Queen of Tears

2024 - South Korea

Review by Jennifer AJ

In this romcom/melodrama hybrid, a Seoul heiress and an ordinary lawyer from the countryside fell in love and got married in the wedding of the century. Years later, the marriage has soured into bitter resentments. Just as divorce is impending, an unexpected crisis strikes and forces the two to rediscover their feelings for each other.

Airing on Netflix simultaneous to its South Korean broadcast, the series has consistently topped the Netflix Global Top 10 list since its early March debut. This proves once again the domination of Korean dramas all over the world. Indeed, Queen of Tears has all the makings of a hit. It’s the complete package of what defines a true K-drama: toe curling romance, sweet chemistry between two of the most well regarded actors in South Korea, and the perfect blend of comedy and tears. 

Lending more credentials is series writer Park Ji Eun, who was behind the massively successful Crash Landing on You and My Love from The Stars. The drama marks her third collaboration with leading man Kim Soo Hyun, perhaps the country’s equivalent to Ryan Gosling. 

In the drama, Kim plays Baek Hyun Woo, a brilliant lawyer from a humble background who wound up marrying the only daughter of Korea’s richest conglomerate, Hong Hae In (Kim Ji Won). But life as a rich family’s son-in-law soon becomes too dehumanizing for Hyun Woo. Just as he’s contemplating divorce, Hae In brings shocking news that complicates matters. 

Not unlike the writer’s last work, there is plenty of glitzy portrayal of South Korea’s wealthiest, courtesy of Hae In’s family, juxtaposed with the humble village life of Hyun Woo’s. In its light-hearted way, the drama offers a fascinating look at South Koreans' fixation with money, luxury and social strata. Especially the latter, given that the plot is loosely based on real life stories of South Korean heiresses and their doomed marriages to the so-called commoners. Hopefully, with a better ending in the drama, of course. 

The drama spices it up by weaving in a “second chance love” trope and a thrilling storyline involving a hostile company takeover. Mind you, the machination is more Empire than Succession – in other words, suspend your disbelief – but the soap opera ridiculousness will keep you glued to your seats in a “tear your hair out” kinda way. 

For frequent K-drama watchers, the series is loaded with cheeky references to past K-dramas and well known celebrity tidbits - like the fact that the two lead actors from Crash Landing, Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin, fell in love and got married after making the drama together. The writer also loves to poke fun at past dramas, including her own. Certainly it adds a bit of fun easter eggs for longtime K-drama viewers. 

Finally, you cannot talk about this drama without mentioning the lead couple. The two Kims are some of the most lauded under-40 actors in Korea, both to critics and fans. And they did not disappoint. With his expressive face, Soo Hyun showcases a new side of him, more comedic and less “handsome cool guy” like his previous roles. Ji Won’s icy beauty and demeanour make her the perfect choice to play cold and haughty Hae In. On top of it, the actress imbues the role with hidden warmth and versatility, making her a wonderfully complex character that’s easy to love. Their chemistry together builds slowly, which is apt given they play an estranged spouse. That makes it all the more exciting to watch them fall all over again with each other. 

Charmingly told and visually pleasant, this drama is easily a crowd pleaser. With top tier talents firing on all cylinders behind and in front of the camera, Queen of Tears will no doubt reign atop many viewers’ best-of lists.

Published on April 4th, 2024. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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