There’s something about the effervescence and charm that Yoo In-na brings to a show that’s hard to dislike. In True to Love (originally titled Bo-ra! Deborah), In-ah is at her charming best. This is a show that banks heavily on the charm of its leads: In-na along with an immensely appealing Yoon Hyun-min. For a show that sets out to explore relationships through four different stories, theirs is the only one effectively come through.
A successful dating coach, Bo-ra (In-na) finds her seemingly perfect professional and personal life upended when she discovers her boyfriend Joo-Wan (Hwang Chan-sung) cheating on her. After dreaming about a possible future with him, the world comes crashing down on her shoulders.
Seemingly straightforward-romantic comedies seldom dwell on the aftermath of relationships. But here, we see Bo-ra at her lowest through multiple episodes. She’s grief stricken, engages in bitter arguments with her ex, and goes through immense public humiliation in the aftermath of her relationship. When she seems to be getting better, it takes the simplest of triggers, like even a chance sighting of her ex, to send her spiralling. These episodes make for a tough watch, but if In-na shines when it comes to comedy, she’s equally competent here and you’re left rooting for her to get her life together.
It is in the thick of all the grief and humiliation that Bo-ra gets acquainted with Lee Soo-hyuk (Yoon Hyun-min), a prickly yet kind publisher who takes on Bo-Ra’s next project as an author. Soo-hyuk hasn’t been all too lucky in the romance department either, and this is what the pair initially bond over. He’s quietly fascinated by Bo-ra and her quirks, and becomes an unlikely source of support.
Sure, there are several extremely coincidental run-ins between the two, especially when Bo-ra finds herself in a tight spot, but there’s more quiet solidarity there than anything else. While he’s a quiet presence in her life, it is Bo-ra who ultimately picks herself up after several setbacks. Through voiceovers, we see how her views on love and romance evolve- it almost feels like a new awakening for someone who claims to be an expert in the field.
True to Love (Bo-ra! Deborah)
This isn’t an instant romance and given their past dating histories, the show is at its best when it enters the slow burn territory, and spends considerable time showing us how the two forge a bond. There’s enjoyable banter when they discuss the book Bo-ra works on, ridiculous yet immensely funny writing when Soo-hyuk is helping Bo-ra meet her ex for closure, and of course- some fake dating thrown in for good measure.
After this immensely promising build-up, it is disappointing how the writers flail in the last two episodes. After having shown us how communicative and understanding the two are, an ex is unnecessarily brought back into the picture with full force. One is left wondering why Soo-hyuk is so hesitant to articulate his feelings, and this feels stretched beyond a point.
To their credit though, In-na and Hyun-min have sparkling chemistry, and it is truly a joy to watch their camaraderie. It is also admirable how Hyun-min manages to hold his own with a co-star like In-ah, an actor with great screen presence.
As parallel storylines, we see Bo-ra’s friend Lee Yoo-jeong (a lovely Park So-Jin), and her stuck-in-a-rut marriage with husband Yang Jin-woo (Lee Sang-woo), Bo-ra’s sister Yeon Bo-mi (Kim Ye-ji) and her budding romance with Yang Jin-ho (Koo Jun-Hoe), and Hyun-min’s business partner Han Sang-Jin (Joo Sang-wook) and his generally chaotic love life.
None of these storylines, apart from Bo-mi and the very earnest Jin-ho at times, come anywhere close to that of the lead couple. After a point, you’re actually left wishing for these storylines to quickly end and hoping the leads get more screen time, given that the show is a 14-episode one and things seem rushed towards the end. There are also some baffling writing choices, including an extremely insensitive reference to the holocaust which had absolutely no business being used in the context it was. Also the forced office romance between Jin-woo and a younger colleague is a negative.
Modern relationships have immense potential to translate well on screen, and it is unfortunately not something we get to see too in K-Dramas, given the current obsession with fantasy and thrillers. While True to Love seeks to explore this; the show would have worked better if it solely focussed on the sparking leads.
Maybe a sequel just for them? While Bo-ra has figured out about the path to a great romance, on bouncing back after hitting rock bottom, and having faith in her decision-making, there’s a lot of wisdom she probably has to share on what comes next- being in the relationship she’s always wanted.
All episodes of True to Love (Bo-ra! Deborah) are streaming on Amazon Prime