Talk about heartbreaking! I usually refrain from heavy dramas when choosing my Asian drama fix but for “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes,” I willingly subjected myself to 16 hours plus worth of anxiety, heartbreak and romance because this is definitely one of the best dramas I’ve watched this year.
Synopsis: Police officer Yoo Jin Gook (Park Sung Woong) and his sister Yoo Jin Kang (Jung So Min) live a normal life in Seoul but their worlds become complicated with the intrusion of Kim Moo Young (Seo In Guk) whom Jin Gook suspects of involvement in one of the murder cases he is handling. Things start to get out of hand when Jin Kang discovers a kinship with the mysterious stranger and they begin to fall in love.
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes aka Hundred Million Stars from the Sky is the Korean adaptation of a Japanese drama Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi released in 2002 by Fuji TV. From the onset, I was hooked to this drama because I was intrigued by its premise. I was completely blown away by tangled web of storylines that kept audiences invested in the story and the amazing acting that kept them glued to their televisions of streaming devices.
First off, Seo In Guk deserves acting accolades for his portrayal of the troubled and mysterious Moo Young because he is such a chameleon throughout this drama. When he is faced with Jin Gook, he turns into this Joker-like character and it is impossible to fathom what is running through his complicated mind. When he is in a relationship with Seung Ah, it makes audiences wonder what his real motives are, whether he is truly sinister or simply an unfeeling master manipulator. He only becomes human when he slowly develops feelings for Jin Kang and he completely transforms into an utterly malleable male who smiles unabashedly at his girlfriend’s antics and learns how it is to become part of a real relationship. When their relationship hit a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I heard my heart shatter into a million tiny pieces as he tried to disguise his true feelings for his one true love.
The reason why the drama is engaging is because of the strong chemistry between these two characters. Half of the credit goes to Jung So Min whom audiences can identify with and relate from the get go because of her pure heart and loyalty, both to her brother and to Moo Young. I love her dynamics with Moo Young, because even though the drama almost certainly ends with tragedy, their happiness gives audiences a temporary reprieve from the inevitable and they are simply beautiful to watch together. I felt bad for Jin Kang too, because in wanting to protect her, the men in her life almost always keep her in the dark about the most important things while she wears her broken heart on her sleeve 90 percent of the drama.
I also love the filial dynamics between Jin Gook and Jin Kang and especially how Jin Gook absolutely loves Jin Kang despite not being blood related. Viewers just know that he will do anything for his little sister. On the flipside, the antagonistic relationship between Moo Young and Jin Gook is also among the strong points of the drama because of the strong acting of these two acting mavericks. The series really hit the jackpot with their casting because the interwoven relationships of these characters would not have been as effective with a different set of actors.
I was relieved that the Korean adaptation did not completely follow the path of the original Japanese drama because it was just too tragic. At least with one minor tweak that the Koreans made, the tragedy in the finale could be construed as a happy ending, in a way. It was a perfect ending for the drama, I think, and the last two scenes as the dialogues were connected were absolutely heartbreaking but satisfying.
All in all, I was completely blown away by the entire production. It was very simple but it was perfectly paced and set up just right. It had just the right amount of push and pull to keep audiences hooked and I, for one, was at the edge of my seat the entire time, rooting for a happy end for these three characters I have come to love in a small period of time. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes is quite different from what I would normally invest my time on but it was a series that left its mark on me. It was brilliant. It was one of the best of 2018 for me and it was a strong finish to jumpstart my 2019. Next up, waiting for The Last Empress to finish.