Review: Thirty Nine, bring tissues to this K-drama

Jeon Mi Do, Son Ye-jin, and Kim Ji-Hyeon in Thirty-Nine

Thirty Nine is a K-drama on Netflix. It’s about three women who are lifelong friends. When one of them is ill, the series looks at how everyone copes.

Thirty Nine refers to the age of the three friends. The story is narrated by Mi Jo (Son Ye-jin), a dermatologist. Her friend Joo Hee (Kim Ji-Hyeon) works in a department store when the story begins. Chan Young (Jeon Mi Do) is an acting coach. Early in the story we learn that Chan Young has terminal cancer.

There are many characters in this 12 episode series, but the central story and events all swirl around these three and their love and affection for each other.

The series is ponderously slow. Everything takes about three times as long as you think it should. The music is bland and does nothing to move the action forward. The romances between the three women and the men in their lives are so discreet they’re utterly unbelievable. It’s all very soapy and drawn out.

Nevertheless, I got hooked on these three women and their lives. The arc of the tale is about how the friends and the people who love Chan Young act as they learn she sick, and what happens at the end. Everything builds to the final episode, which is a tear jerker full of grief, love, and anguish.

Mi Jo falls in love with another dermatologist who works in her clinic. Joo Hee quits her job in the department store and begins to work in a Chinese restaurant. She falls for the owner, but she is older than he is. She doesn’t admit her feelings because she doesn’t think he will like an older woman. Chan Young has had a long romance with a married man. He gets a divorce and wants to marry Chan Young but she won’t do it, although she continues to be with him.

In addition to these key characters there are the parents of all three women. One of the subplots is about Mi Jo’s biological mother. Another is about the sister and father of Mi Jo’s boyfriend.

I’ve come to expect an emphasis on food and eating in K-dramas. This one is no exception. The story also contains golf games, trips to a prison, trips to an orphanage, and lots of nights out drinking soju.

Jeon Mi Do, Son Ye-jin, and Kim Ji-Hyeon on the Thirty-Nine poster

The trailer doesn’t really give you much idea of what the series is about, but you can at least see some of the actors, who are very good.

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