First of all: my regular screamy shout-out to my favourite Korean actor. JUNG YONG HWA!!! WHOAH! Okay, so where does one start with this piece. First of all this has to be his BEST, I repeat BEST role after playing Lee Shin in Heartstrings, which was 2011, meaning 6 years passed till he landed with such an ingenious role as San Maru in The Package. Despite having appeared in two other dramas in between this gap, I must say that they did not leave a great impression on me. My love for the man is always going to be separate from my criticism of his work. However, I am seriously impressed by this comeback of his as an actor because he nailed it so very well. I know many people who were following this show with me were at least pleasantly surprised by his skills. I have come to believe that Yong Hwa is the kind of actor who needs characters who he can associate with, because then his comfort is evident from the way he behaves while acting. Lee Shin had the whole musicality of Yong Hwa down to the tee, whereas Maru was a constant reminder of the good old days of my favourite ever We Got Married couple, Yonghwa and Seohyun from Girls’ Generation. This was most evident from the whole foolishness or the nonchalant attitude Maru showed which was similar to the kind of personality Yonghwa had displayed in the reality show. I can only wonder if he is remotely like this in real life, but nonetheless Maru was incredible fun to watch for the most part.
I think I need to put an end to my fangirling over Jung Yong Hwa and move on to this amazing show that I enjoyed watching so much. I probably watched half of its episodes without subtitles and it was still understandable. Wow! I feel proud of myself. The Package was a strange show as far as narrative technique went. For the most part, it felt like a travelogue or travel documentary that had been shot like a story. Rather than being a thorough beginning, middle and end kind of story, the techniques used could rather be categorized as a stream of thought, since every episode appeared to be a page out of a diary. The way they knit the past into the present was rather deep, since it tried studying the causes of certain sentiments that were occurring in the present. Bringing people from different walks of life together through a single tourist package helped in creating a sense of empathy with each of the characters and their stories. The way various parts of life such as divorce, an aging couple, a breakup, single parents, siblings and lovers were all explored in the amount of only twelve episodes, in an empathetic way made the script very rich.
Coming to the fact that this drama was shot almost entirely in France, I noticed something very distinct about the way in which it had been directed. I have spent some time grappling with the French language and therefore, decided to watch some French films about a year or so back. While watching them, I had noticed that the Western, or rather the French approach to romance and the way they project it in cinema is starkly different from the Eastern techniques, specifically those employed in Korean dramas. One is used to a level of distance and maybe even shyness when the couple shows interest in each other or even confesses and agrees to date. The French approach, at least in cinema seems to be much more into the physicality of romance, rather than a gradual buildup of comfort. My sole concern with this drama was this very ‘French’ approach to romance, where complete strangers with some remote interest in each other take their attraction to the utmost, which takes away the ‘Korean-ness’ of the show. However, I believe, it can be justified considering, firstly that it is shot in France, and secondly, the drama does end up treating it as once-in-a-lifetime thing for the most part. The ending nonetheless was oh-so-Hollywood but I loved it. It reminded me greatly of how Only You ended, minus all the emotional crying and dramatic confessions.
My very last comments about this drama will be that most Korean dramas that are pre-recorded often have the small issue of getting boring, for instance Park Hae Jin’s Man to Man was sadly like that. However, The Package, being as unique as it was in the narrative and the direction, somehow stood out. The fact that this was actually shot more than a year back was something that constantly shocked me considering how invested I was in it. But then again, maybe it was Jung Yong Hwa’s eternal charm, with his glowing eyes and that puppy face. I can take that any time and I love it, always did, always will. I’m just incredibly happy Jung Yong Hwa finally acted again, and here’s to hoping he leaves us with more good music, and possibly another good drama before he departs for the army in about a year.