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Daily Helping for September 7th, 2021 – My Love from the Star

A promotional photo from My Love from the Star. Lead actors Kim Soo-hyun and Jun Ji-hyun facing each other but looking over their shoulders directly into the camera.

Did you really think I’d end this challenge without at least one more Kdrama? I told you. I’m addicted now. And why wouldn’t I be? Intensely plotted character driven self contained stories? Sign me up. Today’s Kdrama is no exception, as it somehow manages to be a romance, paranormal fantasy, and thriller all at the same time. And it’s amazing. So welcome to the Daily Hart’s latest instalment of “Where have these shows been all my life?!” with My Love from the Star.

Full disclosure. The basic plot of this show is going to sound ridiculous. It centres on an alien, Do Min-joon, who got stranded on earth 400 years ago. As the show begins, he receives word that after centuries of waiting, he will finally be able to return home. Which of course is exactly when everything about his carefully crafted life goes off the rails when a famous actress, Cheon Song-yi, moves in next door. Do Min-joon has spent centuries existing on the margins of society, leading a solitary life and avoiding drawing any attention to himself. And Cheon Song-yi upends all of that in a matter of days by slowing, and often inadvertently, worming her way into his life.

It’s actually one of the best parts about this show, and a lot of it is due to Kim Soo-hyun’s brilliant portrayal of Do Min-joon. He delivers nearly all of his lines with a deadpan exasperation that very clearly conveys just how much Do Min-joon is done with humans after putting up with them for 400 years. Which is why watching him slowly fall for Cheon Song-yi is so beautiful. And heartbreaking. After centuries of emotionally isolating himself from the world, he’s finally experiencing the joy and pain of falling in love. And of course it happens right when he has to leave forever. There’s also the hysterical detail of the fact that Do Min-joon happens to be deathly allergic to human saliva, prompting Cheon Song-yi to wonder why he gets sick every time they kiss. It’s hilarious.

So where does the thriller aspect fit into all of this? Well, this wouldn’t be a Kdrama without all the plot happening at all times. In My Love from the Star, this comes in the form of a murder mystery, a psychopathic billionaire, and a public relations disaster that leads to Cheon Song-yi’s public fall from grace. I told you. All the plot. And yet somehow, it all makes sense, never feels like too much, and keeps everything clipping along at a perfect pace. I’m beginning to think that all screenwriters should study Kdramas. They are a masterclass in plotting.

They are also a masterclass in character development. One thing that has always infuriated me about western media is how the secondary characters are usually one note and/or fall into one stereotype or another. And I must admit I brought this bias over into my Kdrama viewing. I never expect much from the secondary characters in terms of growth or narrative arcs, and yet every time these shows surprise me with the depth and nuance they bring to every character. Not just the leads.

In My Love from the Star, both the supporting male and female characters start off as stereotypes. And yet, over the course of the show, they both grow and change in interesting and completely believable ways. Park Hae-jin as Lee Hee-kyung in particular is fascinating to watch. He starts off as your stereotypical trust fund asshole, but by the end of the show, he was probably the character I was most invested in. I also loved Kim Chang-wan as Jang Young-mok, Do Min-joon’s only human confidante. Again, he could have been written off as a one note character. Instead, his devotion to Do Min-joon provides some of the most tender moments in the show.

I don’t know if I will end up featuring another Kdrama as part of the Daily Hart. But I do know that my love for these shows is here to stay. Thankfully, Netflix seems to have an unending supply of them, so I should be covered for the foreseeable future. I can’t wait to dive in, but if you have any suggestions of where I should dive in first, please let me know.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!