Rich vs. poor. Revenge. The underdog. The SBS drama Remember (– War of the Sun) has a simple enough premise. But after watching the 20 episodes, the most memorable aspect of the series anyone will remember will be the outstanding performances of its stellar cast.
Still a relatively young 22 years old, Yoo Seung Ho has already proven that he is one of the most gifted actors in the business. Having started acting as a young boy, his versatility has been on display in various television dramas and films where he’s been anything from a kind-hearted high school troublemaker to romantic leading man to action star.
After just completing his military service, Remember could not have been a more perfect comeback project. Though technically, his first project after two years was lighthearted cable dramedy Imaginary Cat, Remember is a big network primetime drama with many more eyes on his comeback. And though unnecessary, Yoo Seung Ho proved once again just how gifted and talented he is.
Just another highlight of his already accomplished career, Yoo Seung Ho gave a powerful, commanding and affecting performance.
The story itself is already affecting on its own: A son (Yoo Seung Ho) wanting to clear the name of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father (played by Jun Kwang Ryul) who was framed for murder. Their humble life turned upside down by the wealthy and powerful who would and, more importantly, can do anything they want.
The series also touches on the oft-used, but unfortunately realistic concept of how money makes the world go round. As long as you have money, you have power. And that includes power over the law.
The fight of the poor and powerless against the evil and wealthy plays out even in the news every day. So any drama series that uses the concept will need to ensure they’re not just serving up something viewers have already seen before. The powerless getting stepped on every single episode until they finally win in the end. The fight to seek justice and revenge is also a common theme, especially in Korean drama.
Remember does a fine job of taking these familiar themes and crafting a thoroughly engrossing series that focuses on both the good and bad that is done because of family.
But again, what really helps Remember stand out from many similar stories are the incredible performances of its cast.
At the top is certainly Yoo Seung Ho. I haven’t watched every single drama of his. But in the ones I’ve seen (Master of Study, Operation Proposal, the most tragic love story ever told Warrior Baek Dong Soo, bits and pieces of Flames of Desire and I Miss You), he’s certainly proven that he can carry a drama on his own.
In Remember, Yoo Seung Ho does what he does best. Draw the viewer into the story with an emotionally engaging performance. You feel his emotions, whether it’s a happy moment with his father or a painful moment of sadness. He has always been effective in conveying wide ranges of emotions in his dramas. And his effortless charm and charisma help draw you in even more.
With Remember being, on the surface, a revenge drama and his character of Seo Jin Woo being an underdog, Yoo Seung Ho has no trouble getting you on his side. And you immediately connect with him from the very first (and emotionally varied) scenes.
The journey with Yoo Seung Ho as Jin Woo reaches an emotional climax at the end when the once photographic memory is now stricken with Alzheimer’s. Achieving justice for his father by clearing his name and getting the real criminals behind bars, it is a bittersweet win for Jin Woo. But the fact that you care about how bittersweet it is, is proof of Yoo Seung Ho’s affecting performance.
An almost unrecognizable Nam Goong Min delivers an equally engaging, if not upsetting performance as one of the most evil and despicable villains in recent memory. As the catalyst for the series’ events, Nam Goong Min more than effectively brings the character of rich, angry and without conscience Nam Gyu Man to terrifying life.
But an even bigger accomplishment for him is that he is able to control Gyu Man and prevent the character from becoming an over the top caricature. And that’s certainly a big reason why his scenes in the final episode where Gyu Man is really, truly alone and ultimately decides to commit suicide are still emotional and affecting. You forget for a few seconds that Gyu Man is a murdering rapist. You feel pity, but then still remember how evil he truly was. The fact that you can even feel pity is a testament to Nam Goong Min’s performance.
An accomplished actress, Park Min Young is one of the most popular stars in Korea today. But a criticism of her has been that she’s played basically the same character in all her dramas: (“…the bumbling and endearing yet smart and tough heroine who keeps finding herself or actively getting herself in trouble and needs her man to bail her out.”)
It might be true that the character of Lee In Ah fits that same mold. But she did get the chance to expand beyond her typecasting as she helped give In Ah more depth. It was a more mature and serious role that needed her to be an authoritative and commanding prosecutor as well as “big sister” to Jin Woo.
Park Min Young had definite chemistry with Yoo Seung Ho. But that Remember treated the romantic angle of their characters as a mere subplot instead of being the driving force of the series helped Park Min Young break out, a little bit, from her usual safe zone. One can only hope for her to get a truly career-defining role that allows her to show the talent that she’s obviously got, but hasn’t been given the chance to fully show. Preferably, that will be a role where she is the true lead actress in a drama that doesn’t merely tie all her story to a romantic leading man.
Park Sung Woong as attorney Park Dong Ho also has some heavy lifting in this series. A sometimes morally ambiguous character, he was able to provide a balance between the good of Jin Woo and the evil of Gyu Man and his father. In a way, the character was almost a consequential outside observer. Dong Ho could step away to watch everyone else clash while also being a cause of tension at other times too. And with Dong Ho having a backstory of his own, Park Sung Woong gave a wide ranging and controlled performance.
Fellow Baker King alum Jun Kwang Ryul did his part to provide the heart of the series. His scenes with Yoo Seung Ho with them being father and son were pitch perfect. If they hadn’t been, the rest of the series would have just fallen apart. But Jun Kwang Ryul and Yoo Seung Ho, both drama veterans, also shared an excellent chemistry that drove the entire story forward.
Overall, there is no question Remember is a fine Korean drama series. It wasn’t perfect of course. But it was successful in most ways including bringing to life an emotionally affecting story with just enough soapy touches to make things fun as well as interesting. But most especially, Remember is a fine Korean drama because of Yoo Seung Ho’s and an excellent cast’s outstanding performances.