I love Kim Sun Ah.
There are actresses in kdramaland who rule the scene: Go Hyun Jung, Jang Seo Hee, Gong Hyo Jin, Yoon Eun Hye. I’m sure there are many, many more, but I’m not familiar enough with kdramaland to know them. What I can say with absolute certainty, though, is that Kim Sun Ah is right up there. And you know why? Because she’s awesome. Kim Sam Soon was a great drama for two reasons: first was the writing and story, and second was the acting, specifically Kim Sun Ah’s acting. She created that character, she made it come to life and invested Sam Soon with so much heart and idiosyncrasies and made her into someone who we could relate to while still leaving her distinct from the masses of “every day girl”s out there. One of my favorite scenes from that drama was when she stood up in front of her colleagues and did that ridiculous dance. I laugh every time I see it (every time I even think of it, actually) and that was all Sun Ah.
And in episode 12 of Scent of a Woman she does it again. I loved the scene where she just loses it and hurls the plant that represented hope and a possible future, or at the very least, a comforting present, to the ground, and then she starts attacking every thing else in her room and she’s sobbing, real, gut-wrenching sobs, and she goes straight for the bottle of soju and doesn’t even bother with a glass. How many times are we allowed to see our romantic heroines that miserable, angry, that enraged at their circumstances that they just lose it and start destroying shit, leaving physical marks of their fury on their environment? Especially in a trendy drama? Usually our heroines weep quietly, sometimes they are allowed to scream at someone while they’re upset, but they’re never allowed to be this angry. I don’t think the writers and PD would have trusted another actress to be able to pull off the scene, to be able to show the rage that Yeon Jae has, while simultaneously showing us her confusion and vulnerability and the sheer exhaustion all those emotions give rise to and how she just wants to numb herself and escape it all, even if it’s just for one night. Kim Sun Ah can deliver that.
In the scene we see how she goes from trying so hard to hold onto the tenuous hope that she had, putting the picture of her in her wedding dress in her little notebook of “Things To Do Before I Die,” and how stupid and empty and futile it all looks to her now because even though she has the will to do what she pleases with her life, she still can’t do what she pleases with her life, because life doesn’t work that way. She still fights with her mom; her apology to her teacher doesn’t erase the 10+ years she spent keeping that horrible secret; she wears a wedding dress, but it’s not at her wedding, so it’s divested of all the meaning that is usually ascribed to it; and she can’t be with the love of her life without hurting him, without feeling that somehow she’s depriving him of something because even if she loves him and makes him unbelievably happy the rest of her life, the rest of her life is still only five months. She can’t actually fulfill her bucket list anymore, because it’s not enough; it seems somewhat superficial now. Now that she’s been in this intense romantic relationship she realizes just “dating someone like Ji Wook” isn’t enough (which is related to Ji Wook going from just this rich, hot guy she can fantasize about dating to being this real person to her, a person who’s shared so much with her, who she wants to share so much with. Her falling in love with Ji Wook and Ji Wook falling in love with her—remember, she said, “I didn’t know [you’d fall for me]”—messes up her bucket list because it isn’t something she can just do and cross off. It’s something more substantial than that, something organic that grows and makes her crave more, which is antithetical to the purpose of a bucket list, which is to fulfill desires, not engender them). And that is so harsh and so unfair, it’s infuriating. And through all that Kim Sun Ah gives us Yeon Jae’s indignation and despair, and she does it beautifully.