K-Drama Review: Mr. Sunshine 미스터 션샤인 (2018) - South Korea
Season 1 - 24 Episodes
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
One of the best thing about historical romance hit K-drama series “Mr. Sunshine” is the rounded portrayal of different parties, countries, all with very different agendas. The series does not try to glorify anyone or any happenings, but rather showing that there are decent people from all sides. It is ultimately a grand tragedy as we witness the end of the Joseon era an the fall of the Korean empire to the brutal Japanese invasion at the turn of the 20th century. It was a tough period in Korean history, where Foreign forces put their footprint on Korean soil and the Japanese on the verge of overthrowing the Emperor and Joseon traitors are willing to sell their country at any price or self gain.
Lee Byung-hun who successfully crossed over to Hollywood makes a welcome return to the Korean small screen as the Joseon born slave who miraculously survived in America and ended up coming back as a Captain of US Marine Corps and acting consul general as Eugene Choi. Lee provides quality presence throughout the series as the leading man and despite the obvious age gap with love interest played beautifully and gracefully by Kim Tae-ri, the two display wonderful chemistry that holds the series together radiating from start to finish. Kim in particular excels in all her scenes and continues her fine form in “Housemaid”. As a member of the Joseon high social status families, Kim is a noblewoman who is not afraid to dig her for her country against the tyranny of Japan and as a member of the righteous army. Kim manages to balance romance with a strong heroine role who is equally equip with guns and flying over rooftops.
Yoo Yeon-seok (“Reply 1994”) plays the other love interest for Kim who saved him from butchery as a child. Returning to Joseon from Japan, Yoo becomes a monster, a Japanese gangster whose bloodshed role defines him. Yoo changes as the film progresses and through his lifelong unrequited love for Kim, makes him human with a heart. This is one of Yoo’s best career performance by a long shot, with a deeply flawed character constantly juggling between the enemy and the price on the head. Kim Min-Jung is also outstanding in another strong female role as the hotel owner who simply ties everyone together. Byun Yo-Han plays the nobleman whose family murdered Lee’s family. Byun provides the perfect comic relief with all that is serious going on in the background.
All in all, “Mr. Sunshine” is easily one of the best period Korea historical romance drama as there is rarely a slow point in the series. Every episode so much is at stake and the Korean fight for justice against the Japanese during a period of profiteers and traitors alike. As audience, we grow to love and understand what motivates each character and the entire cast makes it easy to sit thru. In trouble times, we all need a hero or heroine to save the day and in “Mr. Sunshine” this story is captured beautifully and romantically.
I rated it 9/10
Now streaming on Netflix