K-drama ● Review: Sweet Home

English Title: Sweet Home

Korean Title: 스위트홈

Director(s): Lee Eung-bok

Screenwriter(s): Heung So-ri, Kim Hyung-min & Park So-ri

Studio: Studio Dragon Released: 2020–2021

Runtime: 10 episodes, ~1h each.

Starring: Song Kang, Lee Jin-wook, Lee Do-hyun, Go Min-si, Park Gyu-young, Kim Sang-ho, Go Yoon-jung, Kim Gab-soo, Lee Si-young


My Verdict: Whilst it is another zombie apocalypse survival-horror drama, the series starts off with a strong atmosphere. The plot is lacking but there are likable characters.


Sweet Home

● Based on the webtoon of the same name by Kim Carnby and Hwang Young-chan, the series follows high school student Cha Hyun-soo (Song Kang) who moves into a new apartment building after the death of his family. He is a shut-in gamer. One day, the world collapses due to what is basically a variation of a zombie apocalypse.


● At least the first few episodes capture the atmosphere of the webtoon, particularly the initial intrigue since neither Hyun-soo nor the other residents in the apartment know what is going on.


● There are certain conveniences that some viewers may not accept. Like the webtoon, even though society has collapsed, there is still power and running water. That is possible if the power plants and water treatment plants and compressors have been secured. In terms of storytelling, this allows the residents to intermittently communicate with others on the internet or view an emergency broadcast, an obvious means of exposition.


● The sense of isolation is generally well-executed even if the techniques used are apparent. For example, although other tall apartment buildings are visible in exterior shots, it is always done in such a way that the apartment building seems like the tallest one in the area. This is not realistic as it is presented as a typical apartment building which, in Asian cities, are usually right next to other apartments of the same design.


● One of the strengths of the series is the mystery regarding the whole situation as well as the thematic consistency: the irony of a shut-in who has to leave his apartment to get food and interact with others in order to survive. That tension diminishes as the series progress but without necessarily having something else take its place. In that sense, the plot is lacking.


● The above being the case, the other strengths of the series are the characters and their relationships. Most of the cast do a good job with their characters and their relationships, which is difficult and rarely done well especially with so many main characters. As expected, veteran Kim Sang-ho does a wonderful job as the disabled ex-military engineer Han Du-sik.


● Kim Kap-soo, another veteran, plays the terminally-ill Ahn Gil-seob with an interesting dynamic with his nurse/caretaker Park Yoo-ri played by newcomer Go Yoon-jung.


● Relative newcomer Park Gyu-young does well with Yoon Ji-soo, the bass guitarist who lives next door to Hyun-soo. Her friendship (with romantic undertones) with Jung Jae-heon played by Kim Nam-hee, the religious-man-with-the-sword trope, could easily be cheesy but it’s balanced well enough.


● The one weak character is Seo Yi-kyung, the “badass chick” who is some former special forces and former firefighter. If anyone can play the character, then it’s Lee Si-young. And Lee is convincing enough but the character is conveniently written as all-powerful. As a character not featured in the webtoon, one has to wonder whether this is Netflix pushing the modern-West feminist agenda, and failing.


● And yes, I noticed the masonic all-seeing eye in the opening credits. Very subtle there, Netflix.


● Although the webtoon first started in October 2017, it is interesting that the premise involves circumstances that force residents into a (self-imposed) lockdown.


● Overall, the series starts off strongly but the plot is rather lacking. Perhaps it is saving the more interesting elements for the second season. In any case, the series is held together by likable characters and their relationships.

 

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