Is Record Of Youth Worth Watching? Here’s My Review

I will start this post in a different way than what I usually do. I’ll start by giving a vague high level opinion of “Record of Youth” and talking about the concept of this recent Korean TV series.

I’ll level with you I was a little let down by this K-Drama. Maybe my expectations were a bit high. Or maybe the fact that it was filmed during the pandemic breakout forced the producers to cut the story short. Because I felt like for the build up the story has, we were left hanging a little too much by the end. I won’t go any further, because I’m aware many may still not have watched “Record of Youth” when reading this article.

About The Concept And the Main Characters

Record of Youth’s story, or 청춘기록 in Korean, revolves around the 20s of the main characters. It aims to tackle some social problems. However it mainly aims to make us think back to our youth, if it has passed, like in my case. Or if you’re in them to connect with the struggles you might be facing. This drama in particular tells us the story of:

  • Sa Hye-jun (the main character), an aspiring professional model/actor, who’s trying to make it big. He has to face the struggles of this hyper competitive industry without the help and support of his father and older brother. His mother, but mainly his grandfather give him the will to continue pursuing his dream. However, the family’s financial conditions don’t allow him to have and economic support. Also he is facing the dilemma if to join or postpone his army draft This means he has to make end meet on his own and be financially independent from a very young age. Park Bo-gum plays this character, you might remember him from Reply 1988 and also had a cameo in Itaewon Class
  • In contrast to Hye-jun’s situation we have Hae-hyo. He also aspires to become a superstar model/actor. Just as his best friend Hye-jun. However he has all the support he needs, to face this industry. He comes from a well off family. And his mother and manager (Kim Yi-young) does everything (sometimes even crossing the line) to ensure that his sone makes it big as an actor and superstar
  • Then comes An Jeong-ha. She’s a talented make up artist and huge fan of Hye-jun since the first stages of his career. Little spoiler, just a few episodes in, she becomes his girlfriend. She has a complex personality as scars from her childhood, caused by her parents’ divorce, never fully healed. Park So-dam plays An Jeong-ha I’m sure you all remember her from her performance in “Parasite”
  • Kim Jin-u completes the trio of childhood friend along with Hye-jun and Hae-hyo. He’s a photographer with the dream of opening his own studio. But there are many bumps in his path too.
Hae-hyo and Hye-jun in record of youth
Hae-hyo and Hye-jun in record of youth

The main take aways are two from my point of view. For the adult/parent audience, don’t shoot down young people or your children’s dreams. It’s legitimate to give your opinion on what the best path would be. However everyone has to find their own road, and support even if just moral should never miss among family. I’ll tell you a little of my own personal experience later in the article.

For the younger ones the message is: choose very carefully who to trust as wrong choices can come back to haunt you, and situations can come bite you in the ass.

About The Story

Often, in those years you feel like the sky is the limit. And you do anything you can to follow your dreams. Just as Sa Hye-jun (the main character does), an aspiring professional model/actor, does during the series, despite his poor origins. In contrast you have Won Hae-hyo, Hye-jun’s best friend, who comes from a well off family and aspires (mainly pushed by his mother) to follow the same path but with all the financial backup you can hope for and the support from his agent mother. Which often goes over the line to ensure her son’s success.

In the early stages of Hye-jun’s career, when he’s struggling to make ends meet and get the visibility he needs Hae-hyo does wha he can to help. This makes us understand how their friendship is true and strong.

record of youth trailer image

Then comes onboard An Jeong-ha. A huge Hye-jun fan, that finally meets him at a fashion show. The two somehow click and little by little find themselves attracted to each other. Hae-hyo grows jealous of their relationship as he has feelings for Jeong-ha also. However, during the entire story he tries his best to be loyal to his best friend.

Each character faces his/her own very specific struggles. The message is nobody’s youth is easy. No matter what your background is, that passage from childhood to adulthood isn’t easy for anyone. We all got that reality check moment that in some cases made our dreams unreachable.

