Synopsis: Sam-dal, aka Eun-Hye, comes from a small town on the scenic island of Jejudo, Korea. Since she was a young girl she has always loved capturing moments and places on camera. She works hard and along the way work becomes her whole life. Her life is seemingly perfect from almost everyone who works with her and around her, that is until an issue arises with her assistant that eventually leads to her downfall and eventual disgrace from the business. Sam-dal returns home with her sisters in search of respite where she might actually find who she is again and possibly reconnect with old friends.
Review: Hello dear reader! It has been a long time since I've put another review out and I've missed this and you so much. Life is crazy busy, but I still need to make a better effort at writing my reviews down.
If you are new to my reviews I rate my dramas on mainly two categories: storytelling, and direction. Under Storytelling, I take into account not just the acting, but the writing, and music as well. It is usually presented as a percentage. Under the category direction, I consider both editing and direction, editing counts for 2 points while direction counts for 3. It'll be out 5. I call them my sticky notes because that tends to be what I write my thoughts on when I'm watching. For Welcome to Sandal-ri, I have the story telling at a 90%. Under direction I gave this a 4/5. Needless to say, I like it. I have no complaints about the directing so far and even love the little ambiance the the director has created in this little town. The editing is alright. Not much has stood out to me as far as editing goes, but I have no complaints.
Samdal-ri was one of those dramas that I was actually anticipating. Shin Hye-Sun is one of my favorite actresses in drama town and I'm always up for anything she does. Add the fact that she will be acting opposite of the ever so handsome Ji Chang-Wook and I was immediately ready for it. Now, I had no expectations going into this drama
and I think that was for the best. It is one of those slice of life dramas that's not too dissimilar from Hometown Cha Cha Cha. Now, I didn't really appreciate Hometown Cha Cha Cha, in fact I dropped it 6 episodes in and haven't been able to return to finish it. I am, however, loving this drama. The main actors are serving, and the side characters feels as if they live their own lives and aren't caricature that are only used to help the main character's story across. The writing seems to be stable, there are a few slow spots, but otherwise it progresses well. It is a slower drama, so if you're not ready to enjoy a story that takes its time fleshing its chracters out don't watch it.
Firstly, I shall start with Shin Hye-Sun's character Sam-dal. There has been a lot of discourse about how the drama is slow and certain characters aren't as dynamic in other dramas. I actually have a different opinion. Sam-dal is an extremely complicated character, and I believe that the way Shin Hye-Sun portrays her is spot on. The character has literally been tossed in a turbulent mess of hatred and betrayal. She is unsure if the last conversations she's had with people have resulted in this mess and that makes her unsure of herself, which is something that she has never experienced before. When she returns home as a "failure" she is not sure how to proceed with her life. Everything she built was torn down in less a few hours and she feels like she is tossed back to square zero, in other words a complete failure. It's only natural for her to feel anger and disappointment. As the story progresses you notice that she doesn't necessarily hate her town nor the people there. Before she had ambitions then we discover another reason for her long absence and desire to leave as soon as she arrives. Shin Hye-Sun does an amazing job at bringing out these complex emotions onto the screen. The character is incredibly human and fallible, which is why I love it.
Ji Chan-Wook's character, Cho Young-pil, has also been a hot topic on some sites that I've been reading. The general consensus about his character is that he's a two
dimensional loser that has no functional purpose in the series other than to provide a crutch for the female lead to lean on. I actually think that is too easy a description for him. This series is about healing. The main female lead loses herself in her pursuit to be the most sought after photographer in her field, which she achieves. In Cho Young-pil's case, he lost himself when he lost the love of his life. He's lost a lot for someone as young as he is. It's only natural he'd hold on tightly to those precious to him. He first lost his mother, then he lost the only woman that he ever loved. In a sense he also loses the father he knew before his mother's death.
I just want to get this off my chest as well, his close relationship with Sam-dal's mother has nothing to do with Sam-dal herself. Okay, maybe a little, but it's been proven in both characters words and actions that the two care as a biological mother and son would. They both care for each other, the end.
In regard to his relationship with Sam-Dal, he grew up with her. They were by each other's side since birth. He loved her ever since he could remember. When they began their relationship it was a good and healthy one, they supported each other's goals, and stood by one another when hardships came. They were best friends then lovers. It's only natural he'd not want to treat her like a stranger when she returned home. Remember this is a man who has felt the devastation of losing a person he loves. Ji Chang Wook does an amazing job at portraying how the character is trying to
navigate his relationship with Sam-dal when she returns. He wants to put all his chips into the basket and swoop in to be that hero he was to her once before, but he also doesn't know how far he should go. Ji Chang-Wook achieves expressing that inner turmoil through gestures, facial expressions, and body language. You can definitely see in some situations he is battling with himself unsure of what to do.
While I am enjoying this series I would like to state that I do have my qualms, mostly about the writing. The main problem I have is the written portion of the assistant. While I knew we needed an antagonist in the series, I feel like she was written a little too character like. She does a lot to the Sam-dal that eventually leads her to berate her in the beginning. No one is a saint, and if you pushed me that far I'd probably do worse than Sam-dal. Later in the series it seems she is almost obsessed with the female lead. Yet, there is little explanation for her obsession.
I do have to say the actress that plays the assistant has her great moments but I've also had moments where I just couldn't stand her. There is just something about her that just feels as if she is. . . overacting. I'm assuming that the actress is working with what she has. Still, there are scenes that pull me out of the story and I can't help but think, mmmmm that could have been acted better. I often find myself not fully understanding the reasons behind some of her decisions. Then again, I guess that is completely human as well and I shouldn't blame the writing.
I love how the writer explores the love triangle between the friends. Both men have great respect and love for one another and I was so rooting for that. However, that respect doesn't translate later, when they begin to argue and angrily compete with one another despite the fact one definitely has the attentions of the shared love interest and the other does not. It's clear with whom the interest lies, so why are we even putting this is the plot? It almost feels like the love triangle exists only to fill scenes and not actually useful. It feels almost unnecessary for the plot. The sister's stories always make it better though. I love seeing them on screen. The three sisters are a REAL force of nature and I love it!
I am so happy I decided to give this drama a chance. Hopefully the last few episodes don't let me down, which has definitely happened a lot lately. Don't get me started on the let down I felt with the reveal of the killer in My Perfect Stranger, the trainwreck of 25/21, and even Moon in the Day. If you haven't watched Welcome to Sandal-ri, I hope you try it out. If you have watched it tell me what you think of this series. I love hearing from you dear reader. I watched this on Netflix, but I know sites like kissasian.com also have it. If you know of another site that has it leave a comment below. As always it was a joy and until next time!