Drama Review: Medley of Youth

“Dreamy, and nostalgic, and hilariously accurate when it comes to adolescent awkwardness…”

Medley of Youth PosterMedley of Youth
aka: Adolescence Medley
aka: Puberty Medley 
air date: 7.10.2013 through 7.31.2013
network: KBS2
number of episodes: 4
I watched it: a gentle mini-marathon

In a nutshell: A lovely little drama-special that does exactly what it sets out to do. The story follows perpetual transfer student, Jung-woo, as he makes unexpected waves at the small country high school he lands in — and gets a bit storm-tossed himself. It perfectly captures that delicate and oh-so-brief period of wavering between the magic of childhood and the responsibilities of being an adult. Dreamy, and nostalgic, and hilariously accurate when it comes to adolescent awkwardness, this is one of those hidden gems you really should not miss.

The Players: Jung-wooIt was so, so refreshing to see a teenager played by a teenager. Kwak Dong-yun brought Jung-woo — a delightfully imaginative boy stumbling his way towards manhood — effortlessly to life. Helped, I’m sure, by his being not very far removed from those awkward days himself. And definitely helped by his teenage scrawniness. Inevitable run-ins with older school bullies looked as mismatched as they should have.

It was also fun seeing Kawk Jung-wook, once again playing a character vastly different from his last appearance. His Duk-won was sweet and nerdy and completely unselfconscious (and his character from School 2013 would have wiped the floor with him). Duk-wonBut, like any good character actor, Kawk Jung-wook disappears into his role, becoming a perfect foil for the much more easily embarrassed Jung-woo.

Lee Se-young as Yang Ah-young was the other standout for me. Her path was more mellow — at least on the surface — as the, has everything going for her, loved by all, perpetual class president. Of course, she had struggles as well and Lee Se-young gave Ah-young a lovely note of longing to Ah-younghint at the troubles beneath her seemingly placid surface.

Those three were the actors I most noted, but I really could list out the whole cast. We get enough about the characters surrounding Jung-woo, and they’re all played with such a light, intelligent touch, that you could almost call this an ensemble drama. It’s not — Jung-woo is the main point-of-view character with rare moments of deviation — but that it could have means that the world feels deep and real. Like there are other lives going on beyond Jung-woo’s view.

In Conclusion: A lot is packed into the drama’s four episodes. But it doesn’t feel rushed. There’s a lovely slowness to the scenes that evoke the feeling of summer in the countryside. Where there’s no reason to rush — you’ll get where you’re going as you go. Medley of Youth tells a story that feels well worn and familiar but plays it out in refreshingly unexpected ways. It’s a fun and intelligent and touching watch. I definitely recommend it.

country school

[KBS World has it on their YouTube channel: link to episode 1]

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15 thoughts on “Drama Review: Medley of Youth

  1. Loved the pastoral setting too! So beautiful it was, very apt for this kind of tale. (I found out this was directed by the same PD as Big which did look gorgeous if nothing else.) I thought the school jjang was pretty handsome too…;P

    • The setting was perfect! Even if you didn’t grow up in the country it just felt like old memories, you know?

      The school jjang was very nice indeed. 😉 I didn’t mention him for spoiler reasons, really. I loved watching this with barely a clue as to what was meant to happen so I tried not to mention anything you don’t find out in the first few minutes.

  2. Yes, definitely one of the hidden gems. I loved it to bits, but you already knew that. 😉

    Kwak Dong-yun is VERY promising. I will be keeping tabs on him for sure. I’m also waiting for the day when the other Kwak on this will finally graduate to proper adult parts. I think it’s way past that time already. Woollim should really get a move on and do something to promote their one real actor. I mean, he may not be as pretty as e.g Kim Myung Soo aka L of Infinite but he sure is a lot better actor.

    • I think part of it is Kwak Jung-wook is so youthful looking. He’s not traditionally handsome enough to get the usual leading man roles (where he could play his age) but he’s teetering on too young looking to hit the interesting character roles. But he’s obviously getting interesting parts that stretch his craft — not just playing the same cookie-cutter role again and again and again. Which would be the worst waste for someone with his talent.

  3. I just finished watching it about 2 weeks ago and after it was done I immediately tried to find another special similar to it because it was just that good, sadly I couldn’t :/ This drama really made me fall for Kwak Dong Yun, and I love how he is slowly building up his career with diverse roles. I’ve been trying to the find the theme song actually *_* if you happen to stumble upon it, mind leading me to the right direction?

    • Kwak Dong-yun is definitely an actor to keep an eye on!

      I’m usually the last to know when it comes to OSTs and the like, but if I do hear anything I’ll definitely let you know. 🙂

  4. I’ve heard of this through grapevine but never get to watch it. It sounded really, really good! And 4 episodes only? Errrrmageewdddd, winner! I’ll be adding this to my watch list when I’m on travel. Thanks for your convincing words, Bets!

    • Hah! I’ve had sneak drama-attacks like that. That feeling of, ‘oh, I should not be doing this,’ is so, so good, isn’t it? 😉 I’m not being a healthy influence am I? On a related note, YES! you should definitely finish it!

      I loved that “Safari and Jin-sook fail to eat their ice-cream” scene so, so much. I’m glad you like! 😀

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