K-Drama Review: “The Light In Your Eyes” Is A Dazzlingly Beautiful Invitation To Enjoy Ordinary Days
The Light In Your Eyes was a whimsical reminder to live beautiful days.
It was a healing tearjerker reminding its viewers to view life happily despite bad days. It was a trip down memory lane that left its viewers in tears as they reminisce their own happy memories.
TITLE: The Light in Your Eyes
THEME: FAMILY DRAMA, Time Travel
BROADCAST DATE: 11 February 2019 TO 19 MARCH 2019
MAIN LEADS: Kim Hye Ja, Han Ji Min, Nam Joo Hyuk
HIGHLIGHTS: Healing family drama with time travelling elements, very clever plot twists, well written
DRAWBACK: Some parts of the story were not explained well.
RELATED DRAMA: A Thousand Days’ Promise, Remember, Bubblegum, Oh My Geum Bi
Quick Plot Roundup
Hye Ja is an aspring anchorwoman whose life gets derailed when she turns into an old woman. Her budding romance with Lee Joon Ha is cut short because of her transformation. Meanwhile, Joon Ha is dealing with his own frustrations with his dreams of being a reporter. He trudges through life lonely until he meets Hye Ja.
As an elderly woman, Hye Ja still looks after Joon Ha despite his annoyance at her. They both mourn the missed opportunity for a romance, but slowly develop a friendship as they bond with each other.
As she learns to deal with her transformation, her family and friends also learn to accept her for what she now is. Hye Ja and her family understand the importance of accepting one another’s shortcomings and differences.
Episode Recaps: Premiere, Ep 3, Ep 4, Ep 5, Ep 6, Ep 7, Ep 8,
*Episodes 9 and 10 are included in the Finale Week Recap
Finale Week Recap
Hye Ja’s friend Chanel passes away
After learning of Chanel’s death and Joon Ha’s involvement, Hye Ja falls deeper into despair. She tries to see Joon Ha in prison but they don’t allow her in. Later on, it was revealed that Chanel took her own life after her own son shut her out of his present life. In place of the absentee son, Joon Ha stayed in the memorial chapel for Chanel.
Afterwards, Joon Ha was finally ready to leave for the Northern Lights, but his friend Hee Won arrives looking for Chanel’s insurance payout. Suspecting Joon Ha kept the money, they kidnap him. They lock him up in the basement of the center and beat him up.
Hye Ja’s Secret Plan
Suspecting that something was amiss, Hye Ja rounds up the other elderly people in the center. They discover Hee Won’s plan to drive a bus and crash it with the elderly inside. Hee Won did this as the beneficiary of their insurance policies he forced them to get so that he can collect their payouts.
Together with those who didn’t take out insurance policies, they hatch a plan to save the rest and find Joon Ha. They spring into action and ambush the center. Using their own strengths, they manage to save their friends and locate the trapped Joon Ha.
They quickly escape and drive off, leaving Hee Won and all his goons. While inside the bus, the elderly all laugh incredulously, amazed at their gall and bravery. Eventually though, they all doze off one by one, leaving a dazed and injured Joon Ha staring at them all in amazement.
Once they all get to the edge of the cliff, they sit and watch the sunset. Hye Ja notices Mr. Lee (the previously unnamed old man who was seemingly afraid of Joon Ha) drop his scarf. She helps him retrieve it, and in the process, he finally hands her his watch. It falls to the floor and Hye Ja sees hers and Joon Ha’s initials engraved on the back.
All of a sudden, Hye Ja comes to. She is all alone on a cliff. Her parents are running towards her. However, they are not actually her parents, but her son and daughter-in-law. Hye Ja returns to reality.
Hye Ja Has Alzheimer’s Disease
In a clever twist to the story, it is revealed that everything was all part of Hye Ja’s imagination. As an Alzheimer’s Disease patient, she has conjured up her own make-to-believe world. While the watch is real, it isn’t a time-travel piece. She wasn’t a 25 year old woman who became an elderly, she is really an elderly woman.
The place where she imagined as the elderly center is actually a nursing hospital where she lives. Young Soo is not her older brother, but her grandson. Everything is real, but in a different perspective.
Perhaps triggered by the uncanny resemblance of her doctor to her late husband Joon Ha, Hye Ja begins to reminisce about her past with Joon Ha.
Hye Ja’s Memories
We are brought back to the past when Hye Ja and Joon Ha began their love story. Impatient with how slow their relationship was developing, Hye Ja attempted to hurry it up by dropping hints. Eventually she got what she wanted as Joon Ha proposed to her. He gifted her with a ring while Hye Ja surprised him with a watch. It was the same watch which was instrumental to the entire story and it came from Hye Ja. Their initials were also engaged at the back.
Later on, they got married and lived happily. Soon after, they had a son named Dae Sang. Joon Ha’s lukewarm reception of his son came from his insecurity about not receiving a father’s love. Albeit awkward at first due to the lack of a father figure, Joon Ha soon warmed up to his child.
But things were not meant to last forever. Because he was a reporter, Joon Ha was imprisoned for a news story that he was working on. Later on, Hye Ja received notice that he died while incarcerated. Supposedly, the police said that he contracted pneumonia.
While in the police station to collect his things, Hye Ja spotted Joon Ha’s watch on a police officer’s wrist – the same police officer whom elderly Hye Ja suspected of using the watch for time travel. This same police officer actually stole Joon Ha’s watch and kept it for himself.
