[What Mary Thinks] “Moment at Eighteen” Review

*inhales* *exhales* *inhales again* *exhales and tries not to cry* I’ve watched plenty of dramas throughout the past few years, but it’s still so challenging and difficult for me every time to bid farewell with a drama that I loved, enjoyed, followed, and watched so dedicatedly from the beginning.

JTBC’s ‘Moment at Eighteen’ is that drama for me, and I’m currently writing this post as I’m about to begin the final and last episode. But of course, me being me, I’m too nervous to start the last episode so I wanted to write this post before while listening to some OST’s and then dive into the final episode after. This drama brought me back from the long hiatus I’ve had from this blog since December of last year and with the last episode dawning upon me, I wanted to dedicate a post to the sweet, cute, and peaceful youth drama.

‘Moment At Eighteen’ – within the last 15 episodes – has been fulfilling for me in many different ways for various reasons. The thing that I enjoy about it the most is how full circle everything comes. I really appreciate how the drama focuses on each of the characters – especially our lead Jun-woo – and how he eventually grows and learns and showcases his sense of self throughout his journey in high school and through the people he meets. You in a way feel proud seeing just how far he has come from the very beginning and then the small steps he takes to achieve his dreams by the end of the drama. And no matter how challenging or tiring or exhausting things get, he keeps going because that’s the type of person he is. I also really like how plots or storylines that the drama explored and touched upon in the beginning of the drama eventually gets some kind of update or closure at the end. Jun-woo’s relationship with his dad was not a big topic within the drama, but it was something that the drama did touch upon at the beginning and then at the end once again and I REALLY appreciated that. I think often times, dramas will introduce some kind of plot or character or storyline and then completely forget about it by the end of the drama. You never receive any kind of update or result or closure to that storyline, but ‘Moment At Eighteen’ does a really good job in making sure that its audience is aware of what occurs in each moment of our character’s lives. The same thing applies to Yoo Soo-bin (played by Kim Hyang-gi) and her relationship with her father where the drama continually updates about it throughout the drama so you’re never really left hanging and instead, you witness yourself if these relationships progress or stay stagnant within the duration of the drama. Even the truth regarding Hwi-young and Jun-woo’s relationship gets revealed by the end of the drama so the drama too gave some kind of closure on that end which was beautiful.

In terms of characters and relationships, ‘Moment At Eighteen’ was strong in showcasing the intricate, complicated, and often times complex aspects of relationships and friendships. There were so many moving parts to each relationship and friendship: Soo-bin with Jun-woo, Jun-woo with Hwi-young, Hwi-young with Ki-Tae, Soo-bin with her crew of friends, Jun-woo with Teacher Oh, Teacher Oh with Jimin, Soo-bin’s Mom with Jun-woo’s Mom, etc, etc. There were SOOO many different relationships in this drama and yet the drama managed to beautifully capture these relationships — both good and bad. Not all the relationships in this drama were of good intentions or started off on a good note and there were some that were toxic or hectic or about that power trip, but the drama was honest with us about all of that and I think that’s why the drama felt so raw and reasonable.

I don’t even know where to start for Jun-woo and Soo-bin’s relationship. Can they be any more adorable? I was squealing and screaming internally every time they showed up on screen and it wasn’t just at all the cute, lovey dovey moments between them. I would scream internally even during the scenes and interactions where they were honest with each other, shared deep secrets or stories about themselves and their lives to each other, or were brutally honest with each other on how tired they were with life but how everything would turn out okay because they had each other to rely on. I LOVED LOVED LOVED how just stable and healthy Jun-woo and Soo-bin’s relationship with each other was; I think it’s important to note how their relationship was affected more by external factors (such as Soo-bin’s mother) than Soo-bin and Jun-woo themselves necessarily. The two were clear on their feelings towards each other and knew that they wanted to be that pillar and source of strength and happiness for the other entering their relationship and they continued to do that throughout the last few episodes when they were dating (and even before they were dating too). Soo-bin and Jun-woo never once was angry at the other or discouraged the other or put the other down; instead, they were always so supportive and thoughtful of each other and always voiced their support towards each other and I just loved how peaceful, calm, mature, and healthy their relationship was (honestly, there were some times I was in such awe of their relationship I thought to myself how I would want a relationship similar to theirs.. but that’s for another time LOL). They were there for each other from the start, but their relationship and trust and bond was tested even more once they started dating because they realized that things weren’t as smooth as they thought it would be. Therefore, they fought even harder to be that couple where they could go to each other for anything and that was simply enough for the both of them because they knew that if they had each other, then they had everything.

