I really enjoyed Autumn in My Heart so I decided to give another installment in Yoon Seok-ho’s Endless Love series a try. I’m not a fan of melodrama though, and Spring Waltz reminded me why. At times you feel like you’re trapped watching an hour long karaoke music video. I found myself fast forwarding through many of the musical montages where the main actors sat around brooding about situations that could easily have been solved with open communication.
In summary, Spring Waltz is about two children who end up forging a friendship that starts off like a brother-sister kinship, but evolves into love. Before they can address those feelings though, they’re separated in a series of events which makes it nearly impossible for them to recognize each other when they meet again as adults. The lead love interest, Eun-young, has an air of naivete and spunk which is portrayed fairly well by Han Hyo-joo, although she has a limited range of facial expressions. I much preferred the innocence and fiery determination of her child actor counterpart.
The lead actor, Seo Do-young, was a huge disappointment. He should have stayed a model, because that’s essentially all he does in this series, lounge around as if he was shooting a magazine ad for Calvin Klein or wander the streets of Seoul as if the sidewalk was a catwalk in a dreary CF. As Yoon Jae-ha, a classical pianist, he comes off as one dimensional and basically a total wimp. He hardly ever stands up for Eun-young and is passive whenever she needs his help. Honestly, you can’t lift a piano finger to defend the girl you love? Every time a character confronts him about Soo-ho’s past, Do-young literally mumbles his lines while staring at the ground. When they finally get their happy ending, you really have to wonder if he’s the best Eun-young could do in the marriage department. For a girl who’s suffered so much, you want the best for her, and Jae-ha hardly measures up to her hard working, self-sacrificing personality.
How lovely is Austria in winter? My favorites scenes were definitely the ones shot outside Korea. The train ride was especially magical and gave me hope at the beginning of the series that our leads would have some actual chemistry, but once she meets Philip (Daniel Henney), the other side of the love triangle, I started rooting for him even if he did come off as slightly rapey in his aggressive attempts to woo her. For awhile, every line of resistance that came from Eun young was met by Philip saying “it’s okay.”
Daniel Henney’s monologue in episode 10 was extremely painful to sit through. The man is attractive but definitely has his acting limitations. When he plays the voice of reason, he comes across as a stoned frat boy trying to dispense advice to his bros. But at least he’s interesting to watch and sports a different piece of eyewear in nearly every episode to compliment his array of suave outfits.
Speaking of eyewear …
For once I actually felt sorry for the “evil” character, Song Yi-na (played by Lee So-yeon). I wasn’t exactly rooting for her but I could empathize with how she felt and think she reacted like any normal human being would in her circumstances. Unlike the usual “scheming” female characters in kdrama, she’s not conventionally attractive. She’s got this nerdy, cute librarian appeal when she wears glasses, and when she takes them off you definitely take a second look. She also displays a depth of emotion that’s rarely seen in typical evilbots.
Mediocre acting aside, let’s address the disjointed cinematography. At times we get these breathtaking views of Europe and gorgeous overhead shots of the flowers on Cheongsando. Other times we get these crazy, wild shots that are supposed to convey the characters’ emotions, but look more like scenes out of an artsy student film.
As a piano player myself, I enjoyed the classical score but was amused that shots of Jae Ha’s hands showed that he had long finger nails (pianists always trim their nails to avoid clacking the keys.) In the last episode when Jae Ha performs his Spring Waltz concert, you can clearly see several empty seats in the dingy auditorium. After his performance in a magnificent Austrian concert hall, he seems to have taken a step down in performance venues during the height of his career. There are plenty of other holes in the convoluted storyline, but as long as you suspend your disbelief you should be able to enjoy a scenic journey through a tortured love story.
Pros: First few episodes are quite excellent, and the picturesque scenery will lull you into a dreamlike state. Daniel Henney’s charisma and tight bod will keep you watching until the last episode, even if that means fast forwarding through all the time consuming flashbacks.
Cons: Other than Henney and the child actors, no one else is really that interesting to watch. The two leads have a tepid chemistry. Neither of them are particularly likeable either. The classical music isn’t that memorable, which is a shame, since you’re stuck listening to classical piano in every episode.