Beautiful World Review: Episode 1
What would you do if you suddenly found a member of your family in the hospital, fighting for his or her life? What if you had no possible explanation of how he/she got hurt and no one around you was willing to find out? With the premiere of JTBC’s Beautiful World, we enter the world of a confused and heartbroken family dealing with these questions as a loved one suffers a tragic fate.
The show surprises us as soon as it opens—a boy is falling from a high-rise in slow motion. A soft ballad plays as he falls several floors on the night of a beautiful lunar eclipse, the bloody moon reflected in the pool of his blood. This series of shots could almost pass as poetic if it wasn’t so utterly horrifying. Within the first ten minutes, the boy, PARK SUN-HO (Nam Da-reum), is in the hospital as his mom, KANG IN-HA (Choo Ja-hyun), and dad rush to his side, baffled and heartbroken. I wasn’t expecting to be thrown headfirst in the middle of a tragedy, but here I am.
The editing and narrative style of the show stands out with moments like the thud of Sun-ho’s fall being perfectly timed to his dad, PARK MOO-JIN (Park Hee-soon), pulling the brakes in his car. It makes for a jolting contrast—one accident has been averted right as another has occurred. Clips from the perfectly ordinary morning of Sun-ho’s accident and his mom’s narration about now normally that day had begun for them are cleverly woven in and out of the scenes of his parents in the hospital.
Throughout the episode, sepia-tinted flashbacks of the family’s happier moments cut into the grey-tones of the hospital. Details like the family’s adorable bakery shop named ‘HoHo’ after Sun-ho and his sister PARK SU-HO (Kim Hwan-hee), their banter over breakfast, and the family enjoying a soccer game together are thrown in, highlighting just how much their lives are about to change because of this one incident.
While Sun-ho’s family deals with the aftermath of his accident, the second family in the show —OH JOON-SEOK’s (Seo Dong-hyun) family—seem to be behaving rather strangely. Joon-seok’s dad, OH JIN-PYO (Oh Man-seok), insisting on “resolving” the situation without the media getting wind of it while his mom, SEO EUN-JOO (Cho Yeo-jeong), looking as if she’s seen a ghost… I can smell the shady things all the way from here. Despite being friends with Sun-ho and his mom, Joon-seok and his mom only seem to want to ignore and forget the incident. Eun-joo’s dream towards the end very strongly implies that she might have been on the scene during the time of the accident.
Throughout the show, several hints that another party besides Sun-ho was on the rooftop that night are dropped—the door to the rooftop banging shut after he fell, his missing belongings, and the fact that he asked his mom if he could skip school. Coupled with Joon-seok and his group of friends trying to convince themselves that Sun-ho didn’t jump because of “their game,” and one of the moms finding a video of possible bullying on her son’s phone, it’s safe to assume that something went very, very wrong involving these boys on the day of the accident. And I’m scared to find out what, because the way Joon-seok spins lies to the cops is rather sinister coming from a middle schooler.
The show drew a lot of comparisons with SKY Castle because of overlapping themes of school violence and influential families protecting their kids, but after this episode I can say that they both looks and feels markedly different. Certain moments, however, reminded me of the callousness of upper-class families that SKY Castle so aptly depicted. Like Sun-ho’s school immediately reducing his accident to a suicide attempt, the parents calling in with demands to resume classes even in light of such a tragedy, and a mom struggling to reveal evidence against her son. The only people in the school who seem to be somewhat bothered by the incident are Sun-ho’s homeroom teacher and a girl called Dong-hee, to whom Sun-ho was friendly.
Overall, I enjoyed the camerawork and narration in this episode, which seemed to imitate the dazed, haphazard thinking process of a child’s parent going through these traumatic and painful events. Moo-jin had fewer emotional outbursts than In-ha but his tortured eyes stayed with me for a long time. I was looking forward to more scenes with Su-ho, since I love Kim Hwan-hee, but she was underutilized in this episode.
