‘Thirty-Nine’ K-Drama review: A moving, gentle reminder of being present and following one’s dreams

Written by Yoo Yong Ah and directed by Kim Sang Ho, the K-Drama goes beyond the friendship dynamic among women, to explore life at an age they no longer fear other people’s opinions

April 28, 2022 05:02 pm | Updated 05:02 pm IST

A still from ‘Thirty Nine’

A still from ‘Thirty Nine’ | Photo Credit: Netflix

After Crash landing On You, Something In The Rain, anything with Son Ye-jin in the cast goes to my watchlist. The same goes with Jeon Mi-do after Hospital Playlist. The two play the leads in JTBC’s latest series Thirty-Nine with Kim Ji-hyun. Thirty-Nine is the story of three women friends, all 39-year-old, navigating life with love, laughter and emotional turmoil.

Apart from my two favourite actors, one scene in the promo made me decide on watching it — the three friends in their full hiking gear decide to make a u-turn and settle for baeksu (drinks) because a sign reads ‘beware of bees’ and one of them adds she sprained her ankle during golf. 

But if you are expecting a completely light-hearted fun watch and no tears, be warned: it is not. 

Written by Yoo Yong Ah and directed by Kim Sang Ho, Thirty-Nine goes beyond the friendship dynamic among the women to explore life at an age where men/women no longer fear other people’s opinions and perhaps do what they couldn’t when younger. They also set about finding love ‘naturally’, without hiding the fine lines that slowly begin to show up on their face.  

In the series, Son Yi -jin plays Cha Mi Do, a cosmetologist who declares she wants to take a sabbatical to play golf. Jeon Mi-do plays Jeong Chan-young, an acting teacher who struggles to teach actors to emote; Kim Ji-hyun plays Jang Joo-hee who is stuck in a thankless job as a cosmetic consultant. 

The drama also throws in a complicated relationship between two ex-lovers; one that others could mistake for an extramarital affair. 

A still from ‘Thirty Nine’

A still from ‘Thirty Nine’ | Photo Credit: Netflix

There is also an exploration of unkind and rude opinions on adoption; depicting how an adopted child can accept her ‘adopted’ status comfortably (though the father adopted her for his political gain) and win over her sibling and adopted family. .

While a bit of romance further peps up the single girls’ lives, like most other K-dramas, this too subtly highlights the importance of health checkups. 

As the story gradually unfolds by the second episode, tears roll down your eyes when you realise that one of them is suffering from the fourth stage of pancreatic cancer; It is instead due to the desperation of the friend who cannot bear to think of losing a friend. In one moving scene, grief expressed in the form of anger pushes Cha Mi-do to go crying to Jeong Chan-young’s former lover Kim Jin-seok (played by Lee Moo-saeng). 

From the second episode onwards the series is about making Jeong Cha-young ‘the happiest terminally ill patient,’ which they eventually realise is not so easy after all.

I kid you not, after this you will pick up your phone to contact your BFFs to remind them that you love them. However, Thirty-Nine is no tear-jerker. You laugh more than you cry. The emotional struggle each of the characters — including the men (in support roles) — go through is a reminder that no matter how much one smiles, everyone is fighting a battle within.

Episode after episode is a reminder of being present for your loved one when needed and to follow one’s dreams.

Apart from the story, it is a joy to see the clothes and styling. Yeon Woo-jin as Cha Mi-do’s boyfriend Kim Seon-woo does a wonderful job as a supportive boyfriend and stands his ground for his sister and lover’s adopted status. Jeong Cha-young as the helpless man stuck between his marriage and ex-lover will want every woman to support him without knowing whether they should root for the wife or ex-lover.  

Thirty-Nine ends on a happy note reminding everyone that though one will be missed in his or her absence, life goes on.

Thirty-Nine is currently streaming on Netflix

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