Disney+ K-drama Tell Me That You Love Me: Jung Woo-sung, Shin Hyun-been headline remake of timeless Japanese romantic drama

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Lead cast: Jung Woo-sung, Shin Hyun-been

Latest Nielsen rating: 1.8 per cent

Jung Woo-sung and Shin Hyun-been appear as a deaf artist and struggling actress who begin to orbit one another’s lives in the tender and romantic melodrama Tell Me That You Love Me.

Based on a hit Japanese show of the same name from 1995, the series is a throwback to the soft and pensive romantic tales that used to dominate Korean screens. However, instead of feeling old-fashioned, this classic tale of love, longing and loneliness is a welcome trip down memory lane.

Rather than end up at a scenic tourist location as so many dramas inevitably do, this one begins there: the story starts one spring on Jeju Island, where both Cha Jin-woo (Jung) and Jung Mo-eun (Shin) are spending some time.

Jin-woo walks around thoughtfully taking photographs and sketching, while Mo-eun has flown in to play a bit part on a set. Unfortunately, Mo-eun is fired from her role for not smiling enough, but rather than go home straight away she sticks around to let her roommate back in Seoul have some space to host a date.

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The show cuts together images of the two lead characters’ travels around the island, juxtaposing them as if they were on the same journey. Their paths soon cross in reality, first on a beach when Jin-woo catches Mo-eun’s scarf after a gust of wind whips it off her neck.

Initially perplexed by Jin-woo’s silence and stoicism, it takes a few chance meetings before Mo-eun realises that he is hearing impaired. Their paths continue to cross until an incident forces them together.

Both separately spend time on the rooftop of a busy cafe and, after a fire sends everyone rushing out of the building in a panic, Mo-eun returns to retrieve the oblivious Jin-woo.

The pair briefly wind up in a hospital together owing to smoke inhalation and then spend the evening together getting to know each other.

Shin Hyun-been as actress Jung Mo-eun in a still from “Tell Me That You Love Me”.

They don’t exchange contact information, although Jin-woo does give Mo-eun a book of sketches, including one of her on a beach, capturing the moment she finished shooting the role that would soon be cut.

They return home to Seoul and three weeks pass, but their fleeting meeting only seems to amplify in their minds. Perhaps ruing a missed opportunity, Jin-woo even deletes the one and only picture he took of Mo-eun.

As they go about their lives – she struggles through bad auditions, he teaches a class of aspiring hearing-impaired artists – we wait, expectantly, for them to find each other again. The show doesn’t deny us that pleasure for long.

Shin Hyun-been (left) as Mo-eun and Jung Woo-sung as the hearing-impaired Jin-woo in a still from “Tell Me That You Love Me”.

When they do finally lock eyes again, across the street from one another, Jin-woo is surprised when Mo-eun greets him with some halting sign language. Their mutual attraction is clear, and strong enough to help them quickly overcome communication barriers, but they must also contend with external factors that initially conspire against them.

Jung, currently also on screens in historical thriller 12.12: The Day – which is quickly turning into one of the most buzzed about Korean films of the Covid-19 pandemic – is a comfortable and familiar presence in this role.

His casting heightens the show’s timeless appeal. Although he hasn’t appeared in a romance since 2016’s Remember You, he built his career as a romantic lead. His role as Jin-woo could easily have fitted alongside those he played 20 years ago in films such as A Moment to Remember and Sad Movie (in which he also played a character named Jin-woo).

Shin in a still from “Tell Me That You Love Me”.
Known for Hospital Playlist and Reborn Rich, Shin slips ably into her role as a former flight attendant struggling with her transition to acting. She shares good chemistry with Jung; both previously appeared together in the thriller Beasts Clawing at Straws.
Tell Me That You Love Me belongs to the recent category of so-called “healing dramas” – deliberately slow and soothing entertainment designed to be an antidote to the hectic lives of modern Koreans. Others include the food-themed film Little Forest with Kim Tae-ri and travel-themed drama One Day Off with Lee Na-young.
Jung in a still from “Tell Me That You Love Me”.
The simple story is clearly adapted by Kim Min-sung ( The Sound of Magic) and elegantly framed by director Kim Yoon-jin, who previously breathed life into the acclaimed romantic drama Our Beloved Summer.

Tell Me That You Love Me is streaming on Disney+.

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