Last year, Ahn Pan Suk applied the moody, atmospheric filter of Secret Love Affair
and Heard It Through the Grapevine
to a more conventionally scripted and naturalistic romance drama, and created the sweet hit Something in the Rain
. This year, he improves on the warm and stirring formula with the similar yet different One Spring Night
One Spring Night employs the same screenwriter (Kim Eun), the same leading man (Jung Hae In) and similar music and aesthetics as Something in the Rain, together forming companion pieces about modern love. This time, Jung Hae In plays neighborhood pharmacist Yoo Ji Ho, who carries scars and insecurities about his past relationship and current status as a single father. He has no interest in starting another relationship until he falls for Han Ji Min's prickly librarian Lee Jung In, who shows up at his pharmacy one morning looking for a hangover cure. However, she's already in a stagnant long-term relationship. The two recognize early on that they can't go further than friendship, but they're increasingly drawn to each other, and the possibility of love and change.
One Spring Night seems to push back against the things that frustrated viewers about Something in the Rain. While Rain's heroine Yoon Jin Ah is often a pushover, Lee Jung In is anything but. She may be occasionally short-tempered, indecisive, selfish, hard-headed and inconsiderate – but she's always self-aware and speaks her mind. She doesn't back down against parental disapproval and conservative mindsets, and has no trouble putting her father or her boyfriend's father in their places. Instead, it's Ji Ho who struggles with feelings of uncertainty and unworthiness, and Jung In who motivates and strengthens him while expanding her own capacity to love. For both Ji Ho and Jung In, acknowledging their desire to be together, however inappropriate the timing and circumstances may be in the eyes of others, is also validating their own right to be happy as they are.
In another satisfying character flip, Gil Hae Hyun, who played the unreasonable parent of K-Drama nightmares in Something in the Rain, is a caring mother to Jung In and her two sisters in One Spring Night. The close bond and understanding between the women of Jung In's family is one of the best parts about this drama. And the most gut-wrenching are the moments when oldest sister Seo In (Lim Seong Eon) reveals to her family that she is a victim of domestic violence.
Ahn Pan Suk has probably been my favorite Korean television director in the last few years, because I love the distinctive look and lingering feel of his dramas. From the atmospheric cinematography and observant camerawork to the moody music and muted palette, there is a very deliberate, intimate and curated aesthetic to his works that stands out in the crowded land of Korean dramas. These strengths are on clear display in One Spring Night, which is beautiful to look at and listen to (love the soundtrack!).
With One Spring Night, Ahn also achieves his most realistic and naturalistic story about two adults navigating the transition between the ending of one relationship and the beginning of another. Dwelling carefully on moments and conversations, the deliberately paced drama illustrates the exciting yet daunting feeling of choosing to believe in one's heart and taking a chance on love.