K-Drama Review: “Mr. Sunshine” Glows With Profound Lessons About Limitless Meaning Of Patriotism & Love
Forged with peerless characters, nonpareil narrative, and scenic cinematography, Mr. Sunshine bursts to an extraordinary story of love, friendship, and patriotism.
Title: Mr. Sunshine
Theme: Period, Romance, Drama
Length: 24 Episodes
Broadcast Date: 7 July 2018 – 30 Sept 2018
Main Leads: Lee Byung Hun, Kim Tae Ri, Yoo Yeon Seok, Kim Min Jung, Byun Yo Han
Highlights: Stunning cinematography, Striking soundtrack, superbly written narrative
Related Dramas: Gaksital, Joseon Gunman, Chicago Typewriter
Unrivaled as the best Korean drama conceived this year, Mr. Sunshine surges to a stunning work of art that refuses to downshift its intensity, week after week, leaving an affecting and breathtaking story.
Through its grandiose design, along with its powerhouse cast and production team, the hype on tvN’s period drama is expected. Before the premiere, all eyes were keen to witness its historic unveiling as the first South Korean series with simultaneous global streaming via Netflix, same time as its local airing via tvN.
On its premiere, the audience marveled at the stunning cinematography and emotional presentation of the main characters in the introductory episodes.
Pushing its momentum while threading its historical backdrop, Mr. Sunshine never looked back in gifting a fascinating storyline each week, along with distinct sketching of the superb characters, who brought to life the daintily written narrative.
From its creative aspect down to the technical details, Mr. Sunshine is a gift to Korean drama fans. Evidently parading the effort and sentiments the cast and production team had invested, the oeuvre depicted a meticulously and artistically conceived television production that will go down to the history of South Korea’s thriving Korean drama landscape.
It is hard to cavil on its whole picture because the tiniest details reflect sharp direction with a bravado that can be justified by its imaginative eloquence and stellar portrayals. Hence, even with so much to digest given its historical background, the series imparted the message with complexity that was easy to grasp.
Nicely Orchestrated & Written Narrative
A feast to the eyes. Each episode of Mr. Sunshine is carved with ample aesthetics capturing picturesque frames of the waning Joseon era when foreign influences have been slowly incorporated in the local culture.
From the elaborated production design of Glory Hotel, American legation office, Gu Dong Mae’s turf, the kiln site, Lord Go’s house, the viewers were treated to a detailed video representation of that part of Korean history, that had not been visually adapted in film and television thoroughly.
Panoramic shots of beautiful sequences were also added as frosting to its splendid cinematography, which were made even more resonant by the amazing music layered on the storytelling.
Star writer Kim Eun Sook notched another career milestone for her intricate screenplay. Although we saw some hints from her impressive script in Goblin, her work in Mr. Sunshine just proved how boundless her imaginative craft can expand in the future. Although it is a first for her to write a full story of historical genre, along with director Lee Eung Bok, they have created a masterpiece that would not lose its value even in years to come.
Mr. Sunshine, patiently pictured the fictional world of its described characters in a way that viewers would be emotionally attached to them. The character connections were established seamlessly to fit in the conflicts raised in the story with coherence and confidence that left no faulty standpoint that audience can niggle on.
A woman’s unfailing love to protect her country with three capable men willing to risk all they had to protect her was such a noble love premise. Consider you are forewarned how that scenario will touch your heart in the most heartbreaking way.
The drama intricately weaves multiple anguished scenes in a series of frames that would make you a bawling mess, with how much tears you would shed owing to the poignancy of the story’s events.
Tying up the lose-ends of the finale week was a feat hard to witness for the loyal watchers, that you could only imagine how the production team cut deep from their artistic pouches to contrive a beautiful sad ending that would still be gratifying and lingering.
The hints of romance effortlessly make you smile and admire the writing of the series for its polished and sweet sketches of love frames that do not need kisses to be felt by the audience. As three men have one object of affection, it is thrice enjoyable to bask in the different kinds of love paraded along the way.
The heartbreaking sendoff for all the fictional people viewers met in the crumbling Joseon setting of Mr. Sunshine is not for the faint-hearted.
Kudo Hina’s moving atonement, Gu Dong Mae’s heartbreaking final battle, Kim Hee Sung’s life meaning realization, Eugene Choi’s love-driven sacrifice, and Lady Ae Sin’s struggle to uphold her valor amidst losing everyone who protected her – all those harrowing moments, along with the heart-rending junctures which layered those climactic points, have embellished the immeasurable meaning of patriotism, friendship, and love, which spins what Mr. Sunshine is about.
Standout Cast Portrayal
Writer Kim is known for conceiving memorable characters of profound resonance. A trademark she achieved once again with the lead cast of Mr. Sunshine. Her fortitude in sketching Captain Eugene Choi, Lady Ae Sin, Gu Dong Mae, Kudo Hina and Kim Hee Sung has brought the viewers to the brink of tears in all their defining and glorious moments in the story.
From the big and supporting roles carrying the weight of the opus, to the villains keeping the conflict balance atuned to the trajectory, all characters were utilized vigorously to maintain Mr. Sunshine’s flame blazing.
Viewers could not ask for more than what Lee Byung Hun, Kim Tae Ri, Yoo Yeon Seok, Kim Min Jung and Byun Yo Han did to suit up for the character sketches designed for them as they moved in the story. Writer Kim patiently allotted patience in making sure that their screen time would all be in equilibrium and fitting to their inclination and redemption.
All five of them were great together, individually, each of them carried his own character with conviction.
The bromance banters of Eugene, Dong Mae and Hee Sung, who had somehow been brought together for their one goal of protecting the same woman, kept the comic vibe that cushions the drama’s austere setting. But when they were needed to don agonizing scenes, they deliver efficiently.
The villains served their purpose in amplifying the already anguished Joseon situation raised as the evident problem of the story. They ensured annoying showdowns to agitate and weaken the heroes of the story ergo, strengthening the sentiments of the picture in the process.
The supporting cast, powered by veteran and young actors, functioned to toughen the yarning of the series.
A crowd pleaser to its target audience, Mr. Sunshine may appeal to selected audience who particularly likes stories set in traditional times. But it is one drama, I would highly-recommend this year, taking into consideration of the story’s historical premise value, superb cast portrayal, and overall make of the series.
Furthermore, the quality of the cinematic experience of every episode is one for the books, that even with its somber tone, it would yield a trance moment for you to appreciate its worth.
Looking back, Mr. Sunshine took a simple route following how period set stories are usually done. We got the historical problem scenario to spur the web of the events, the heroes and the villains to move inside it, and the path to a satisfying closure.
But it was the expressive depictions and garnished screenplay execution that made Mr. Sunshine a force to reckon.
Fans can watch Mr. Sunshine via Netflix.
All photos courtesy of Netflix PH.
About the writer
abbyinhallyuland reads and sleeps a lot when she is not traveling. Her calendar reminders are mostly K-Drama broadcast schedules and birthdays of her favorite Korean actors. Promoting watching K-Dramas as stress therapy is her life advocacy. She is fond of Spencer Reid, Kenshin Himura, Starwars saga, Haruki Murakami and Hunter x Hunter.
Favorite Korean Dramas: Reply 1988, Nine, Misaeng, Gaksital, Discovery of Love, Because This is My First Life, Descendants of the Sun, My Love from the Star, Healer, Punch, You’re Beautiful, Coffee Prince, Princess Hours, The Greatest Love, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and City Hunter