Jang Na Ra and Son Ho Jun lead the beautifully poignant and emotionally resonant 2017 KBS drama Go Back Couple (고백부부). The series is sincere in its reminders about our everyday lives and also gives hope for those who may be facing seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Jang Na Ra and Son Ho Jun are married couple Jin Joo and Ban Do. Together for 18 years, they have a young son. But they live a difficult life that all reaches the breaking point one night. Out of frustration, exhaustion and their growing unhappiness, they decide to get a divorce.
But the morning after their divorce is granted by the court, they wake up and find themselves back in 1999 when they were 20-year-old university students and only just meeting for the first time.
Not knowing how they got here or how they may return to the present, Jin Joo and Ban Do decide to take this second chance to see if they can change their futures, including trying to avoid falling in love with each other so as not to experience the hardships they’d originally gone through.
But during this “trip” back in time, Jin Joo and Ban Do slowly come to realize how they truly feel and perhaps dig deep to remember, reinterpret and clarify important moments and emotions in their lives.
It isn’t a spoiler to say that Go Back Couple tells the story of how Jin Joo and Ban Do fall back in love. Or really, it is a story of how they remember what they loved about each other in the first place. It is very obvious throughout the series that the two still very much love and care about each other. But certain events, misunderstandings and the pressures of life in general weighed heavy on them over the years all culminating in their painful decision to get a divorce.
And that is one of the biggest appeals of the series; seeing how they find their way back to each other.
As the series progresses, we are given enlightening insight into what actually happened in the past and throughout their marriage. And the parallels with their 1999 re-do allow both Jin Joo and Ban Do to learn more about themselves and each other.
The series is poignant and nostalgic. Memories of their family life, especially their young son Seo Jin, deliver emotional gut punches. All while at the same time being eye-opening insights into their backstory as well as relatable, real world problems.
Traveling back to their freshman year in college allows for a sort of coming-of-age aspect for Jin Joo and Ban Do and their group of best friends. Not only does the series tackle the harsh realities of adult life whether about marriage or finding a good paying job, it also touches on the realities of young adults as well.
It is a masterful feat for the series to be so neatly wrapped up in the end while still being grounded and realistic. And trust me when I say the series has a satisfying ending. Even the mystery surrounding the time travel aspect is addressed in probably the most touching and most heartwarming way possible.
Another of the series’ biggest assets is definitely its cast.
Lee Yi Kyung is his hilarious scene-stealing self as Ban Do’s friend Dok Jae. Heo Jeong Min and Han Bo Reum are charming as dysfunctional lovebirds Jae Woo and Bo Reum. Cho Hye Jung is familiar as Cheon Seol, a BFF character very similar to roles she’s played in other series. And Go Bo Gyeol does well as ballerina Seo Young, a character different from a few of her other roles.
Jang Ki Young does his best as Jung Nam Gil who presents himself as a worthy rival to Ban Do with his own burdens to work out.
But it’s really all Jang Na Ra and Son Ho Jun who do so much more than what even the script calls for. Both as youthful as ever, they seamlessly bring to life a few different versions of their characters as needed.
We see Jin Joo and Ban Do in the original timeline as lovestruck college students. Then we see them as a happily married couple. Then as a couple exhausted from the weight of the world. And finally as a couple who gets thrust into this extraordinary situation while also trying to come to terms with their true feelings.
Jang Na Ra and Son Ho Jun, both talented actors who have more than proven themselves in their careers already, are truly the heart and soul of the series. Laughing, crying and falling in love with them; it’s not hard to get drawn into the story with them as our leads.
A perfect pairing and excellent chemistry. They absolutely command the series and our hearts as they embark on the difficult, emotional, but ultimately satisfying journey.
Go Back Couple is an enlightening look at everyday life. And the sincerity in its reminders are more than welcome. Communication is important in all kinds of relationships. Don’t live life thinking about regrets. Don’t take things for granted.
It’s meaningful reminders like these that support what is truly an emotionally resonant and profound story. Go Back Couple is an absolutely memorable and heartwarming must-watch.