So… i finished this slow-moving melodrama. Without skipping any episodes, or even any scenes. Even if i’d fast-forward and speed up through them. Which is an accomplishment since in the beginning, i was so sure i’d jump to the last few episodes just to watch everyone get the comeuppance they deserve and see how it ends. But every time i’d had enough of the lack of progress, the episode would reveal a seemingly important discovery, which made me sit through another hour or two to see if it would lead to a breakthrough or ended up another useless finding. Most of them fell under the second case, unfortunately.
After the infuriating start, things started to look up in its third and fourth week: the detectives, whom i initially thought were paid off due to their half-ass work, did more serious investigation; Dad stopped practicing “silence is golden” and began taking action; more details about Sun-ho that day were surfacing although there was no strong proof to pin down suspects yet. But they were getting somewhere.
And since the circle around the golden boy began to crack, i expected the truth the be revealed sooner than later. Ki-chan was officially outcast from The Avengers by episode 6 and got to experience being in Sun-ho and Dong-hee’s shoes; he vowed to expose Joon-seok, making me believe he had something on him — alas. In the same episode, Joon-seok bumped into Dad during his vulnerable moment who showed him the most sincere concern and told him the most sensible piece of advice since the incident:
“No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes in life. What’s important is what comes after that. How you choose to live afterward. There are those who sincerely regret their mistakes and try hard to become better people. And there are those who don’t. I hope you’ll be the kind of person that will try to become better.”
This seemed to strike a chord in him, making me believe that was enough to tap into his conscience — nope.
His mom, Eun-joo, continued to be on the edge i was waiting for her to either crack under burden of guilt or ‘toughen up’ and completely plunge into the dark side. But she just kept swaying between being horrified by his son’s lack of penitence and his husband’s misguidance and putting up a sympathetic front before Mom. I couldn’t fully hate her in this state though i totally abhorred her reaction to the whole incident. She was already in the middle of a call with a first responder she could’ve freaking told the callee her location before hanging up and calling her son. And although i could get behind her reasoning about protecting her son, that the situation did look iffy and the police might not believe his claim of it being an accident (why would they, when she herself didn’t believe her own son?), how could that prompt her to make it seem like a suicide?? Especially when Sun-ho is her son’s buddy as well her bestie’s son?
I honestly don’t know who’s worse: a shameless two-face like her or a heartless money-wielder like her husband, Oh Jin-pyo (Oh Man-seok). He’s a typical villain who pulls rank, thinks he can get away with everything with money and connection, and passes down his sense of superiority and entitlement to his son. He’s basically the kind of person Joon-seok will grow up to be. Boy said he’s stressed out but all he put on was a disconcerting calmness toward the entire ordeal.
Ki-chan was probably the only one showing internal conflict, because Sung-jae isn’t too perturbed about lying to the cops or seeing Ki-chan getting sidelined, whereas Young-chul gains confidence upon being on the leader’s good side and doesn’t think twice about calling Ki-chan the traitor for telling the truth. Well, they’re at the age when they trust their friends over their parents, which is a pity because Young-chul has the best mother out of his peers.
But it was foolish of me to expect the puzzle to be solved sooner than later given how Mom realized about the shoelaces only after 4 episodes and spotted Eun-joo’s car turning toward the back gate around the time of incident only after 8 episodes, how Dong-soo (Dad’s student played by Seo Young-joo) was the smartest one for surmising that the one who found Sun-ho is the only one who could’ve deleted the CCTV footage, how useless the detectives were since most if not all evidence was supplied by Sun-ho’s parents, or how slow the pacing was.
They’re repeating the same scenes over and over again that i lost count of the number of times Mom going around begging the involved characters to speak up or confronting Eun-joo after each discovery, the detectives visiting Joon-seok’s house to cross-check the reports only to come out empty-handed, the other parents trying to settle the case under the table or holding a meeting to reiterate their disdain toward Sun-ho family’s fight for justice, or the teachers reacting negatively to any news or development of the case or berating Lee-seonsaeng (Lee Jin-woo) for siding with The Parks then issuing insensitive statements or instructions.
I got desensitized to the drama’s absurdity by the midway point, but seriously, they should’ve gathered enough incriminating evidence and then cornered the suspects with it! The other parents are honestly a lost cause the moment they failed to empathize with the situation even after they’re asked to position themselves in Sun-ho parents’ shoes since they’re all parents with sons too. Honestly, after watching those self-serving individuals, my only hope was the truth seekers finding the smoking gun through their investigation instead of a witness’ confession. Because there must be something left somewhere, because regardless of Shin Dae-gil’s past cop career, he couldn’t possibly get rid of every bit of traces.
