WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Due to various personal reasons, a group of Tae-o's friends move into his house, where they experience love, friendship and everything in between.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
My First First Love has been on my list for quite some time; I was keeping it for when I needed a light show. I mean the synopsis made it sound like a show perfect after watching something hectic, like The World of The Married.
But boy, after the first episode I was pleasantly surprised. This show had a lot more going for it than I expected. The characters and stories are so beautifully written that I was invested in each of them, so much so that I delayed finishing the second season for a whole week because I didn't want to say goodbye.
While the series centres on a group of early 20s friends there is a lot about it that can resonate with viewers of any age. The coming-of-age aspect is relatable for the late teens, early 20s and older viewers (I guess I fall into this category). It has the nostalgia of varsity life, navigating first love and making your way in the "real world".
At the centre of the group is Yun Tae-o (Ji Soo), a charming, popular, well-liked guy who the girls at college call "Mr First Love". When he turns 20, he asks his father if he can live at his grandfather's house, where he grew up. It is also close to his heart because it's where he lived with his mom, who has died. He comes from a very wealthy family, but that doesn't define him. He is down to earth, and what you see is pretty much what you get with him.
His best friend is Han Song-i (Jung Chae-yeon). Unlike Tae-o, she's had it quite rough in her young life. Her dad died, their house was repossessed and her mother just up and left her to deal with the mess. She becomes homeless and ends up moving in with Tae-o. Despite the hardships she has faced, she keeps working towards her dream, which is to become an architect, like her dad.
Next to join the house is O Ga-rin (Choi Ri), an heiress from a wealthy family who runs away from home to gain independence. And lastly Choe Hun (Kang Tae-oh) is a college dropout whose father has cut him off financially because he wants to pursue a career as a musical actor.
Rounding out the group of friends is Seo Do-hyeon (Jung Jin-young). He doesn't live in the house with the others, but because of his friendship with Tae-o, he develops a close bond with the rest of the group. His family is struggling financially, and Do-hyeon juggles several jobs to help keep them afloat. He is goal-driven and future-orientated but he doesn't allow himself to dream because of the heavy burden he carries.
The three main themes explored in the show is family, friendship and love. Right off the bat, the grown-ups do some really crappy things: Song-i's mom runs away with a man essentially abandoning her, Hun's father beats him and kicks him out of the house because he wants to be a singer, Ga-rin's mom is controlling, Do-hyeon's dad has a mountain of debt that he has to work off, and Tae-o's dad is hiding a big secret from his son.
Listen, it doesn't matter how old you are, family is supposed to be the place where you are safe. The disappointment and loss of childish innocence when it comes to their parents is heartbreaking to watch for each of these characters. The solace is that they essentially become each other's family.
Throughout the two seasons, friendships are tested between the five: Hun betrays Ga-rin, a love triangle between Tae-o, Song-i, and Do-hyeon threatens to tear their friendship apart. What I loved about this group is that despite what was going on between them, they always showed up for each other. I also appreciated how maturely the characters dealt with the difficulties their relationships encountered.
And lastly, the big theme of first love. I am a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope, and there are two such love stories. In one of the scenes, Hun tells Tae-o he didn't fall for Ga-rin in one go, it was a series of things that made him fall for her (swoon). When Tae-o and Song-i finally admit their feelings for each other, it isn't done with a grand gesture, which I also liked; it was just two friends talking to each other and revealing how they feel. The way their relationship progresses tenderly as they navigate from becoming friends to a couple is so sweet. And if there was ever an award for the most beautiful break-up scene, this series would win it. For Do-hyeon, his first love taught him things about himself that he never knew. He taught him to dream. Although the relationship ended, he grew from it. I loved that there was no resentment from his part and that he could let Song-i go but still maintain a level of friendship with her. And that's the big lesson after all. Love doesn't stifle, it doesn't force feelings; it's about letting someone go even if it will hurt you.
When it comes to the acting, it's tough to single anyone out; they work well as an ensemble cast. Tae-o is the heart of this story while Song-i, I would say, is the brain, and Ga-rin and Hun provide the light comedic moments – together they created magic. If I had to single out one performance, it would be Kang Tae-o's. He brought such depth to Hun's character, who went through the most growth. Beneath the veneer of the jokester, he also delivered some of the most thought-provoking and wise scenes.
My First First Love is an ode to friendship, the families we create that are not bound by blood, and the joy and heartache of first love. If you're looking for a heartwarming series to watch, you won't go wrong with this one.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: