Review: Still 17 (Thirty but Seventeen)

When this show first came out in 2018, I was immediately intrigued by its premise. Certainly, the premise has its ‘fated to be together’ trope where they meet again, but the part I was the most interested in was the part where the main female lead had just woke up from a 13-year coma. Not only that, it focuses on her growth and maturity and how she adjusts to life being a thirty-year-old.

I’m not thirty yet, but dramas like this that focuses on the characters itself to keep the story moving instead of an exciting plot has always been up my alley. For others, however, they may be put off by its slow pacing and may find the show boring.

Recently, I’ve rewatched the show on Netflix together with my mother, and both of us have conflicting opinions about this show. If you like slow burner shows that chart the growth of characters just like I do, you may find that this show is indeed a diamond in the rough.

The hodgepodge family that will always leave me feeling a little nostalgic.

Perspectives and Moods

A person’s perspective and mood at the time of watching the show definitely plays a large part of whether they find a show enjoyable or not. I enjoy watching character driven shows, and I enjoy watching the characters grow into better people. (or worse, depending on who.) They always make me feel a little proud, almost as if I have just watched my own children grow up. (I’m not a mother yet, might be one in the future, we’ll never know)

However, my mother felt that the pacing of this show was too slow for her own liking, and wanted to immediately fast-forward through the whole drama just to see the reveal happen. I urged her to be patient and enjoy watching the characters, and stick with the show until the end. We finished watching it, but I felt that I had a much more enjoyable experience compared to her.

This made quite a lot of sense actually, as my mother is a go-getter kind of person, and lives her life quite fast-paced, while I do enjoy the slow beats of life much more. This show is also more of a nightcap kinda show, in my opinion, the kind to watch before going to bed at night.

So whether you enjoy this show or not very much depends on whether you are in the mood for a slow paced show or not.

SPOILERS COMING UP. PLEASE READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION.

Things I liked

The hodgepodge family

Past vs Present. Oh how much they have all grown.

This is what I like to call a real family. Most of them are not blood related at all, (except Chan and Woo Jin) but they still manage to form a family that they can belong. As much as this show is about the different characters and their growth, it is also about the deepening of the bonds formed between them. I’ll break down my favourite relationships in the next part.

Seo Ri and Woo Jin

They are literally the cutest. They’re like school kids experiencing love for the very first time.

Obviously I had to mention the main couple of the show. Seo Ri (Shin Hye Sun) is a 17-year-old girl trapped in the body of a thirty-year-old. While everyone was going about their lives, fulfilling their dreams, she was stuck in a bed, unable to do anything. Woo Jin (Yang Se Jong) on the other hand, did have the freedom of experiencing his 20s, but has remained emotionally stunted as a 17-year-old due to the trauma of causing the girl he likes to die.

There were some concerns of a 30-year-old man dating a woman who is only 17 years old mentally, but truly, I didn’t see it like that. To me, this was a relationship where they were very much equals. Both of them had much maturing to do, and each of them helped the other to grow.

SPOILER WARNING

There was a bit of a rough patch in the middle, where Woo Jin was shutting out everyone and trying not to get involved in others’ life. His actions were understandable, where it stemmed from a fear of him causing misfortune to others. This didn’t make it any less frustrating to watch however.

Seo Ri broke the walls that he was building quite easily and it is quite obvious that it affected him quite a lot. She was making him want to be involved, want to embrace others emotionally again. Eventually, I really liked how he decided that the way he was living was not what he wanted, and made the decision for himself to step out of his comfort zone and involve himself in her life.

Show draws a nice parallel about how Seo Ri is causing Woo Jin to open up his heart to others with Seo Ri teaching Woo Jin how to open the skylight window.
A simple, quiet, yet cathartic moment for the both of them.

He started to open up to Seo Ri about his fears and guilt, and for her, her fear of being left behind and sadness at losing 13 years of her life at the beach. It was a cathartic moment for the both of them. This scene emphasises even more about how they are equals in this relationship.

With the both of them experiencing love for the first time, their interactions are really cute. The romantic scenes were intense, yes, but they certainly did have more cute moments.

Both of them celebrating over the free tteokbokki coupon.

The scene where they were standing in the dark house, trying to chase a moth out was quite memorable because of the stark difference in the colour palette of that scene. The scene starts out intense, with both of them having such close proximity in the dark. However, Woo Jin’s stomach starts growling and Seo Ri realises that they had won a free tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) coupon. Both of them starts celebrating, causing the tension that had formed earlier to fizzle. That tension was replaced with a much cuter energy, however. There were many moments like these sprinkled throughout the show, and though I might have found them annoying in another show, I can’t help but love it in this one because of the main couple.

Woo Jin experiencing his feelings of guilt again.

The scene where Woo Jin finds out that he didn’t kill the girl he liked but caused her to be in a coma instead was so heart wrenching. Watching her mourn the loss of her best friend, and slowly coming to the realisation that she was the girl he liked brought back all his emotions and thoughts of blaming himself. As his coping mechanism is to run away, he hid away, closing his heart once again and tried to escape by flying off overseas without telling anyone.