(Ending spoilers ahead)
Speaking of the school security, i was confused with his character. If he’s determined to sell his integrity to save his son and remain tight-lipped despite Mom and Dad’s supplications, i can’t fathom why he would plant the evidence, literally, and give it to the family. Or why he didn’t just say about what’s inside the pot* instead of confessing face-to-face. Because then, he didn’t have to die. Because then, the truth could’ve been revealed in episode 8 or 9 instead of 14. Because then, this drama needed not be 16 episodes long.
(*I KNEW there’s something inside that cactus gift! I thought it’d be audio files instead of Sun-ho’s freaking phone, though.)
By midway point, i knew that Sun-ho would only wake up toward the finale yet still hoped he would sooner, given how his fingers first moved in episode 5. FIVE. However, after the obvious fakeout in the latter half, i kinda feared he would remain vegetative till the end. Fortunately, he did wake up, albeit a little too late, right at the end of the penultimate week, when everything was pretty much uncovered.
I still believe he should’ve woken up sooner; he still needed time to adjust to conscious life and recover his motor skills after all. They could’ve still gone ahead with the prosecution while Sun-ho was rehabilitating. That way, the mood would’ve been lighter much earlier. That way, the ending wouldn’t have been too rushed.
That the fall was indeed an accident was such a bummer (because what was all the angst for?), but it doesn’t mean Joon-seok should be scot-free. He’s the lead bully and causing his friend to fall several storeys down and be in coma. A simple sorry wasn’t enough, especially when he barely showed any remorse before the phone was found. He didn’t even apologize to Dong-hee. Ki-chan’s apology was sincerer and more heartfelt to me.
Also, i wonder if they straightened out the misunderstanding between them about Da-hee, though? I was ready to flip out if it was all stemming from ‘fighting over a girl’ or worse, a made-up claim. I didn’t expect who the real sex offender was, but boy did i not think Oh Jin-pyo could get any lower. The only thing i hate is the fact that they wrote him as quite intoxicated when it happened. Why couldn’t you make your villain commit his horrendous crime consciously, Writer-nim?
In the end, Beautiful World is a(nother) melodrama with underwhelming resolution. Yes, Sun-ho did wake up and was all smiles in the end, but can we really call it a happy ending just because of the closing scene when the principal offenders didn’t get a comeuppance they more than deserved and some of them didn’t even show the slightest sign of remorse and didn’t even think/know that they did wrong?? Grrr, i should send Hiiragi-sensei to teach those students a lesson.
It is probably more of a family than a school drama, as it suggests the core importance of upbringing — teaching children right from wrong, prepping them for triumphs and disappointments, encouraging them to admit their mistake and learn from it, supporting them through highs and lows — although most of the time, all it presents is the complete opposite: parents covering for their kids’ misdeeds, setting them up to lie, and supporting bullying as pranks. It also highlights the silver lining coming out from a tragedy: bringing family closer together, gifting Dong-hee with reliable adults, a friend or two, and a makeshift family, and opening the door to Da-hee’s heart.
That said, i still believe this drama’s “Beautiful World” title is a sarcastic one. The fictional world is too ugly to be called beautiful. The plot is too thin to be stretched into 16 episodes; without the recycled plot points and slow pace, it could’ve been compressed into 8 episodes instead. The takeaway lesson is not to fight on rooftops, let alone near the edge. Jo Yeo-jeong delivered the strongest performance of the adult cast while Kim Hwan-hee is my favorite among the child actors. Soo-ho kept making me cry!
As for Nam Da-reum… unfortunately this drama didn’t give him much to do besides lying in bed. Which is too bad because i thought this would be his time to shine. What a bait-and-switch, seriously. 😑
Director: Park Chan-hong
Screenwriter: Kim Ji-woo
Production: JTBC, 2019
Cast: Choo Ja-hyun, Park Hee-soon, Nam Da-reum, Kim Hwan-hee, Jo Yeo-jeong, Oh Man-seok, Seo Dong-hyun, Lee Chung-ah, Yoon Na-moo, Jo Jae-ryong, Seo Young-joo, Lee Jae-in
Genre: School, Family, Melodrama, K-drama (16 Episodes)