This weekender just came to an end last weekend, and I was awaiting the final subtitled episode to write this review. Pretty Noona was an uncomfortable mixture of good and bad qualities, all intertwined, making it hard to distinguish on from the other. It was a pleasant watch, but the episodes often felt dragged, halfway through the show. However, without wasting more time on the description, I want to dive into the plot.
Most of you who are aware of the Korean terms of respect for siblings or close friends older than you would understand the title clearly. For those of you who don’t a noona is an elder sister for a boy. It can be a biological sister or a friend who is older than the boy. Since this drama was a romance primarily, it shows a noona romance between Yoon Jin Ah (played by Son Ye Jin) and Seo Joon Hui (played by Jung Hae In). Joon Hui is the younger brother of Jin Ah’s best friend, Seo Kyung Seon (played by Jang So Yeon). He also happens to be best friends with Jin Ah’s younger brother, Yoon Seun Ho (played by Wi Ha Joon). A third connection among all of these characters is the fact that the Seo siblings were abandoned by their father when very young and their mother passed away soon after, leaving them to fend for themselves. The Yoon family treats them like their own flesh and blood but also manages to make them feel how undeserving they are for the love attention, especially since their father abandoned them for another woman.
Joon Hui moved to the Unites States to pursue a degree after finishing high school in Korea and he has only come back in search of work when the story begins. He happens to get a job in the same building as Jin Ah, and he seems to be taken by her beauty. Jin Ah is also charmed by Joon Hui, and unbeknownst to themselves, they seem to be falling deeper and deeper into love. Jin Ah, on the other hand, has just broken up with a man, who her mother approved of entirely for being a lawyer, on the pretext of catching him two timing with another girl. An obsessive man, her ex-boyfriend manages to make her life hell by abusing her psychologically and denying her any happiness with Joon Hui. On top of this all, Jin Ah is also being harassed by superiors at the workplace, who expect her to go out with them for drinks late night and entertain them. Faced with the problem of making her mother agree to her relationship with somebody whom her mother sees as useless, and handling the politics of gender at her workplace, Jin Ah is an absolute mess. Despite living such a difficult life, her dynamics with Joon Hui were gold, making us all romanticize a noona romance for ourselves.
Shot in a very 90s Hollywood fashion, Pretty Noona, really brought out the aesthetic like it had been made 20 years ago. The scenes were often stretched out with long moments of silence that really made situations involving conflict difficult to actually take in. The music added to its brooding and insightful tone. Even the most aggressive moments were underscored with a heavy silence that really seemed to define the drama. The chemistry between Son Ye Jin and Jung Hae In was absolutely gold, but there were a great number of moments, increasingly towards the end that really weakened the story. For instance, the sexual abuse story line was used effectively to create suspense but then it kind of just withered away becoming insignificant to the plot. Similarly, considering how amazing the chemistry of the leads was, I wanted something much more intense from the conflicts that arose out of their relationship. If one wants to watch a good drama providing us with a rich ambiance and fine aesthetics, then Pretty Noona is most definitely a good drama. However, when talking of it as a romance, and that too a noona romance, I believe both Witch’s Romance and Secret Love Affair did a far better job.