I know. I’ve been quite behind with my Korean drama posts. I’ve been a little busy doing some watching of my own. But here I am again, back to regular programming.
Today I’m posting about “Helena’s Promise” which currently airs on ABS-CBN2 every weekdays at 2:30pm. Originally entitled “Scent of a Woman” in Korean, this is perhaps one of the best dramas I have seen in years. I kid you not. It almost toppled “Coffee Prince” from #2 in my Best Korean Dramas of all time list (where “My Name Is Kim Sam-Soon” is #1)
Helena’s Promise focuses on the story of Helena Lee (played by Kim Sun-Ah). She is a wallflower who basically works her ass off and sacrifices everything to achieve whatever little success in her career she has accomplished. When I say everything, I mean everything. Helena is the kind of person who thinks only of the future. She doesn’t care if she works hard now since she thinks it would mean a better career ahead. She scrimps on clothes, make-up, and even vacations because she wants to have huge savings for tomorrow. She has even deferred having a love life because she thinks that it’s too early to think of it now. But all these will change when her old classmate Dr. Oliver Chae (played by Eom Ki-Joon), who is now a doctor, discovers that she has cancer and she has only 6 months to live.
Helena realizes that she has lived only for the future and now she might only have the present. With this in mind, she starts a bucket list (basically, a list of things you want to do before you die). And this bucket list includes falling in love for the first time. This is where William Kang (played by Lee Dong-Wook) enters the picture. As a rich and terribly bored son of the tourist company where Helena works – he is the complete opposite of her. Unlike Helena, he has absolutely nothing to live for. Everything for him is just a matter of convenience. Even his arranged engagement to Camille Lim (played by Seo Hyo-Rim) is just something that he just has to do because he has nothing better to do. But when he meets Helena, he realizes that perhaps there is more to life than just staying alive day by day.
What made me love “Helena’s Promise” is how it pushed the concept of the bucket list to a whole different level. I know this premise has been used and abused by movies and dramas but here – the bucket list is merely a device to reveal more of Helena’s character and to tie the whole story together. More than anything, the story is about celebrating life. Hence we are presented with characters who have such a varied view of life.
When Helena realizes that she only has 6 months to live, she goes on full c’est la vie mode. She lives each day as if it were her last. For now she knows that the future is not as important as the present. This is what attracts William to him. With his boredom with everyday, he finds that Helena has a way of bringing life to his world. She totally disarms him in the way she makes everything and everyday wonderful. Even Dr. Oliver is a statement about life. He treats his patience in a stiff and cold manner because he has always felt detached to life in general despite being such a fine oncologist. To him, keeping people alive is just a job he is good at. And he doesn’t care enough to be blunt about death because he considers it as merely part of living.
Together, these three characters will turn your world upside down. They have a way of lighting up the screen with such pure brilliance. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary love story. This is a love story about life. It is a celebration of what makes us human and what makes us transcend the limited time we have.
I cannot count the times I cried in this drama. I also cannot count the times it made my heart skip a beat. The sincere premise, the fast storytelling, the crisp dialogue, plus the movie-like cinematography makes this such a beautiful drama to watch. There’s even an incredible tango scene (as a tribute to the movie where the drama’s title was inspired with) which is hotter and sexier than any bed scene I’ve ever seen in Korean entertainment. It’s even hotter than that “I’ll love you even if you’re an alien” proposal in Coffee Prince.
And unlike other brilliant dramas that usually end up falling short with the final episode, this is one that doesn’t disappoint. It ends Helena’s life with pathos, with conviction – it ends it with a beginning. And I’ll just let you guys discover what that ending or beginning is.
Thanks to asianovelasko for the video.