgeous long shots that helped you to really feel the show. And the music was excellent as well. The only song I have a bit of a problem with was the "I need friend" song...it wasn't as bad as "Almoooooost Paaaaaaaaradise" but it came close at a few points for me.
So all in all - great acting, great story, well told, beautiful camera work (with some choppy editing in places), and a great soundtrack. It is most definitely worth a watch. And they did the angst right, just the right amount of heightened angst. Oh, the PD must have had a thing for feet because there were just so many awesome feet shots. Well, feet and hands.
There were just so many great themes in this drama, but two of the main ones are love and forgiveness. Yay! Great themes! The drama definitely utilized the Kay/Gerda Snow Queen storyline to accentuate these two themes - and it didn't hit the viewer over the head too much with it. At many points they were either Kay or Gerda - they both needed saving, and they both needed to help save the other. And I like that equality of balance.
The forgiveness part wasn't limited to forgiving others, there was also definitely a resonate theme of theme of forgiving one's self. Tae Woong particularly had to forgive himself of the guilt of Kim Jeong Kyu's (Lee Sun Ho) death. Bo Ra - needed to forgive her mother, Tae Woong, and her father. I think that something that is hard about forgiveness, is that the people we are forgiving do not always deserve our forgiveness (her mother) - but for Bo Ra she lives with the poison of hatred and the hurt of abandonment, and for her to overcome that, she has to let it go. Tae Woong's mother also has to forgive him. I also like that they all struggle with forgiving - it's not like it takes an episode or two - it takes long and heartfelt struggle. It's just such an excellent portrayal of fighting one's inner demons. I also really appreciate that the conflict that keeps the lovers apart for a time is realistic. It wasn't contrived, and I really applaud that in a drama (particularly because dramaland likes its contrived crazy makjang conflict). And ultimately the drama uses that conflict to leave a really beautiful message - Life has problems. Face them, endure them. Don't run away from them. That is the message Kim Bo Ra leaves Tae Woong on the pager. Man, I was in tears for that scene. It was perfect. Which brings me to the love/ending.
"I will never regret falling in love with you." Could one say it more perfectly?! Love is about loving people - it's not about when it's convenient, it's not about if we have enough time or not. If we live life by thinking, I will love later on, or when it doesn't hurt - then we will never love. Love is about being vulnerable and open to giving our all to someone, and then to do the same in return. Sometimes the people we love leave us, sometimes they die, sometimes it doesn't work out later on, but that doesn't mean that it isn't love. When we love fully and completely, we can experience such joy and happiness. I am also a firm believer that love can work out - and that's the gamble we have to take. We have to be willing to give it our all, with no regrets, and sometimes that means we grow old with someone, sometimes that means we experience the joys of life with that person for a long time, and sometimes it means people leave us.
But because Tae Woong and Bo Ra decided to live and love, they don't have to regret not loving each other. Even though they know their time might be limited, they don't abandon each other (okay, there is a brief spout of noble idiocy). They figure out that allowing the other people to relieve some of the burden, means love. And to quote-ish the shaman from Arang and the Magistrate, if we don't make memories, we cannot go on living. We cannot be so afraid of loss and death that we do not live. When Tae Woong goes to Lapland, and realizes that Bo Ra is right, - it's a beautiful moment. He's come full circle with his healing. And that's the final message on the pager: "Live on. Living is better." What a perfect ending!