When I Was the Most Beautiful is about a woman (Im Soo Hyang) trying to heal from the pain of her past who gets involved in a complicated love triangle with two brothers (Ha Suk Jin and Ji Soo).
Im Soo Hyang plays Oh Ye Ji. She is a student teacher who aspires to be a ceramic artist. A difficult past has left her feeling alone in the world, but then she meets two brothers who develop feelings for her. Her life then takes a complicated turn.
Ji Soo is Seo Hwan. He’s a high school student who falls for his new student teacher, Ye Ji. He has a pure heart, and he sees her pain and struggles and wants nothing more than to be able to help her.
Ha Suk Jin is Seo Jin. He’s a race car driver who is arrogant and determined, but he also suffers from a traumatic incident from his past. He immediately takes interest in Ye Ji and decides to pursue her despite his brother’s feelings.
When I Was the Most Beautiful is the definition of an angsty melodrama. It’s incredibly soapy and filled with tropes. And I thoroughly enjoyed it! This is not going to be a drama for everyone though. It has a serious love triangle that is complicated on so many levels. Of course, when is two brothers being in love with the same woman ever not complicated?
This story is not really a happy one, and our main characters are quite tortured throughout the drama. They face so many difficult challenges as well as not always making the best decisions. If you’re easily frustrated by lack of communication, pushing away those you love for a variety of complex reasons, and a healthy dose of dishonesty, you probably won’t enjoy this. This is not a fairy tale, and the relationships are extremely messy.
The way the drama was executed really reminded me of older melodramas. The melo factor was so high along with it utilizing music a lot. It featured a lot of emotional scenes that solely use music in the background with no dialogue for the entire song.
This was much more common in older dramas, and it isn’t used quite as much today. As long as you don’t find lingering on these types of scenes boring, which I generally don’t, it adds an extra layer of emotion.
I’m a fan of both Ji Soo and Ha Suk Jin and was concerned I wouldn’t know who to root for. That ended up not being the case at all for me though. I was always rooting for Ji Soo as Hwan.
Hwan is just so pure and has the best intentions towards Ye Ji. He does so much for her as well as gives up so much for her. Ji Soo does what he does best and pines for her from afar a whole lot. It was hard to watch knowing just how much he cared for her and everything he had done for her.
Jin on the other hand was so arrogant and relentless that I had some trouble connecting with him. I did feel for the pain he had suffered in his past, but his disregard for Hwan’s feelings was hard to take. He is self-admittedly very selfish, and that was evident.
He is determined to save Ye Ji no matter what and sort of bulldozes his way into her life. That aside, he does genuinely care for her and accepts her for who she is, past and all. He is a powerful man and is able to really help her.
There are plenty of interesting characters in the drama. Some are quite likable while others just aren’t. We also get a classic absolutely horrible aunt whose life purpose is to ruin Ye Ji’s life. This is a tough character to handle because of how awful she is.
There’s a meddling mother, the kind father, the toxic ex-girlfriend, an estranged mother, and so many more. We really get a variety of characters with this one and lots of relationship dynamics to explore.
The show features some truly gorgeous scenery. Beautiful settings that are framed wonderfully are used throughout the drama. It is such a pretty series to look at. The soundtrack is quite lovely too with lots of gorgeous piano music used in the background throughout.
At its heart, When I Was the Most Beautiful is a story of star-crossed lovers. I personally liked the chemistry between Ye Ji and Hwan much better than between her and Jin. Initially, they have a naturalness to them while Ye Ji and Jin just seemed forced. I know she loved Jin in a way, but I just didn’t really feel it.
Of course, Ye Ji married Jin and joined the family. Hwan was left as a pining brother-in-law. But then Jin disappears and is presumed dead for years. This really complicated the feelings between Ye Ji and Hwan.
We knew Hwan openly had feelings for her, but I thought it was clear that Ye Ji had feelings for him too. She just buried them for a variety of reasons. First, he was her student, and then he was her brother-in-law, which basically makes the relationship forbidden.
Ye Ji really seemed to disregard Hwan’s feelings in every way and constantly pushed him away. It was so sad that she couldn’t even seem to maintain any kind of relationship with him. Emotions were always very high between this pair. Even with Jin gone, they just couldn’t get on the same page.
Then Jin shows back up years later, now paralyzed from a racing accident which is what caused him to stay hidden. And well, the happy reunion is short lived. Secrets he has been hiding for these past years as well his suspicions of Ye Ji and Hwan cause a major rift between him and Ye Ji.
Honestly, he was pretty obnoxious. I could understand his reasons for staying hidden, though I disagreed with them, but his attitude towards Ye Ji was just terrible. She spent years alone pining for Jin and not wanting to believe he could be dead. In one of her lowest moments, she fled to Jeju Island, the place of their honeymoon, very distraught.
Hwan eventually tracked her down out of concern. They did spend time together, and Hwan did try to kiss her. Yes, she had at least some spark with him, but she quickly shut it down and proceeded to basically end her relationship with Hwan. She stayed faithful to Jin.
And how was she rewarded? She was questioned at every turn and forced to defend herself. All while Jin had tons of secrets of his own including spending all of those years in hiding with his toxic ex-girlfriend, Carry (Hwang Seung Eon). He really was something!
After much pain and heartbreak, Ye Ji, Jin, and Hwan are forced apart. Ye Ji and Jin just couldn’t reconcile, and despite Ye Ji admitting her feelings for Hwan, they couldn’t be together.
They all go on a hard journey of growth and do come out better at the end, but it was quite sad that in order for that to happen they had to go their separate ways. I personally found their ending fitting for the story we watched play out. It was very bittersweet.
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When I Was the Most Beautiful is an incredibly emotional watch that is filled with angst and heartbreak. It’s a long, torturous road for our characters, and we get a front seat to it all. It’s not a happy journey, but it’s a poignant one that left an impression.
My Rating: 8/10
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