The Romcom. Every year something predictable crops up crammed with love songs, big names and a corny title. Or, we’re left to rehash oldies-but-goodies. It’s a dated genre that we return to annually like that one frayed but cosy sweater - it turns no heads but makes you feel warm and fuzzy. But this year, there’s an upgrade! It’s called Crash Landing On You.
Starring Korean heartthrobs Son Ye-Jin and Hyun Bin, this is no ordinary love story. A rich and lonely South Korean heiress is on the cusp of a career victory. But the perfectionist sets out to sample a new product just ahead of the big announcement only to be carried away by a freak storm. Into North Korea.
What follows is an engrossing tale of hide & seek with insidious authorities while a unique love story brews. Yoon Se-Ri (Son Ye-Jin) the businesswoman from Seoul, meets the handsome North Korean Captain Ri Jeong-Hyeok (Hyun Bin) in the most unlikely of ways. Their chemistry is instantly undeniable. They couldn’t be more different from each other but it’s the glue that binds them. The Fates have a hand in their meeting. But this is no Greek Tragedy. Nor is it a case of Romeo & Juliet. It’s so much more!
Son Ye-Jin and Hyun Bin are fabulous actors riffing off of each other. Be it when they’re taking pot shots or displaying their inherent care and nascent love, it’s suffused with a touch of the real. Her transformation from the picky rich girl who drinks only bouillabaisse for soup to a noodle-slurping soju-swigging commoner, is endearing. While Hyun Bin’s range of emotions will blow your mind. He can go from cutesy to James Bond-level hotness in the blink of an eye.
But what sets this story apart from the mundane romcoms is that the hero and heroine are on an even keel. Son Ye-Jin’s Se-Ri is no damsel in distress. She’s a badass who knows what’s at stake and is ready to do anything to get home. And when there’s a role reversal, Se-Ri doesn’t shy away from flexing her power. Hyun Bin’s Captain Ri on the other hand isn’t afraid to be vulnerable or be the one who does things that are traditionally deemed a woman’s task such as cooking spectacular noodles. Neither does he judge Se-Ri for not being adept in the kitchen.
It’s the supporting cast however, that makes this show a real treat! Captain Ri’s comrades and the village women who are first suspicious of Se-Ri but hen go on to befriend her, are the life of the show. You want to see them as much as the lead pair. You’re keen to know how their lives turn out as well. And it’s primarily because they are the ones bringing you a huge slice of the comic relief. Their timing is top notch! Special mention to Kim Sun-Young who plays the village leader. She is to this show what Goundamani or Vadivelu is to a Tamil film.
What makes this well-made Netflix show tick all the right boxes is it’s commitment to the script. It’s not steeped in romance nor in laughs alone. It’s more than just a romcom. It’s a love story that displays human emotions that’s beyond boundaries or cultural differences. There are tears, fears, yearning, jealousy, betrayal. All of it. Life in its ugliness and glory. There’s the underdog-turned-bad-guy who is on a relentless mission to jeopardise the lives of Captain Ri and Se-Ri. The ruthless sister-in-laws who want to see Se-Ri gone. The stoic father whose political career is hanging by a thread, thanks to his son’s impulsive decisions. The mothers who’ll bat for their kids come hell or high water. All of this with not an ounce of melodrama or deafening background score that’s the mainstay of desi serials.
The show has received praise for depicting North Korean life quite closely. And it’s an interesting peek into the lives behind the secretive nation. It’s a gentle reminder that people and their emotions are rather universal. That we have more in common than we imagined.
Crash Landing On You is currently winding up its first season. So far it has us on tenterhooks. Can this cross-border romance thrive? The penultimate episode is set to release on 15th February. So if you’re looking for a show to binge watch with your loved one this Valentine’s Day, make sure it’s this one. And carry on into the weekend!