Divvy up the love.
- Lee Si-young as Kim Il-ri
- Uhm Tae-woong as Jang Hee-tae
- Lee Soo-hyuk as Kim Joon
- Choi Yeo-jin as Jang Hee-soo
- 20 episodes
- Original run: Dec 1, 2014 – Feb 3, 2015
Jang Hee-tae first met his wife, Kim Il-ri, in a high school biology class, where she was his student and he was her substitute teacher. When they meet again 7 years later, they realize their love for each other still remains and get married. After years of marriage, Hee-tae discovers that his wife is having an affair with the young carpenter, Kim Joon, whom she works with. Il-ri claims that she loves both men equally, but neither is willing to see her love and be with another man.
When I first started watching Valid Love, I wasn’t quite sure what kind of drama it was. The only plot point I knew was that some lady cheats on her husband and then he finds out. Not exactly the most exciting or original plotline out there, but I was convinced to continue watching beyond the first couple of episodes because of how lighthearted and charming the beginning was. And now that I’ve completed the series, I still don’t really know what to make of it. What I do know though is that Valid Love is unable to maintain its initial charm throughout its entire run nor does it ever reach any levels of real excitement, but it still provides an interesting take on an oft-used storyline.
I think the best way to characterize Valid Love is as a slow burn. Things happen a little at a time, and is usually dragged out for multiple episodes. That’s not to say that these things aren’t important, but it’s just that they happen at an extremely slow pace. Now, I’m usually all for breakneck speed plotlines, but I was surprisingly okay with Valid Love‘s relaxed ways. When thinking about each episode individually, it may almost seem like nothing of significance happens. In fact, you’d struggle to find more than five noteworthy things in each episode. But when you look at the drama as a whole, that’s when you realize that all the nothings that happened in those 20 episodes actually amounted to something.
What makes Valid Love different from most dramas about cheating is how completely unsexy it was. Neither the story nor its characters had much sex appeal, which is surprising considering its subject matter. Everything about it just seemed so drab and bland. The actual “cheating” that occurs in this drama is more of the heart variety than the physical kind. Perhaps that’s why the betrayal was more painful for the characters because it was fueled by love and not lust. While adultery is not right, the show made a deliberate attempt to not paint things in such black and white terms. Il-ri is a sympathetic character that the audience can’t help but understand why she does what she does. It seems strange to side with the cheater, but her actions do seem more forgivable in this situation. Also, Il-ri’s relationship with Kim Joon is so chaste (see: unsexy) that it seems unfair that she be branded as a “whore” for it.
It’s kind of hard to pick sides in this drama because everyone involved in the love triangle has their faults. What you come to understand is that all three of them are extremely selfish, despite how hard to try to hide it. Il-ri wants both her husband and her boyfriend. Hee-tae wants his wife to stay by his side even if she’s miserable. Kim Joon wants to break up a marriage so he can be with Il-ri. Basically everyone wanted to have their cake and eat it too, but life just doesn’t work that way. While this may be a detrimental character flaw in other dramas, Valid Love is able to share the blame (and love) amongst the three so that it’s less damning.
Lee Si-young does a commendable job as Kim Il-ri and plays all the various sides of her well. We first met her as this weird and lively high schooler who crushes hard on her teacher, but then we see her transition to a world-weary adult. Lee pulls off these two versions of Il-ri pretty seamlessly, which is saying something because this is a 32-year-old actress convincingly playing a teenager. Uhm Tae-woong and Lee Soo-hyuk both acted well as the husband and boyfriend, respectively, but this drama was really Kim Il-ri’s story. While the individual acting was all-around quite good, it was the lack of chemistry between the three leads that really hindered the drama. As the cheating couple, Lee Si-young and Lee Soo-hyuk had literally zero sparks between them, which only made the already unsexy story even more so. Likewise, Lee Si-young and Uhm acted as if they were seriously bored and tired of each other in real life as in the drama. Yawn, both literally and figuratively.
So, to answer the question I posed at the beginning of the review…I still don’t know what kind of drama Valid Love is. Although serious in subject matter and tone, there are never the over-the-top bombastic moments of a traditional melodrama. Yet, it’s not funny or cutesy enough to be considered a romcom. I suppose it properly fits the description of just a drama. While I really did find Valid Love enjoyable to watch, I just wish it wasn’t so underwhelming. Never the less, I think it was mostly successful depiction of how differently people can interpret what makes love valid to them.
This & That:
- Kim Do-woo, the writer of Valid Love, also wrote the popular 2005 romcom, My Lovely Sam Soon.
- Uhm Tae-woong is the brother of Korean singer and actress, Uhm Jung-hwa.
- Uhm starred in the variety show, 2 Days 1 Night, from 2011 to 2013. He and his daughter are currently starring in the variety show, Superman is Back.
- Lee Si-young starred in season 1 of the variety show, We Got Married, and was paired up with Shinhwa boybander, Jun Jin, on the show. They subsequently dated in real life for six months before breaking up.
- Lee is an amateur boxer, and has competed in multiple national amateur boxing competitions. She’s currently training to try out for the national boxing team to represent South Korea in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
- Lee Soo-hyuk also starred in the tvN drama, High School King of Savvy, earlier in 2014.