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K-drama ● Review: Daily Dose of Sunshine

English Title: Daily Dose of Sunshine

Korean Title: 정신병동에도 아침이 와요 [lit. Morning comes to the mental ward also]

Director(s): Lee Jae-gyu

Screenwriter(s): Lee Nam-gyu, Oh Bo-hyun, Kim Da-hee

Studio: SLL, Kim Jong-hak Production

Released: 2023

Runtime: 12 episodes, 52m – 1h 12m each.

Starring: Park Bo-young, Yeon Woo-jin, Jang Dong-yoon, Lee Jung-eun, Yoo Ji-su, Lee Sang-hee, Chang Ryul, Lee Yi-dam

My Verdict: Plot follows nurse working in the psychiatric ward. Good balance in tone. Good performances. Some structural clumsiness but a decent series.

Daily Dose of Sunshine

● Based on the webtoon of the same name by Lee Ra-ha, the plot follows Jung Da-eun (Park Bo-young), a third-year nurse who transfers from internal medicine to the psychiatric ward.

● Mental health is obviously the focus of the series with romantic relationships somewhat secondary in terms of screen time. This is not a bad thing, it works. And there are more than enough characters to keep things fresh.

● For example, there is the mandatory love triangle between Jung Da-eun, Dong Go-yoon (Yeon Woo-jin), a doctor working in a different department, and Song Yu-chan (Jang Dong-yoon), her childhood friend. There is also the relationship between fellow nurse Min Deul-re (Lee Yi-dam) and Hwang Yeo-hwan (Chang Ryul), one of the doctors in the psychiatric ward.

● There is, as expected, the “patient of the week” format with their particular issues and implications. Breaking up those episode storylines are the character and relationship arcs for the series with some episodes having merely one or two scenes on these relationships. This is arguably a little clumsy structurally but this is mostly not a big problem because most episodes are well-executed. (More on that later.)

Jung Da-eun (Park Bo-young) and Dong Go-yoon (Yeon Woo-jin)
Jung Da-eun (Park Bo-young) and Dong Go-yoon (Yeon Woo-jin)

● In terms of episode structure, the long background expositions regarding the patients are also a little clumsy structurally. These are necessary and there is probably no better way to do it but such long expositions take the viewer out of the present and away from the other main characters for too long. It is mostly not jarring but it is noticeable.

● A mitigating factor is the visual effects and transitions used in these background expositions that help the storytelling.

● As someone who has not suffered all the conditions shown, I cannot comment on how realistically they are portrayed. Generally, the overall tone is mostly balanced. It tries to be bright, positive and occasionally comical without belittling or trivializing mental health issues, but also dark and serious enough without being tacky. Generally, the performances along with the visuals render these conditions and associated issues believable for dramatic purposes.

● One example worthy of mention is the patient Kim Seo-wan (Noh Jae-won), a young man who has suffered many failures despite his efforts and has subsequently retreated from reality, escaping into a game-inspired fantasy world. Escapism due to failure is something most if not all of us do to some degree so his case is relatable. Noh Jae-won’s performance is strong: his cheerfulness, sensitivity, and depression when he realizes his circumstances make the pathos as strong as it is convincing.

Kim Seo-wan (Noh Jae-won)
Kim Seo-wan (Noh Jae-won)

● As mentioned above, the scenes for character and relationship arcs are sparsely distributed throughout. Whilst this avoids overdoing them, it becomes too clumsy in the last four episodes. As such, the progression toward the conclusion is too convenient. The series does not require more episodes, just that episodes 8 to 12, particularly episode 12, should be better structured.

● Some of the imagery is interesting. The opening credits begin with a large eye. Is it an innocent reference to eyes being the “window to the soul” or the occult all-seeing eye? Da-eun’s house has a church behind it so there is a cross above her house in many shots. These images are not consistently utilized to elaborate on whatever themes/messages the producers may have in mind.

● Thematically, whilst the treatment of mental illness is mostly balanced, there is a deliberate emphasis that anyone can suffer it. That is true enough but it is on a few occasions overdone. Also, there is sometimes an emphatic approval of medication. Even if medication is great and pharmaceutical companies are trustworthy *cough*, it is a little off-putting. Either way, it should merely be presented as “that’s how things are today” for the sake of realism.

● Despite some structural clumsiness, the series strikes a good balance in tone and there are relatable characters with decent performances. It is overall a decent series that does not rely on Park Bo-young and the likes of her to carry it.


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