Good Ol’ Review: Captivating, Resonant “Lovely Runner” a Rare Breed in Korean Drama

Good Ol’ Review: Captivating, Resonant “Lovely Runner” a Rare Breed in Korean Drama

Very basic set-up spoilers.

It is absolutely wonderful when you come across a Korean drama that just brings you so much joy and laughter and tears (in a good way!). That is exactly what Lovely Runner (선재 업고 튀어 /Run Away with Sun Jae on Piggyback) is. This romantic comedy drama fantasy time travel adventure is a rare breed in Korean drama. Indeed, the blending of a wide array of genres is unique in and of itself. But an excellent cast, captivating story, emotional sincerity and plenty of fun make Lovely Runner a truly memorable and feel-good experience.

When a series is able to make you cry within its first ten minutes, then you know you’re in for something special. Lovely Runner does just that as it introduces us to Im Sol (Kim Hye Yoon). We first meet her as a teen as she struggles with recovering from an accident that leaves her paralyzed. Contemplating taking her own life, Sol finds solace and comfort in idol band member Sun Jae (Byeon Woo Seok).

Lovely Runner Korean Drama Review

Years later, Sol is devastated by the news that Sun Jae has committed suicide. But a distraught Sol soon finds herself waking up in a high school classroom, 15 years in the past. Sol takes this as an opportunity to change Sun Jae’s fate. But on her time traveling journey, Sol soon discovers details of her past she had never known and moments that now carry new meaning. Especially when it relates to Sun Jae. And she quickly realizes it’s not as easy or simple as it seems. Especially when the consequences of changing the past manifest in even more complicated outcomes in the future.

Lovely Runner follows Sol on this emotional and humorous journey which naturally includes the complicated, though absolutely engaging romance that develops between Sol and Sun Jae. There is of course more than meets the eye when it comes to their relationship. It is never as simple as one might expect. But that’s one of the series’ many strengths.

Again, Lovely Runner is a rare breed of Korean drama. It is one that is able to balance all of its moving parts, whether it is the intricate story or the actors’ excellent performances or the fascinating character development or the strong execution of what is a pretty high concept premise. Lovely Runner is able to balance all that and present it in an incredibly engaging, exciting and addictive package.

With any time travel-infused story, the biggest challenge is always trying to keep the narrative pieces together without the entire series falling apart. The way Lovely Runner is able to do that is a bonus when every other aspect of the series is already done so well.

At the heart of the series is of course the budding relationship between our lead characters in Sol and Sun Jae. The series perfectly unfolds their relationship. Starting with those emotional first ten minutes of the series all through the bumpy ride the two have to navigate on their journey.

The series is able to tell their story by employing familiar settings like high school or a quiet and idyllic city neighborhood or the office workplace. The time slip aspect of the story allows for those familiar settings to provide the ideal backdrop for relatable moments and situations that keep the series grounded. And most importantly, Sol and Sun Jae’s relationship grounded as well.

Many times, romance on Korean drama can feel forced or contrived. Or strong beginnings give way to exhausting ends. Where at first you are fully invested in rooting for the destined couple only to end up wishing the show would just get it over with. That’s not the case here at all. Lovely Runner has all the makings of an epic love story. One that spans the reaches of time in a way that not many other similarly themed stories in Korean television or film have done well.

Lovely Runner Korean Drama Review

The talented Byeon Woo Seok and Kim Hye Yoon are able to take the well-written narrative and power it with their undeniable chemistry and their own individual performances as well. Their charm and chemistry, both together and on their own, help to easily grab you from the start and never let you go right up until the final seconds of the series.

Again, that is very rare these days in Korean drama. Even moreso when these days, one of the common missteps is an overfocus on such romance. So much so that almost every other aspect of the series or story ends up suffering because of that overfocus and over-reliance on kilig or swoon-worthy moments.

What Lovely Runner does instead is present a multifaceted and multi-dimensional story. One that doesn’t merely fall back on the romance, but use that story alongside stories of family, friendship, growing up, mental health and even a bit of social commentary as well. There is a warmth and sincerity in how the series tells these relatable stories. And with a touch of slice of life and nostalgia as well, it’s hard not to fully embrace what the series is offering.

The welcome depth for the stories and characters is also something we wish were present in more current Korean dramas too.

Lovely Runner Korean Drama Review

Lovely Runner is able to juggle all these different stories while still maintaining at its core the story of two people who fate and destiny seem determined to bring together. It makes these 16 episodes really fly by. Which, once again, is so rare these days when most modern series can barely fill shorter six or eight episode runs. Let alone a full 16. Lovely Runner makes the best use of its time with a steady, though brisk pace that never compels you to fast forward through scenes.

It knows exactly the kind of tone it wants to set. And they effortlessly make that balance between emotional drama and fun hilarity work, neither ever overwhelming the other.

Byeon Woo Seok and Kim Hye Yoon showcase their talent and range in this series. The fact that they are wholly believable as either a high school student or a 33-year old professional at various points throughout the series is a testament to that talent as well as their charm and charisma.

Byeon Woo Seok finally gets his well-deserved lead role. He has already proven himself in many strong supporting and 2nd lead roles. But he gets the perfect opportunity here to show off his skills as well as his undeniable charisma. Sun Jae is a multi-faceted character and Byeon Woo Seok has no problem evoking the many complicated emotions of the character through the series’ 16 episodes.

Lovely Runner Korean Drama Review

Kim Hye Yoon, meanwhile, excels in a role that was literally tailor made for her. As the quirky and lovable Im Sol, Kim Hye Yoon is able to showcase a lot of depth in her performance. Whether it is the bright and spunky side of Sol or the mature and heavily burdened side of Sol, Kim Hye Yoon effortlessly delivers. And though she’s already had star-making (and award-winning!) performances, this is another highlight in her career.

The two of them lead a strong ensemble cast that easily elevates what is already strong material. Talented young actors like Song Geon Hee, Seo Hye Won, Son Ji Ho and Lee Seung Hyub play alongside experienced veterans like Jung Young Joo, Sung Byoung Sook and Kim Won Hae. And they all add to the vibrant physical and narrative world that the series meticulously builds. It’s easy to get lost in this world thanks to their easily engaging performances. Again, whether in dramatic or humorous moments.

In addition, the series’ excellent soundtrack, purposeful direction and the right amount of ethereal aura complete the fairy tale-like adventure that is Lovely Runner.

It really bears repeating. Lovely Runner is a rare Korean drama. You would be hard-pressed to find Korean dramas these days that resonate long after the final credits. But Lovely Runner might just be one of those rare instances where you fondly look back at the series and still vividly remember how it felt watching these episodes for the first time. Rarely does a series instill so much joy and warmth and happiness and welcome tears as much as Lovely Runner does.

Lovely Runner Korean Drama Review

With its wonderful mix of fantasy, grand love story, deep character-driven stories, comedy, drama, high concept time travel and everything in between; Lovely Runner is a heartwarming and enthralling viewing experience that you won’t soon forget.

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