[Kdrama review] 비밀 Secret

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Drama is rife with secrets, tears, tears and more tears.

Genre: Melodrama, romance, mystery, revenge

Synopsis: Ahn Do Hoon (Bae Soo Bin) is a junior prosecutor who gets involved in a hit-and-run accident one fateful day. His girlfriend Kang Yoo Jung (Hwang Jung Eum) volunteers to take the blame and go to jail in his stead so as not to jeopardise his career. Cho Min Hyuk (Ji Sung), the rich chaebol boyfriend of the lady who got killed in the accident, is distraught and vows to avenge her death by making Kang Yoo Jung suffer. However, he soon suspects that Kang Yoo Jung may be hiding a secret and unknowingly finds himself falling in love with his enemy…

Comments:

I think it would be apt to call this drama a dark horse that was unexpectedly good despite its rather typical storyline that sounds like a combination of last year’s “Innocent Man” and “Yellow Boots”. Although I’m a fan of Ji Sung, and I’ve seen his palpable chemistry with Hwang Jung Eum in CFs, I wasn’t expecting much from this show. I was thus surprised that this drama scored decent ratings and even gained itself a cult following, so I entered this drama with very high expectations. However, I must say that while this show did impress me in several scenes and made me somewhat a fan, it took me a total of 8 episodes to warm up to it, and even then, I thought the story was written rather haphazardly sometimes, so I still don’t quite get the obsession with this show. I think it was good, especially the technical aspects of it (the direction was AMAZING), but it’s still lacking on several fronts.

Acting
The cast certainly did a good job, especially Hwang Jung Eum. She was crying in almost every scene, which I think may be why her eyes looked somewhat puffy/swollen throughout the show. She delivered all her scenes very well. Even though she kept crying, she managed to convey the different emotions (i.e. sense of betrayal, fear, exasperation, loss etc) such that every crying scene was different from the other.

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I think this show also had a lot of shouting and crying scenes that gave the main leads lots of room to emote and demonstrate their acting skills. Even Min Hyuk’s cute, silent, stony-faced sidekick Gwangsoo managed to avoid the “wooden” acting that is usually associated with this kind of character and stood out in his role. I think this actor (Choi Woong) will have a bright future ahead if he can get bigger roles for himself in the future, heh.

Choi Woong

Choi Woong

Although I like Ji Sung, I must admit that Bae Soo Bin seems to have outshone Ji Sung in this show as the villain. Not to say that Ji Sung didn’t do well — his half-crying-half-laughing acting in episode 9 where Kang Yoo Jung dashed across the road was impressive and gave me goosebumps, and he was funny enough in the comedic scenes (which reminded me of his chaebol character in “Protect the Boss”). But having seen Ji Sung in “Royal Family”, I already knew that he would be able to do a good job and hence, probably not as much of a breakthrough performance as compared to Bae Soo Bin.

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I knew Bae Soo Bin could act, but his villainous turn here was an eye-opener and so much better than his bad guy role in “49 Days”. Bae Soo Bin probably delivered his best performance yet, especially in the last episode where he was crying and slapping himself without regard for how he looked like on camera. As for Lee Da Hee, I’ve never seen her before, but I think she did a decent job that might garner her a Best Newcomer award, though not as impressive as the other 3 leads. I do hope the cast will be duly rewarded at the upcoming KBS Drama Awards.

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Plot/characters
This show is written in a way that it is both a melo and a mystery, but I think it veers more towards the former because of the sheer amount of crying, and sometimes I even wonder if I’m watching a makjang. I like mystery shows, which is why I like that many of the characters in this drama have several secrets of their own. The writer also tries to keep viewers guessing by not revealing everything, but I feel that this made the story rather unclear as viewers have to connect the dots and draw conclusions on their own since not enough explanation is given for certain parts of the story. [Spoilers ahead!] For example, in the early episode, did Minhyuk give the bag of money and bread from Yoo Jung’s bakery to his late girlfriend’s mother because he really cared for the mother? Or did he do that knowing that the mother would mistake it as Yoo Jung trying to compensate for the accident? Since when did Minhyuk hurt his foot in episode 13 or was he just faking an injury? What exactly did Do Hoon do to Yoo Jung’s father? I think when done right, a mystery show can set viewers thinking while ensuring that the audience is clear about what is happening in the show. But I feel that this drama had too many secrets, but not all questions were properly answered. Or maybe it’s just me who have difficulty following the story, especially when the show dwells on company issues :/  I also found myself rather detached from the characters. They were all leading miserable lives, but not once was I moved to tears while watching the show. This could also be due to my lack of understanding of the plot since the characters’ motivations were not always clear to me.  I did think the relationship between Min Hyuk and Yoo Jung was an interesting one though since we hardly see a romance that involves stalking. But in reality, I think such a control freak like Min Hyuk would not make a good boyfriend since he has violent tendencies haha.

