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Autumn in my Heart - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Gaeul donghwa

South Korea 2000

Number of Episodes: 16
Running Time: 52 min.

Drama, Romance

Yun Seok-ho

Song Hye-kyo
Song Seung-heon
Won Bin
Han Na-na
Han Chae-young
Kim Hae-suk
Sunwoo Eun-Sook
Mun Geun-yeong
Jeong Dong-hwan
Choi Woo-hyeok
Lee Ae-jung

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Autumn in my Heart

aka Autumn Tale; Eternal Love; Autumn Fairy Tale

Story: Yun Jun-seo (Choi Woo-hyeok) and Yun Eun-seo (Mun Geun-yeong) are siblings, until Eun-seo is caught in an accident one day and gets a blood test done, which proves that Eun-seo has been switched with the child of Mrs. Choi (Kim Hae-suk) when being a baby. Shin-ae and Eun-seo are switched back, the former family ties are cut under tears of sorrow, and family Yun goes to America with their biological daugther Shin-ae.
Years pass by, until Jun-seo (Song Seung-heon) returns to Korea and visits an old buddy of his, Han Tae-seok (Won Bin). Tae-seok tells Jun-seo about a woman he is interested in, who works as a hotel receptionist. Only later on Jun-seo finds out that this woman is no one else but Eun-seo (Song Hye-kyo). Jun-seo falls in love with Eun-seo, even though he is already engaged to his girlfriend Yumi (Han Na-na). But his new love is also a love without a future, because Jun-seo's parents are against it. After all, Eun-seo is still their daughter in some way.
Thereupon, Tae-seok, who is in love with Eun-seo, gets into an argument with Jun-seo which destroys their friendship, while Shin-ae (Han Chae-young) can't stand Eun-seo, because she is jealous of her. In the end, it's Shin-ae who actually has feelings for Tae-seok. However, things get even more complicated when Eun-seo finds out that she suffers from leucemia and is about to die...

Review: "Autumn in my Heart" is the reason why I avoided Korean drama series up until now. This is a soap opera through and through, which is so much loaden with incredible coincidences, love triangles (that become love polygons eventually), obvious overacting, lots and lots of tears and kitsch everywhere you look. To give the series some credit: It didn't start out that bad. The first half can even be called quite enjoyable, and can score with warmhearted romance and drama. Even though there are already some scenes to be found that show that "Autumn in my Heart" doesn't always know when it's enough of tears, there are still some moments, that can actually be considered nice.
Later on, there are also some moments which can touch us, especially because of the beautiful autumn days and shots of nature. But apart from that we are over and over again animated to groan out loud of annoyance, because of artificial drama. The more the series progresses, the worse it gets. When the story then is also degraded to an illness-of-the-week tale, I normally would have turned off the TV. But for this review I also endured the agony that the rest of the show caused in me...

So, "Autumn in my Heart" does offer a whole bag of melodrama. The main plot of the switched daughter actually sounds quite promising, and the diverse tear-filled insertions are even somewhat moving at the beginning. This is mainly thanks to the great child actors, of whom one is Mun Geun-yeong ("A Tale of Two Sisters", "Innocent Steps"), who was yet unknown by audiences back then, and who takes on the role of Eun-seo. Choi Woo-hyeok also does a good job as her p artner. The two may be siblings, but you still can't overlook that Jun-seo's feelings for Eun-seo are by far exceeding what you'd call love between brother and sister. Therefore, what could be better than to hear that the two actually don't share the same blood!? But then again, it's not that easy. The love between the two will never get the chance to be a fulfilled one. This is where the show starts to get implausible. Naturally, it's very hard to deal with such a situation, but the parents' decision to simply switch their child back, and forget all the years of raising their "daughter", is very heartless. Moreover, it's also everything but realistic, since the parents also suffer a lot from this switching, and would like nothing more than for things to remain as they once were. Sure, doing the right thing in such a situation must be hard, but why do they even have to cut off all family ties remains a mystery...