This drama wasn’t always the most entertaining or the funniest, but it felt so friendly. We got to witness the adventures, memories, and journeys that each of our characters went through and how they all changed by the very end. ‘Moment At Eighteen’ is definitely one of the better, more sophisticated, stronger, and easygoing high school dramas and it just felt so satisfying. Everyone stayed true to themselves and were honest with themselves by the end of the drama and that wasn’t the easiest for everyone (especially Jun-woo and Hwi-young), but you got to see them develop and grow through that honesty which was relieving and satisfying. I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this drama that has struck me since I’ve watched many youth/high school dramas before, but I don’t know — I think a big part of it is just how fulfilling and friendly the drama feels. I also have to really give it to two characters in particular who I think played a big role in mending these broken and scattered relationships — Teacher Oh and Chanyeol. Teacher Oh was that role model and source of strength for his students and he never once gave up on them as difficult as things got. He always believed in them and did everything in his control and power to help them as best as he could. He stood up for them, looked out for them, and always made sure that his students were okay even if he necessarily wasn’t. He put his students first and that’s why Teacher Oh made such a huge impact in both inside and outside of the classroom. In terms of Chanyeol, I REALLLLLLY appreciated her character because she was always sort of like the funny and neutral moodmaker of the group who alleviated any tensions between her crew of friends. She was always so optimistic and positive and wanted everyone to be on good terms with one another and at first, I didn’t really notice or care. However, with each passing episode where there were increasing arguments and fights and disagreements, I started to notice just how impactful her role was as the moodmaker of the group was and how big of a difference some of her small jokes and funny comments could be. Both Teacher Oh and Chanyeol were supplemental to mending and maintaining the relationships and friendships in this drama and made everything a lot smoother and better for everyone.

In terms of favorite scenes, I have two specific scenes that I enjoyed a little bit more than others: the first being the very first time that Jun-woo and Soo-bin interacted and met. Oh my goodness, I can’t even describe how I felt when I saw that scene. Soo-bin was worried for Jun-woo so she checked up on him to see if he was okay after her mother almost hit him in their car. It was so subtle and it wasn’t a big deal, but I don’t know what it was about the arm raising and the questioning in that scene that got to me, but it did and it’s my absolute favorite from the entire drama. I know I know – some of y’all are probably questioning me like why I thought Soo-bin and Jun-woo doing some arm raising and arm stretches was my favorite moment from the entire drama when there were plenty of other adorable scenes between them but I think it’s simply because that very first interaction between them served as a good preview of what was to come in their relationship. The way that Soo-bin was so concerned about Jun-woo who she didn’t even know but was worried about and how shy and embarrassed Jun-woo was when interacting with Soo-bin spoke volumes. The interaction showed us intricate details of their characters individually (a kind and thoughtful Soo-bin and then a quiet and reserved Jun-woo), but it also revealed a little of their first impressions of each other. It’s one of those scenes that stood out to me from the drama and that will stick with me for a while. My other favorite scene would be at the end of episode 10 when Jun-woo was all dressed up in his cute looking retro outfit and he basically found a lost and confused Soo-bin amongst a sea of dancing folks. Everything about that scene was absolutely perfect. The way that the camera followed Jun-woo and panned behind him so that you were following him in his search for Soo-bin and then the way Jun-woo grabbed Soo-bin and surprised her and then how he held onto her and hugged her even though Soo-bin didn’t mean to hug him but they ended up hugging anyways. GAAAAAH, THAT SCENE BRINGS BACK SO MANY FEELS and always will. I can rewatch that scene over and over again (if I haven’t made it obvious enough). I LOVE LOVE LOVE these two scenes in particular (and episode 10 in general) and will always remember them for these reasons and so much more.

*inhales then exhales again*

After finishing the very last episode just right now, I’m updating this post with my final and remaining thoughts on the ending. My comment about everything coming full circle in the drama remains the same; literally, Jun-woo moves to a new city in the beginning of the drama and then returns back to his hometown to live with his mother again like how he used to before he moved. His life as an eighteen year old has come full circle for him, but within this circle has come meaningful and memorable experiences, relationships, and romance. I’m not upset with the ending and I’m satisfied at how it wasn’t necessarily an entirely happy ending either. I loved how subtle and intricate everything was to the smallest details, such as Jun-woo leaving his bike Bumbi at Soo-bin’s apartment complex or how he gifted her with his drawings of their most precious moments (OR THE LULLABY SCENE T_____T). I loved how it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns and chocolates for the two teenage lovers; just like how they overcame all the other obstacles earlier in their life, they too will remain victorious in the future. Jun-woo will still eventually return to live with his mother so he will be separated from Soo-bin and they will have to learn to navigate their long-distance relationship, but as we have seen before and as the lovebirds themselves have communicated, everything will turn out okay because they have each other in the end and that is simply enough for them. Bidding farewell was just too abrupt, sudden, and difficult for them so they couldn’t do it right away, but with each passing moment, the farewells won’t be as heart-breaking and it will only allow Soo-bin and Jun-woo’s relationship to become stronger. Maybe this is the best decision and outcome for them as of now. Jun-woo feels the responsibility to take care of his mom and to support her (which is consistent with his character) while Soo-bin should focus on her studies. Though the two are greater together, they are just as amazing apart.