This much is obvious—the truth behind Sun-ho’s fall is not as straightforward as it looks, considering how many people seem to be invested in covering up the details about the day. With his school set on spinning the suicide angle and the police being dismissive of the parents’ concerns, it seems like Sun-ho’s family are in for a long struggle before they get to the bottom of what happened to him.
Beautiful World Review: Episode 2
One tragic incident seems to have opened a Pandora’s box of troubles for Sun-ho’s family. As if their only son being on the cusp of life and death wasn’t enough, both the school authorities and the cops display a strange unwillingness to consider their concerns. I could feel their frustration as they desperately tried to connect the dots between their son and a possible suicide attempt. Despite so much about that night being off—from Sun-ho’s missing possessions to the the school’s broken CCTVs—no one seems to want to properly investigate this case. On top of everything, Sun-ho’s parents have to deal with awful rumors about their personal lives. If I was Sun-ho’s dad, I wouldn’t have stopped Mom from giving the neighbors an earful.
Joon-seok’s mom seems much more involved in this incident than I had previously suspected. That button she fished out from her coat pocket just when Sun-ho’s mom notices that her son’s school blazer is missing a similar button… oh boy. The woman is so visibly nervous at this point that I’m surprised no one else is noticing it. She almost gave herself away when she visited the bakery and seemed overly interested in what Su-ho was trying to unearth about her brother’s movements that day.
Later, when visiting Sun-ho in the hospital, for a moment it looked as if she would yank the boy’s oxygen tubes out. The call she made after her hospital visit sounded like another teacher is helping her cover up what is now looking like an elaborate attempt to murder Sun-ho. Joon-seok’s dad is also giving every indication that he knows more about his wife’s involvement in this thing than he is letting on, especially with how far he is going to keep the news from spreading. This family is really creeping me out.
Su-ho’s brawl with a classmate at school gave me the Kim Hwan-hee screen time I was craving in the first episode. So far, she seems to be acing her role as a teenager, angry at the unfairness her family is dealing with. And she has my full sympathies. Luckily, she goes into full detective mode to track her brother’s movements on the day of the accident (all hail modern technology) and is able to find more leads than the cops in this show have bothered to.
The scene outside the flower shop Sun-ho had visited with Sun-ho’s side sepia and Su-ho’s side grey was as gorgeous as it was sad. As Su-ho asks her brother who he bought the flowers for, we get the first interaction between the siblings, but it isn’t even real. I’m not crying.
I liked that this incident gave us a tad more insight into the parents’ personalities—Dad is constantly apologetic and non-confrontational, while Mom is the kind to stand her ground and stick up for the children. The amount of gossip this poor woman has to endure just because she comes off as “aggressive” for speaking her mind could not be a better example of how sexist our societies are. And while I do wish, like Su-ho, that Dad would not be so apologetic when he’s clearly the one being wronged, I understand that sometimes people adopt certain behaviors just to get by in life. I kind of feel sad for Dad, but he’s going to have to grow out of his pacifist ideals if he plans to take on Joon-seok’s family as well as everyone else working to bury the truth. In this regard, I’m looking forward to his character development.
Regrets have a way of creeping back into one’s life, especially when your kid is fighting for his life, and the show doesn’t hold back from letting us feel the desperation Sun-ho’s parents are going through. My heart broke as Dad sat in his car, defeated after another failed attempt at getting the police to reinvestigate, wondering why he ignored Sun-ho’s call that day. Mom turns up at school hoping to get some new information, but of course, Joon-seok and friends give her nothing to go on. The impunity with which Joon-seok makes up lies scares me a little—for someone so young, he sure has the fake crying bit down to a tee. The cruel face of capitalism is on full display when instead of providing Sun-ho’s mom with information, the Principal guy just babbles on and on about upcoming exams.
With the moms of the other boys in Joon-seok’s group gathering to discuss the bullying video, I assumed that there would be an attempt to cover up that incriminating file. What I certainly wasn’t expecting was a sudden reveal, and to Sun-ho’s mom no less! I know we’re just two episodes in, but I would like this family’s suffering to end, like, yesterday.