Years later, Jun-seo returns to his home town. He has a girlfriend, whom he once asked what she would like to be reborn as, whereas she answered that she'd like to be a tree. And this, seemingly, is the only reason why he is engaged to her, as this is the same answer Eun-seo gave him as a child. As a reason Eun-seo stated that then nobody would be able to take her away from home, as her roots would be attached firmly to her beloved ones. How sweet... Und Jun-seo has a woman at his side with whom he has nothing in common, just because she reminded him of Eun-seo in this respect. If this isn't some reason to smack your forehead! But it even gets worse. Yumi, Jun-seo's girlfriend, proves to be incredibly clingy and suicidal. When she realizes that she could lose her boyfriend to Eun-seo, she tries to kill herself and even threatens Jun-seo to commit further attempts, if he would leave her! Thus, it's no surprise that we soon start to develop some real hatred towards this woman, even if it's not imaginable that such a woman could really exist in this form. Yumi somehow always remains a blank sheet and an incredible one at that. She simply serves as another element that is supposed to keep our two main protagonists apart.

Let's talk about the main actors, since there is a big problem here, too: Song Seung-heon. He has the charisma and emotional range of a tree trunk. His wooden facial expressions, if you really want to call it "expression", becomes really annoying with time, and even the tears he manages to squeeze out somehow, never really can convince us. That's also the reason why the love story never could work out for me. Tae-seok, played by Won Bin ("Guns & Talks") is much more likeable than Jun-seo, and also proves to be a true friend. There are certainly many people out there who would have liked to see him get together with Eun-seo, but this is merely a wish that can't come true, natch. What's making Tae-seok so charismatic is his self-sacrificing, later on almost unselfish love for Eun-seo. At the beginning he might seem to be the aggressive type of man, and in fact that's also what makes us detest him at first, but his love for Eun-seo is true and it changes him. The way he tries to win Eun-seo's love and especially his self-sacrificing devotion is worth of envy. He even can give her up eventually, that's how deep his feelings for her are. Of course, he can't really forget about her, and he continues to have her in his heart, which is something he also makes Eun-seo feel oftentimes, but he pretends that he can. From Tae-seok we get to see the warmth that is missing from Jun-seo. And so we have to suffer along with this poor individual, who will never get a Happy End with Eun-seo, even though he would have deserved one throughout the course of the show.

Song Hye-kyo ("Full House", "My Girl and I") had her debut in this series and soon became a real shooting star. Why is pretty simple: She is a natural beauty and has a charisma that you don't get to see every day. Moreover, she also can act quite well. She can only show the latter in the framework of what a soap opera allows her, but that's still enough to convince us that she has some talent.
Yet, this all doesn't change anything. The tearfest really becomes unendurable somewhere throughout. Especially the two mothers, who naturally shed a lot of tears in several never ending scenes of grieving, become quite annoying.
During the first half the plot evolves with a pleasent pacing, even if there isn't much happening all of the time. However, from the second half on, there really isn't anything happening at all. The pacing drags down a lot, and until the end the whole series feels very stretched. The story heads nowhere, and the constant seesaw changing of the characters (at one time Jun-seo leaves Eun-seo, and shortly thereafter he can't leave her side again) becomes ridiculous, eventually. That it becomes especially bad, when there is also a terminal illness striking Eun-seo, is without saying...

The eternal staying of the camera on the faces of the protagonists suffering from lovesickness and psychological agony becomes really awkward and painful, and sometimes you even have to hit the pause-button to get a break from all of this kitsch. As already said, there are some nice outdoor shots with beautiful pictures of autumn, and there is also a good soundtrack - which, however, also becomes repetitive and cheesy after a while. This is what let's you hang on somehow. Nevertheless, the love story, the diverse entanglements and the unbelieveable coincidences never let a doubt that this is a out-of-the-book soap opera. Thus, this is nothing that you need to watch. The emotions and melodrama feels artificial in a way that it becomes really painful. If you want to do yourself a favor, then watch this show only until the second half, and after that simply turn it off. You will get a lot more out of it this way. If it weren't for the promising beginning, the series would have gotten a worse rating, that's for sure. And, by the way, as it is supposed to be in a Korean tearfest soap opera, you also shouldn't expect a happy end.
"Autumn in my Heart" is a show for housewives, who either have nothing else to do in the afternoon or who actually like kitsch. I certainly don't fall into this category and I'm glad that I can now leave this series behind me...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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