I wasn’t sure what to expect going into The Liar and His Lover (그녀는 거짓말을 너무 사랑해 /She Loves Lie So Much). But by the end, I mostly enjoyed this 2017 adaptation of a popular Japanese manga. It is most enjoyable as a charming coming-of-age drama rather than as a romantic comedy. However, as a whole, the series is able to do just enough to be a refreshing and easy watch.
The title The Liar and His Lover refers to Kang Han Gyul (Lee Hyun Woo) who is the composer and producer of popular boy band Crude Play, which is composed of three of his close friends and talented bass player Seo Chan Young (Lee Seo Won). Han Gyul hides his identity under the pseudonym “K” after stepping away from the group before debut and having Chan Young take his place.
After a chance encounter with Han Gyul, high school student Yoon So Rim (Red Velvet’s Joy) instantly falls in love. And when her own band gets scouted by the same record label as her crush and favorite band Crude Play, the two expectedly grow closer while navigating the difficulties of the Korean entertainment industry and typical teen and young adult struggles.
One of the series’ strongest themes is its unexpectedly insightful look at the inner workings of Korean entertainment. In an almost ripped from the headlines way, several of the series’ plot threads sound like something you might have seen being reported on (and of course, commented on by netizens) on entertainment news sites.
But the series does a good job of putting actual characters behind the faces of popular idols we see on TV. And in a very engaging way.
At its core, The Liar and His Lover is very much a coming-of-age drama. Focusing on friendships and relationships between these young characters, the series takes a look at the often-emotional dynamics that emerge at a time when young people are still trying to figure things out. This stage in life between childhood and adulthood is hard enough as it is. Couple it with the stress of the inner workings of Korean entertainment and it will be a struggle for anyone.
In that sense, the series’ most engaging character is definitely Seo Chan Young. His story deals with him feeling inadequate and is often left out or disregarded by both his bandmates and even record label. The growth and development his character experiences through the course of the series is really the most interesting to follow. And Lee Seo Won delivers a wonderfully endearing and charismatic performance.
Lee Hyun Woo is definitely an experienced actor, but there’s something about Han Gyul that kind of holds him and his performance back. He is strongest in scenes relating to the relationship with his friends and former bandmates and with the complicated relationship he has with Chan Young.
For a romantic comedy though, the series’ main couple unfortunately feels a little flat. Red Velvet member Joy does a solid job in her acting debut. But So Rim isn’t really the most developed or deep romantic lead you’ll find. Joy and Lee Hyun Woo’s chemistry is fine. But their story takes a backseat to other, more interesting and refreshing stories.
So Rim’s relationship with her grandmother is a highlight, even if moments between them are few and far between. And So Rim’s friendship with bandmates and high school best friends Jin Woo (Song Kang) and Kyu Seon (Park Jong Hyuk) is a likable dynamic.
The tension within the band Crude Play as well as their label forcing them to fake their instrument playing in favor of more professional musicians recording the songs is also a much more fascinating story to tell. But it too gets shortchanged even when it deserved more focus.
There’s certainly plenty of good foundation from which springs lots of potential. But the series doesn’t necessarily grab those opportunities to run with them. They sort of grab the opportunity and then forget where they left that opportunity a couple of moments later.
Though there was a lot left on the table. there is enough to keep the series going through its 16 episodes. And the cast itself is likable and enjoyable. Certainly some missed opportunities, but The Liar and His Lover is an overall charming series