I have my fair share of odd movies and series that I have watched, but nothing comes close to being as frustratingly peculiar as The School Nurse Files. It was everything I had never expected before I binge-watched the whole series in a night. Before its premiere, I had seen the promotional poster and the hype it was getting on social media, not to mention the teasers and trailers from Netflix. I thought it would be another one of those romantic-comedy series set in a fantasy world of jellies with quirky, fun, and optimistic characters. I pictured light vibes and relaxing moments—or at least that is what I expected based on the teaser videos before. Boy, have I ever been more wrong in my whole life.
In my defense, anyone who would have seen the the brightly colored jellies and the plastic, rainbow lightsaber-type sword and BB gun in the trailer would think the same. And unless you attempt to research the drama before you decide to proceed, you are in for quite a shock. Everything—and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING—about this show was dark, both literally and figuratively. I am going to try my best to give as few spoilers as I can, but given the premise of the story, some spoilers might be necessary.
The six-episode fantasy series follows a newly hired school nurse who has the supernatural ability of being able to see remnants of human emotions take the forms of jellies. Some jellies are harmless, but some can infect humans and become dangerous. Nurse Ahn Eun-young, played by Jung Yu-mi (Live), teams up with another teacher in the school, Hong In-pyo, played by Nam Joo-hyuk (The Light in Your Eyes), to protect the students and uncover the truth behind the chaos. The mystery is set in a school where the jellies gather and wreck havoc, explained in the first few episodes as a manifestation of deaths due to unrequited love.
In the past, those with broken hearts would go drown in a pond where the school stands at present, but more horrible deaths are unveiled in the later episodes. The concept of the series is messed up in a way that is magically chaotic. Even the cinematography leans towards darker tones—from the colors to the backgrounds—possibly to symbolize the story’s dark plot. The school is built on an unfortunate location and feeds on the energy of the children. Even the music in the show is oddly satisfying, sounding like something from a children’s movie where you can hear laughing and crying simultaneously, thus further amplifying the creepy aura.
The characters in the show are equally strange as well. You can never predict what they will do next, how they will react to certain situations, and why things suddenly happen out of nowhere. Jung Yu-mi is impressively creepy at times and is able to establish an odd chemistry with her co-star Nam Joo-hyuk, although not of the romantic kind. I am not disappointed about this because, after all, the focus of the story was not on the romance but on the mystery. Although, I am quite disappointed with Yoo Teo‘s (Money Game) character McKenzie. He was a potentially strong character, and could’ve made a great antagonist for Nurse Eun-young but was scraped off after an episode or two. He lacked the character build-up, but Yoo gave an impressive performance in a short time span.
The story only becomes stranger and more confusing as it progresses. The fast-paced narrative adds to the confusion, and some elements are left unexplained. For those who have not read the novel, like me, this will understandably be a headache. I had to watch the series one more time to understand all the details, but it becomes more intriguing on second watch. The story is bizarre and bewildering, but everything is still tinged with magic in a way that makes you unable to stop watching. I was a bit frustrated at the cliffhanger ending, but I guess it succeeds in building enough curiosity to look forward to a second season.
I was unsure whether to assume if there are more characters who can see the jellies, since some of them appeared for a brief moment and were not explained. Nurse Eun-young even attempted to reconcile with some ghosts from her past (literal ghosts), but I failed to see the relevance it adds to building up the story. Aside from the colorful bulbs, there were also ghosts roaming around the school. In the second half, more new elements are added to the show; from turf wars for dominance in the school and two students being in a same-sex relationship, to more horrifying discoveries made by Eun-young and In-pyo.
The part where Nurse Eun-young and In-pyo finally worked open the stone—which seemed to represent a gateway to another world—and let out a monster who destroyed some parts of the school was very odd. Both characters just stared at each other while chaos continued around them, and then proceeded to nonchalantly walk away from the scene, as if nothing odd had happened. Some of the characters had a justifiable ending, but some were just left hanging.
If I had to describe my experience with the series in one word, I would choose—weird. It’s the simplest term I can think of. I was just straight-up baffled the entire time, to the point where I can’t even decide if I was satisfied, because the experience of watching this show was completely out of the ordinary. I would recommend this show to people who like quirky shows that really challenge the viewers. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are still a variety of Netflix original K-dramas you can chose from. I had to play some parts of certain episodes several times to be able to keep up with the story progression, so if you are an impatient watcher, I suggest you choose another show.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!