‘Love to Hate You’ series review: Teo Yoo and Kim Ok-Bin pull through in yet another formulaic K-drama

Netflix’s latest short rom-com might be formulaic, but also manages to refreshingly push the boundaries in several respects, which elevate the show

February 17, 2023 04:27 pm | Updated February 18, 2023 06:24 pm IST

A still from ‘Love to Hate You’

A still from ‘Love to Hate You’ | Photo Credit: Netflix

It has been well established, through several shows over the years, that if the Koreans decide to make a tropey, feel-good K-drama, the formula can seldom fail. It is this formula that the makers of Love to Hate You are also determined to follow to perfection. Enemies to lovers? Check. Contract relationships? Check. Opposites Attract? Check. A mostly brooding male lead waiting to transform into a swoony boyfriend? Check. 

Netflix’s latest short rom-com Love To Hate You might be formulaic, but also manages to refreshingly push the boundaries in several respects, which elevate the show. There’s nothing cute about the way our leads, actor Nam Kang-Ho (Teo Yoo) and Lawyer Yeo Mi-Ran (Kim Ok-Bin) meet. Mi-Ran overhears Kang-Ho when he’s in the middle of a heated rant — trash-talking his female co-star. The superstar might be the ideal charmer onscreen and to the general public but in reality, can’t stand women, and believes that they’re all manipulative and untrustworthy. 

Love to Hate You (Korean)
Cast: Kim OK-Bin, Teo Yoo, Kim Ji-Hoon, Go Won-Hee 
Synopsis: Sparks fly in this tale of opposites-attract, when an actor and a feisty lawyer are forced to date each other 
Director: Kim Jung- Kwon
Writer: Choi Soo-Young
Episodes: 10 

Mi-Ran meanwhile is a worthy opponent. The feisty lawyer, who is also a martial arts expert, doesn’t take punches lying down from the misogynistic, sexist men she encounters. Her experiences with a string of ex-boyfriends who have most often turned out to be cheaters, and growing up in a household headed by her patriarchal father means she has her guard up and is mostly repulsed by the idea of falling in love with the opposite sex. It doesn’t take time before sparks fly, through several ridiculous, yet mostly entertaining circumstances that they find themselves thrown into. 

While sticking to the tropes that come with the genre, Love To Hate You attempts to explore some interesting themes through Mi-Ran’s professional life (she joins a law firm where she’s the first female attorney to be hired) and personal life. She and Choi Soo-Jin (Kim Sung-Ryung), an ageing actress who is embroiled in a controversy surrounding her divorce are among the show’s more interesting characters. They are strong women, going against the tide even in their daily lives, and exposed to the constant scrutiny of a society that’s quick to judge and label women. 

The show’s most enjoyable moments aren’t just thanks to the chemistry between the leads, but the very entertaining bromance between Kang Ho and his close friend and manager Do Won-Jun (a very charming and affable Kim Ji-Hoon). Won-Jun is torn between being a good friend and a manager to Kang-Ho, dealing with his fame and its many complexities. In a show which devotes a huge chunk of screen time to the entertainment industry, characters like Won-Jun and Soo-Jin stand out. After Flower of Evil and Money Heist: Korea - Joint Economic Area, this is a marked departure for Ji-Hoon and he is just as effective onscreen. 

While Teo Yoo is equal parts brooding and charming, true to his character, Ok-Bin shines and overshadows most of her co-stars including him. Hers is a role that often veers into caricature territory and yet, her energy and screen presence comes through. A show like this demands nothing short of perfect chemistry, and the leads don’t fall short - through their evolution from people out to get each other to a couple at the heights of a swoony, whirlwind romance. It is a shame that we have to wait till the fag end of the show, to see their more vulnerable, and communicative sides.

In several of its original shows in Korean, Netflix has been dabbling with the 8 to 12-episode format. Love to Hate You’s willingness to look beyond its familiar premise also becomes one of its drawbacks. At ten episodes, the show escapes the proverbial Episode 11 K-drama slump, but the decent pace doesn’t make up for the often clunky and chaotic writing, especially towards the end. In the hurry to wrap things up through the final episodes, we’re left wanting for more with regard to the relationship of the leads, and the interesting themes the show sets out to ambitiously unpack. The leads carry emotional scars that fuel their initial distrust of the opposite sex, and there’s little time spent on it despite the build-up. 

With fewer breezy, rom-coms releasing over the last few years, there’s a lot to like about an easy, breezy watch like Love To Hate You, especially given that the only other contemporary romance that is currently all the rage is the currently streaming Crash Course in Romance. Fantasy shows, Sageuks (historical dramas), and revenge thrillers aside, sometimes the heart just wants a good old romance that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and where you’re sure that all’s well that ends well. 

Love to Hate you is currently streaming on Netflix

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