The funny thing about this drama was that going into it, I didn’t have too many expectations. I enjoy watching high school/youth dramas so I knew I wanted to check this drama out, but I wasn’t too excited about it. I knew who Ong Seong-woo and Kim Hyang-gi was, but I didn’t necessarily have any thoughts about the two as actors. I have to admit that I was hesitant on watching the drama because of the writer’s past drama ‘Girls Generation 1979’ which I wasn’t necessarily a big fan of so I was concerned about how I would feel about this drama. However, contrary to my original concerns, ‘Moment At Eighteen’ was everything that I was not expecting it to be and even more. This drama just feels so different from the writer’s past dramas (or at least from ‘Girls Generation 1979’) and was so poignant and fulfilling. I think a big part of that has to do with our amazing cast members: Ong Seong-woo killed it as Jun-woo. He did a great job at portraying the subtle and detailed emotions of Jun-woo and captured those feelings so well. Kim Hyang-gi was an actress who I knew had the acting skills (based off of my observations from watching ‘Along With the Gods’) so it didn’t come as a surprise to me that she was so good in this drama as Soo-bin. The intense and chaotic scenes with her mom stood out to me the most and she was especially so good in any scenes that required crying. If this drama had been about Soo-bin’s love-hate relationship with her mom and focused on the development of their relationship, I would have been totally fine with that. I actually think it’d make for an interesting drama. Soo-bin and her mother had such an interesting and complex relationship bound by past regrets and future concerns, but they still loved each other in their own ways and it was beautiful witnessing that. Everyone else in the drama was great, including Kang Ki-young who played Teacher Oh. Though I would love to see him play more serious roles (because I think he has the acting skills for them), it was nice seeing him play such a heartfelt, caring, and compassionate teacher.

I have many more comments and thoughts about the drama – like the beautiful journey of self-discovery for Jun-woo or the complex and bittersweet relationship between Soo-bin and her mom – but I think it doesn’t have to be said to understand and see just how much each of our characters have grown. The drama has always been honest, straightforward, and raw with us from the start on this journey and gave us insight on how everyone grew and improved by the end of the drama. I think we can all agree that the childish, playful, haughty, and confused high school teenagers at the beginning of the drama are still the childish, playful, haughty, and confused teenagers by the end of the drama but with many more experiences, memories, and interactions that has provided them with so much more meaning in life. I’m gonna miss them all so much and just witnessing their comedic and playful adventures with each other. I’m not so ready just yet to say goodbye to these fun group of teenagers.

‘Moment at Eighteen’ was consistent and satisfying to watch throughout its entire duration. Everything from the cinematography to the directing to the cast to the writing to the soundtrack was great. Everything felt intentional; even the ending credits in episode 16 with all the students at the end joined by Teacher Oh bidding farewell to the camera was so nice. You felt like you were appreciated while watching this drama; you felt like you were a part of the cool high school crew too. I definitely did not regret watching this drama and am glad I gave this drama a chance. I came out of it an Ong Seong-woo fan (which is weird considering that I wasn’t a fan of Wanna One prior) and a supporter of everyone else involved.

I’m still so sad that the drama has ended, but a part of me is also not as sad as I thought I would be.. maybe it’s because the drama ended in a bittersweet way so I wasn’t left hanging or wishing for more. ‘Moment At Eighteen’ made me reminisce about my life when I was eighteen and brought back bittersweet memories of when I was a young, naive, and innocent teenager also entering fearful and unfamiliar transitions and phases in my life. Though my experiences were far different from Soo-bin or Jun-woo’s, I could still relate to their sentiment and emotions in some way because I too was eighteen at one point and learned things about life at that age. Thanks to ‘Moment at Eighteen’ for the beautiful reminders that life is not all that serious as we make it out to be; things shall pass as we let every fleeting moment simply be.

Bonus: Extra screenshots that I captured from the last two episodes. Enjoy while I go cry in a corner really quick T___T

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