K-drama Now, We Are Breaking Up: Song Hye-kyo returns in tawdry romantic melodrama

My Roommate Is a Gumiho

This article contains spoilers.

Descendants of the Sun star Song Hye-kyo returns to our screens in Now, We Are Breaking Up, a classic K-drama set-up. She portrays a career-driven designer rubbing shoulders with a handsome and aloof photographer, played by Jang Ki-yong (My Roommate Is a Gumiho), in a story that takes place against a flashy fashion backdrop.

Hearkening back to the kind of romantic dramas Song cut her teeth in, the new SBS show embraces the genre’s manifold clichés: there’s an abundance of fabulous costumes, Francophilia and coincidences dressing up a melodramatic script that unfortunately lacks a compelling through-line.

Song is Ha Young-eun, the lead designer at The One, who, as the show begins, explains in voice-over about the impermanence of fashion trends before fatalistically applying that remark to everything else. “The only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that nothing is forever,” she opines.

The story starts in Busan, South Korea, during a bustling “K-fashion week”, when models, designers and the rest of the fashion glitterati descend on the glitzy high-rise-studded southern seaside metropolis.

Young-eun unwinds at a club before the camera jumps to intimate close-ups of a couple sharing a night of passion. Post coitus, and conversing in French, her unknown partner asks her for her name in case they meet again, but she insists that won’t happen, bids him a safe return to Paris and exits the room.

Her trip begins in earnest the next day as she is quickly confronted with several crises. The first concerns Hwang Ji-sook (Choi Hee-seo), the director of the label and daughter of the company’s president, who discovers her model lover is in bed with another woman in her hotel room.

The second is pure business, as The One wants to land a contract with a major French designer and to do so they need to put together an impromptu fashion shoot. After hushing up Ji-sook’s personal troubles she tries to arrange the shoot, but when Ji-sook gets drunk in the middle of the day, Young-eun has to take her place on a blind date set up by her father.

The person she meets at the blind date is none other than Yoon Jae-kook (Jang Ki-yong), the man she slept with the night before, though neither let on that they know each other at this point, nor that they are both subbing for the intended guests of the date, as Jae-kook is also covering for his friend Seok Do-hoon (Kim Joo-hun).

My Roommate Is a Gumiho

Jang Ki-yong in a still from Now, We Are Breaking Up.

Meanwhile Young-eun and her team are in desperate need of a photographer and, as luck would have it, Young-eun noticed Jae-kook’s dusty camera bag and in a pinch asks him to do the job.

He takes the gig and Young-eun’s reservations are quickly allayed as he proves to be a pro. But not just any pro, he’s actually the famous ‘J’, who is mentioned in hushed tones earlier in the episode.

The story soon moves to Seoul and, in typical K-drama fashion, Young-eun and Jae-kook repeatedly cross paths. Jae-kook is interested in Young-eun and isn’t afraid to show it, but she resists his charms, opting to focus her energies on troubles at work.

My Roommate Is a Gumiho

Choi Hee-seo in a still from Now, We Are Breaking Up.

Invariably, and despite being painted as a gutsy, driven and talented character, all of Young-eun’s troubles are ultimately solved with Jae-kook’s help anyway, whether she asks for it or not – add regressive gender stereotypes to the list of liberally used clichés.

Before long we are let in on why Young-eun has such a big chip on her shoulder. Ten years earlier as a trainee designer in Paris, she fell in love with a Korean man and their whirlwind romance suddenly ended two months later when he stood her up on a date and ghosted her forevermore.

This young heartbreak is painted as a massive trauma that Young-eun has difficulty opening up about and we are led to believe is the cause of her cool attitude and aversion to relationships. A dead or unfaithful lover would make more sense, rather than the abrupt end of a short romance.

My Roommate Is a Gumiho

Jang Ki-yong (left) and Song Hye-kyo in a still from Now, We Are Breaking Up.

However, it turns out there was a reason he didn’t turn up that day and the truth is revealed to her by, you guessed it, Jae-kook, shortly after he realises that Young-eun is the Young-eun who dated his brother before his untimely death in a car crash on a rainy night as he was on his way to see her.

A lot can be forgiven in this kind of farcical storyline if the plot threads wrapped around it are engaging and if the romance at its heart is beguiling, but alas neither is the case in Now, We Are Breaking Up.

The Devil Wears Prada Now it is not, and the timeless romance here begins with an exchange spoken in laughably poor French, the first of many faux pas to come.

Perhaps this would have worked better as a comedy.

My Roommate Is a Gumiho

Song Hye-kyo in a still from Now, We Are Breaking Up.

Now, We Are Breaking Up is streaming on Viu.

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