It is only with the realisation that his love and desire for Seo Ri greatly outweighs his fear and guilt that he runs back to the bridge to find Seo Ri. He decides not to run away again and to confront his fear head on by believing and choosing love.

Also this kiss on the bridge. I guess good things really DO come true when they meet on the bridge.
Also how cute is it that Seo Ri liked Woo Jin too and was the one to approach him on the bus?

END OF SPOILER

The deepening of their relationship felt organic, and it didn’t feel rushed. Yes, it was slow, but it didn’t feel like it lingered or ran around in circles simply because. After all, meaningful real life relationships take time to form and even longer to deepen, right? I thought the show portrayed this process realistically. Kudos to you, Show!

Chan and Seo Ri

Chan and Seo Ri engaging in one of their most common activities together, riding a scooter.

Chan (Ahn Hyo Seop) and Seo Ri have more of a playful relationship. Chan becomes Seo Ri’s first friend when she first wakes up from her coma and was very supportive of her staying in their house. They start out as good friends, but Chan starts to have feelings for Seo Ri.

I like how the show uses this relationship to show how young Seo Ri is still mentally at the start. She is able to connect with Chan more easily than Woo Jin at the start and her younger, more playful side comes out more when she interacts with Chan.

Chan is like the ‘big brother’ to Seo Ri initially. She confides in him, asks him for his advice and lets him in on the problems she is facing. He in turn is supportive, and tries to help her with whatever means he does have as a nineteen-year-old.

However, as the show progresses, and Seo Ri matures, the dynamic of this relationship shifts slightly. It no longer is the ‘supportive big brother’ and ‘clueless little sister’ dynamic. Chan starts to realise that although Seo Ri may have been stuck in a coma for 13 years, she is still 30 and is adjusted to her life as a 30-year-old. She is no longer clueless about the new world she has woken up in, and becomes more of like an older sister to Chan.

SPOILER WARNING

Here are some character moments that I liked between them:

Seo Ri receives a ride to work but Chan only gets a very sore crotch.

The scene where Chan gives Seo Ri a ride to work on his bicycle. He is too ticklish to be held at his waist and thus Seo Ri holds his pants. She pulls them a little too tightly though, and gives Chan a pretty sore crotch. Also, how nice is it that he offers her a ride again the very next day, even though he risks having a sore crotch again?

Chan being a darling and running out into the heavy rain to buy ointment for Seo Ri’s injured hands.
Chan finally confessing his unrequited feelings to Seo Ri.
Chan finally letting himself cry.

Chan finally confesses to Seo Ri, knowing that his feelings are unrequited. He holds his heartbreak in and puts up a happy front, so as to not worry her about his feelings. It is only when she left that he allowed himself to cry and finally let her go.

Even though I saw his heartbreak from a mile away, it didn’t make the moment any less painful to watch.

END OF SPOILER

The Three Dumb Musketeers

The Three Musketeers! Or maybe Dumb and Dumber… and Dumbest?

Whenever they appeared on screen, I never failed to laugh. They may be dumb (or dumber, heh), but their friendship was never put into question. From the moment we were first introduced to them, it is clear that they have been friends for a long time and will probably be for the rest of their lives.

Also am I the only one who didn’t know that Dong Hae Beom was Lee Do Hyun? (Loved him in Hotel Del Luna) When I rewatched it with my mother, I thought he looked familiar. I looked it up and it was him!

SPOILER WARNING

Here are some of my favourite Three Musketeers interactions:

The three of them having a sleepover at Chan’s house, decked out in matching pyjamas.
Not as cute as the pyjamas, but still very amusing to watch them have matching clothes for everything they do to increase their teamwork before the competition.
2/3 of the Three Musketeers making hearts to thank Woo Jin for allowing them to use his address to order packages from online.
The Three Musketeers +1 doing what they are best at.
The Three Musketeers and Seo Ri peeling onions in masks. I must say the Frankenstein one really matches Deok Su well.

END OF SPOILER

Next!

Jennifer and the rest of the family

Jennifer in her nightly garb. Also Paeng/Deok Gu is too cute.

Jennifer (Ye Ji Won) started out being very robotic and stiff. When she first showed up my mother called her Google even before she knew her name. Her robotic actions contributed to much of the comedy in this show and never failed to make me laugh.

She is the only one who is considered an ‘outsider’, as she did not have any prior connections to the rest of the characters. However, she very quickly became part of the family.

The reason why I put Jennifer with everyone is because I feel that she has a motherly vibe and it shows in all her relationships. Whenever Woo Jin is feeling troubled and broods in the front yard, Jennifer somehow always knows exactly what to say to cheer him up and encourage him. With Seo Ri, she teaches Seo Ri how to do household chores, and cares for her when she is feeling down. With Chan, she supports him when he trains hard for his rowing competition. As a bonus, she even cooks food for the rest of his teammates.