Devastated, the widow Hye Ja tries to move on. She was tough and seemingly callous to her disabled son. She pushed him to try hard and refused to coddle him because of his disability. As a result, Dae Sang grew up resenting his mother for the lack of love he received. He perceived his mom as mean, and someone who didn’t want him to be alive.
Dae Sang Moves to the Countryside with his mother
Back to the present time, Dae Sang discovers how his mother Hye Ja actually took care of him secretly as a young boy. The resentment he had in his heart begins to thaw and he sees her in a warmer light. This explained his distance from her, perhaps due to her tough love for him.
Dae Sang decides that the nursing hospital isn’t ideal for his ailing mother Hye Ja. He decides to move her to the countryside. She spends her remaining time there and reminisces about her family fondly.
While having a conversation, Hye Ja spots Joon Ha waiting for her from afar. She leaves Dae Sang and walks straight to him and promises never to leave his side again. The couple is reunited after many years and they finally have their happily ever after.
Oh where to begin with this drama. I can’t say I loved every minute of it, but I certainly loved the feeling that the drama gave me. It was such a melancholic and sad drama, but it also uplifted my spirit and made me realize my mortality.
Aging Happens to Everyone
The Light In Your Eyes did not romanticize getting old. It was more of an in-your-face approach to the realities of getting advanced in years. Eventually we all grow old and we should not have regrets by then. Hye Ja had so many “if onlys” because she felt that aging literally sneaked up on her.
Next, it made me realize that time is fleeting, not for ourselves, but for our elderly family members. It opened up new insights to me as to how they might feel to be an inconvenience to others. I recall how Hye Ja felt that she was a burden to her younger friends and chose to be left behind at first. This taught me that acceptance and understanding go hand in hand with patience for our elderly parents.
Strong Story Line & Clever Plot Twist
The Light In Your Eyes did not rely on romantic cutesy moments for it to gain its high rating. In fact, those moments were quite few and far in between. Instead, it banked on a solid story line and that clever plot twist near the end. It also highlighted the friendship that Hye Ja had with her two other friends.
Boy, how that twist caught me off guard. Never in a million years would I have suspected that plot twist. All along, Hye Ja was actually really old and that almost the entire drama was based on her illness. Honestly, that was a clever writing right there. It added depth to the drama as well as provided new insights to previous scenes. Now I want to rewatch the drama just to see what actually happened in real life. But most of that would be for the drawbacks.
Lastly, the police officer angle of the story was very neatly incorporated into the plot. His fear of their doctor/Joon Ha must have stemmed from his guilt over what might have happened when Joon Ha was imprisoned. Added to the watch thievery of course. But I’m glad that part of the story was explained well. Hye Ja granting him forgiveness was a touching and pivotal scene to her release of heartache over the watch all these years.
Actors Are All Superb
Recently, I read an interview on Nam Joo Hyuk regarding how his acting improved in this drama. I must agree with that observation. Pitted against veteran actors, Nam did well and kept his acting at par with the rest. His scene with Han Ji Min when she visited him in jail literally broke my heart.
Nam had anguish written all over his face the whole time. He wore loneliness on his sleeve and made the viewers ache because of how lonely he was. He had so many shining moments in this drama where he struggled with despair. But he did it so beautifully and tastefully that the viewers’ hearts broke with his.
Kim Hye Ja had the light in her eyes. In my opinion, this drama was made for her. Her presence had such a healing feel to it that it’s no wonder the cast were all drawn to her during filming. She acted as both elderly and young Hye Ja perfectly. She had a spring in her step and youthfulness in her mannerisms when she thought she was young Hye Ja. But in the end of the drama, she captured an ailing and near-death spirit so perfectly that I felt like weeping as I anticipated her loss.
Speaking of drawbacks, what I’m most unhappy about was that the plot twist failed to explain so many scenes. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but I need to know what really happened to Chanel. Was she also a patient in the hospital? What about her relationship with Joon Ha? How did that figure into reality since Joon Ha was actually their doctor?
And speaking of Joon Ha, what about his grandmother? Did she exist in the past too? What really happened during all those times they ate in the noodle house together? Did that actually happen? Or were those part of her happy memories that happened when they were young?
Next, what really happened to Joon Ha in prison? Did he die of pneumonia or was he killed by the police officer who stole the watch? I still have so many questions. Not that any of these is vital to the development of the story, these are just my musings. Whether or not they were answered is immaterial.
In the drama, Han Ji Min’s acting was just ok. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t stellar as well. Although she had the fewest scenes, she still had the most important moments in the drama. Her acting was something I’ve seen in her previous dramas – without much added depth or flavor to it.
If you’re looking for a romantic drama, then this isn’t for you. However, if you want to be healed and appreciate life for its ordinary and fleeting moments, I invite you to watch this.
It’s such a short drama, but it’s packed with shining moments and life lessons. The cast jived well together and produced a certified tearjerker interspersed with occasional comedy care of Young Soo and Hyun Joo.
The Light In Your Eyes was dazzling in its ordinariness. It shone a light on fleeting happy moments and has inspired us to do the same.
Nicole is currently juggling motherhood, her job, and her immense love for K-dramas and K-pop. On most days, the latter wins. Sleeping can wait – is her motto as she eagerly devours episodes of her favorite K-dramas. Her absolute favorite drama would be Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo.
She is currently watching Legal High and is looking forward to Kill It.