Direction
What I liked the most about “Secret” is definitely the cinematography and music direction. I think the editing style requires some time to get used to, but there were several scenes that were very impressive and memorable to me because of the direction and symbolism. The backhug scene at the ending of episode 13 is possibly the best scene in the series and maybe even among all the Kdramas I’ve ever seen. The beautiful autumn foliage and the combined usage of slow-motion, falling leaves (because falling cherry blossoms is overused already), the choice of music, and the unique positioning of the camera on the bus made this scene so artistic it was almost dream-like; I was blown away by the beauty of it despite the minor editing mistake in the positioning of Ji Sung’s arm. Such beauty deserves special attention in this post:

 

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Another impressive scene would be in episode 9 where Kang Yoo Jung is driven to the point of insanity by Min Hyuk’s constant stalking and dashes across the road, leaving Min Hyuk rooted to the pavement in shock. This scene was memorable largely due to the impressive acting by Ji Sung and Hwang Jung Eum, but the insertion of the theme song at such an appropriate timing really made the scene even more awesome.  I like how the song lyrics goes “Would it be alright if I move closer, I was scared so I stood still”, and we see Min Hyuk wanting to cross the road to comfort Yoo Jung, but he doesn’t because he is too shocked by her actions and probably himself also for having tormented her this much.

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Memorable scene #3 is in episode 10 where Min Hyuk stands at the balcony and watches Yoo Jung hang the laundry. There is no dialogue involved; just a song that does all the narration required for that scene as the song sings about a bad guy (Min Hyuk) who is not worthy of loving such a precious woman (Yoo Jung). Then as Yoo Jung leaves the yard, Min Hyuk looks at her longingly while the song sings about him wanting to call out her name but he thinks himself unworthy of doing so and swallows his words. I’m so marvelled that the song lyrics helped frame the story by “voicing out” Minhyuk’s thoughts somewhat, adding a whole level of meaning to an otherwise ordinary scene.

 

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There were also many other scenes that were given symbolic meaning by filming through glass panels, the use of the public bus to transition between scenes, the strategic insertion of the show’s title etc. I also like how the later part of the series seemed to reflect and contrast with the happenings in the beginning, such as Min Hyuk going against his father because of Yoo Jung/Ji Hee, Do Hoon’s and Min Hyuk’s differing reaction to Yoo Jung’s scar etc.

Verdict:
A melodrama that sought to be a mystery revenge thriller but wasn’t quite there. A show that sets the audience thinking, but those who dislike shows with a lot of crying may want to think twice about watching this. though I think the top-notch acting and romance are enough reason to watch. Although I wasn’t really drawn into the story, I think the show deserves credit for the amazing direction alone. This show ought to be analysed and dissected in a theatre/film class.

Overall: 8.5/10
Enjoyment: 7/10

 

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12 thoughts on “[Kdrama review] 비밀 Secret

  1. Oh — I’d forgotten how lovely the bus scene was, with those yellow leaves against the blue sky… this really was a well filmed drama. But I agree, the mystery aspects were lacking. (I think the story was trying to feel like a mystery but didn’t invest the kind of work that goes into actually creating a good mystery — with clues and hints and such.)

    Also, if you’ve never seen Lee Da Hee before, that means you’ve not seen I Hear Your Voice — which, I highly recommend it! Just FYI. 😉

    Great review!

    1. Thank you!

      I felt that the show seemed to dwell more on the sufferings of Yoo Jung rather than on the mystery part. Some of the “secrets” were quite easy to guess and the story wasn’t that unpredictable.

      “I Hear Your Voice” is one of the most popular shows this year but I haven’t seen it yet. Maybe I should give it a go and support Ji Sung’s wifey haha.

      1. I loved her in IHYV! Though… others found her character a little too caustic so no promises there. 😉 I don’t want to over-hype because that really can kill a viewing like nothing else — but there’s a certain charm to the drama that makes it a fun and easy watch.

  2. To my mind “Secret” is one of the best Korean dramas and I must add the excellence acting of the farher, I think he deserved a special award for theat role!

  3. Thank you Gabby for this wonderful review. I recently bumped into “Secret” accidentally surfing through Viki. I am still amazed with the intensity and the story line, sure the plot had cliches’ but the tour-de-force performances made up for the weakness in the story. Ji Sung was a revelation, I am never a fan of him but I was swooning by episode 10-16 of this drama. I guess the attraction and danger of falling for a bad boy gets the me all the time. lol.. I am not familiar with Hwang Jung Eum’s work prior to Secret but I am so impress with her heart wrenching performance and Lee Da Hee is my favorite upcoming k-drama actress. I already liked her from I Hear Your Voice. I will surely watch out for both actresses for their next project.

    I agree about the soundtrack.. IMO, Secret has the best 2013 K-Drama OST. From Nave’s “Incurable illness”, Jang Myung Go’s “That Person” and Ailee’s “Tears That Stole the Heart” each track corresponded with the intensity and emotional state of our OTP’s scenes especially their heartbreak, frustration, and pain.. Such a heartfelt and touching sountrack that each time I hear the songs playing in my IPOD it takes me back to the unforgettable moment of this drama.

    1. Although I had some complaints about the show, it took me a while to move on after the show ended, and I still can recall some of the scenes very clearly even now. I was really impressed with Hwang Jung Eum’s acting here too…I’ll definitely be on the lookout for her future works! And I sooooooo agree with you about the OST! It’s definitely one of the best OSTs on my list too. I wonder if you do listen to the instrumental tracks too? Not just the songs, but the instrumentals are also wonderful! One of the rare OSTs where I actually love every single song. There are still some more tracks that will be released in the director’s cut DVD…hopefully some kind soul will share the songs somewhere!

  4. Probably JMH hurt his foot as the coffee made by KYJ was spilt and the teapot broke,right? This drama was cool anyway.thumbs up.:-)

  5. my unforgettable moments on Secret is when yoo jung found out that her son is still alive..at the restaurant scene,where do hoon’s mother broke the news..i was in tears for days!and the last scene where they kissed passionately at her bakery!hahaha..

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