SPOILER WARNING

Jennifer taking care of Seo Ri.

When Seo Ri finds out that her friend had died in that accident in episode 14, Seo Ri becomes very depressed and didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed. Jennifer understood the pain she felt, and stayed by her side, taking care of her during this rough patch.

A flashback of Jennifer in the rain, looking towards the library.

The show sprinkles short flashbacks of Jennifer throughout the show. From the flashbacks, we can tell that she has gone through something that made her extremely depressed, but still don’t exactly know what.

Seo Ri returning the favour and comforting Jennifer.

It is only until episode 15 where the whole picture comes into focus. In the 12 vehicle accident that caused Seo Ri to be in a coma and her friend to die, there was one more casualty: Jennifer’s husband. Her depression following that caused her to miscarriage, and thus she felt like she didn’t deserve to feel emotions. She drowned her sorrows out by reading a lot of books, which is where she gained her extensive knowledge from.

In that scene where she cries out, her emotions so raw and put on display so overtly for the very first time in the show, we finally understand the pain that she has been nursing, even after the 13 years have passed. She eventually managed to come to terms with the pain she felt because of Seo Ri’s ability to empathise with her. Seo Ri then becomes the one who comforts Jennifer.

Jennifer and Woo Jin having a conversation under their usual spot in the front yard.

Her relationship with this hodgepodge family thus goes both ways. She helps Woo Jin, Seo Ri, Chan, and the others to deal with their problems and heal, and in return, they also bring healing to Jennifer.

END OF SPOILER

Now, isn’t that a healthy relationship?

Chan and Woo Jin

Like uncle, like nephew. Chan and Woo Jin getting freaked out over Seo Ri crawling around in the living room

Chan and Woo Jin have an interesting relationship dynamic. Although by age, we are informed that Chan is the nephew, while Woo Jin is the uncle, somehow, it feels like it’s actually the other way around. Chan is the one nagging at Woo Jin most of the time, with Woo Jin being the despondent one.

As the show progresses, we get to see how far back their relationship had begun. You get the sense that even though they may not be together physically, they’re still as close as ever.

SPOILER WARNING

Woo Jin kissing Chan on his cheek.

For example, the scene in the second episode, where Chan is so happy to be able to live with his uncle ‘Mr Gong’ again just like how they used to in Germany and hugs him. Woo Jin then reciprocates his gesture by kissing him on his cheek. How many male relationships in Kdramaland have shown skinship of this kind?

Chan crying because Woo Jin has left without a word, again.
Chan hugging Woo Jin after realising Mr Gong is here to stay.

In episode 15, Chan is just so happy to be with his uncle again, the pain from the hurt and the relief that Woo Jin didn’t actually leave is shown so clearly on his face. He hugs Mr Gong as if he’s never going to let go of him, kinda like a teddy bear. This is such a wholesome relationship and nothing can ever replace this relationship they have.

END OF SPOILER

Mini shoutout to Woo Jin’s Noona

Despite only having a short amount of screen time, the show manages to display the honest relationship between Woo Jin and his noona, and the motherly love she has for Chan.

Phew, that was a long point, wasn’t it?

Things I didn’t like

1. Director Kim

For the record, I didn’t exactly dislike this arc, because I understood the message it was trying to convey. However, it spun around in circles for quite a while, making this arc feel draggy. It was a cycle of Director Kim (Wang Ji Won) hearing about Seo Ri, feeling insecure about Seo Ri’s presence… and then it repeats itself. This cycle continues until she suddenly has a realisation that she should enjoy playing the violin and not be pressured by her mother to be perfect.

If this arc were written in a less cyclical way, I could see myself enjoying this aspect as well. But alas, it was not meant to be.

2. The missed chances for the reveal and other plot points (Spoilers ahead)

It took quite a bit to reach this point, but it was quite gratifying to finally see this play out.

I didn’t mind the time it took to reveal that Seo Ri and Woo Jin had a connection when they were younger. In fact, it was all those missed chances, like Woo Jin miss seeing Seo Ri’s old photo of herself, or Seo Ri missing seeing Hyung Tae (Yoon Sun Woo) not once, but TWICE in the same episode that made me frustrated. This is one of the things in dramas I dislike (and I’m sure many others do), and this drama had plenty of those.

My final thoughts

A nice, thoughtful, character-driven drama for those who enjoy the slow pace the show does have. It isn’t a perfect drama by any means, but its positives greatly outweigh its negatives.

Thank you for reading!

Miki

13 thoughts on “Review: Still 17 (Thirty but Seventeen)

  1. Good synopsis of the whole, rather slow moving show. I did watch it. Admittedly the story line was interesting but the action required was snail paced. Kiss one another already. Had to wait endless episodes before the main characters got it done. Of course I know K dramas are intentionally made that way, so I accept it.

    Liked by 1 person

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