As the story unrolls they will all find out that not all that glitters is gold. As Hye-jun’s career takes off he finds himself facing the problems that stardom brings along, such as his and his girlfriend Jeong-ha’s privacy is continuously invaded. At first it doesn’t seem like an issue, but in the long run it starts taking a toll on their stability as a couple.

Hae-hyo, slowly comes to grips that his career didn’t take off as he wanted too. Also his mother support has suffocated him in certain aspects and slowly grows from a mama’s boy to a man able to make his own decisions.

But to know everything about the story you’ll need to watch the full drama on Netflix. I’m not going to go any deeper into the story to avoid spoilering it for you.

Other Characters and The Acting

Most of the acting is good there are some big actors in this productions, and they live up to their fame. However some of the acting also feels a little bit 90s-ish. In fact two actresses in particular were very big in South Korea in the 90s. These are:

  • Ha Hee-ra who plays Han Ae-sook, Hye-jun’s mother
  • Shin Ae-ra who plays Kim Yi-young, Hae-hyo’ mother

My wife got a kick from seeing them in the same scenes. They used to appear in many drama’s in Korea over the late 80s and early 90s. Without her telling me about them I somehow felt like they were overacting a bit. Which was kind of a thing in soap operas in the 90s. Sometimes I felt it just broke the mood set by the story.

Two Record of Youth Actresses Big in The 90s
Two Record of Youth Actresses Big in The 90s

Two Interesting Cameos

One funny note, Ha Hee-ra’s real husband appears in a cameo towards the end of the series when Hye-jun’s parent’ go shopping in a department store. She grabs a jacket on a coat hanger at the same time as a man, and that’s her real life husband. I thought I’d mention it as you wouldn’t know if you’re not Korean.

Also Hye-jun’s dad was a familiar face too. The actor, Park Soo-young, appeared in My Mister (나의 아저씨), as a side character playing on of Park Dong-hoon’s friends.

Also in the presentation of the rookie of the year award the prize is presented by the main actor of Itaewon Class, Park Seo-joon.

Interesting Name Choosing

A couple names in Record of Youth were chosen to reflect the personality of the characters they were assigned to. You might not know, but Korean names often have meanings. In particular I’m referring to the names of An Jeong-ha which in Korean sounds like to be calm and stable. While Hye-jun’s name in Korean sounds like to give forgiveness.

Is Record Of Youth Worth Watching?

Now to answer the big question, is Record of Youth worth watching? I have mixed feelings about this drama. I would say yes it’s worth watching without high expectations if you’re looking for something not too deep and easy to watch. I was let down by how the story ended, too many loose ends too many things left hanging. Now I know there were issues during filming due to the pandemic. For instance they weren’t able to travel to Milan and Singapore to tape some scenes, and in the first case they resorted to a so so computer animation.

Again I don’t know if they were forced to wrap up things differently due to the complicated filming circumstances. However to be be honest with you I never really emotionally connected 100% with the story so, at times, I found it hard to get through the 1 hour 15 minute episodes. But this is my very personal opinion so, take it for what it is, just an opinion of a K-drama enthusiast.

An Joeng-Ha and Sa Hye-jun in Record of Youth
An Joeng-Ha and Sa Hye-jun in Record of Youth

A Bit Of Personal Experience

When does one’s youth finish? I think it’s when your care free days come to an end. It ends when suddenly not everything is possible anymore but just what you feel you can actually do. It’s a bit sad but it was like that for me.

I always dreamed of becoming a pilot but as I grew up I realised that wasn’t going to happen for me. I felt a bit dumb for dreaming something that big, so I settled for the next best thing and became a cabin crew. That’s probably when my youth finished. I started working full time pretty early at 21 and here I am now doing something completely different to flying around the world. I’m now an online advertising expert. We’ll that’s enough for today, I’ll be back soon with some more K-drama talk.

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