For an attorney who despises losing to men and an A-list actor who distrusts women, love means nothing — until they’re forced to date each other.
Netflix kicked off its 2023 Korean drama slate with the romantic comedy Love to Hate You. Since the show premiered on 10 February, it has been in the non-English global top 10 at number 2 for two weeks and viewed 28 570 000 hours. I’ve added to those viewing hours by watching the show twice already; it was for review purposes (wink, wink)
When we first meet our leading lady Yeo Mi-ran (Kim Ok-bin), she’s beating up a would-be robber who tries to mug a drunk man; quite ironic when you learn after that, she’s a lawyer. Mi-ran is quite ‘liberal’ and has had numerous one-night stands where she’s categorised men into different types. She fights against the patriarchy and generally distrusts and dislikes men. On the other hand, our leading man Nam Kang-ho (Teo Yoo), is a popular actor who is known as the master of kisses and the god of romance. However, behind the scenes, he has had a falling out with all of his co-stars, can’t stand women, and needs medication to film intimate scenes.
Mi-ran first encounters Kang-ho at a resort after coming to the rescue of a client. She overhears him venting and saying disparaging and sexist things about his co-star to his manager/friend, Do Won-jun (Kim Ji-hoon). She meets him again when she goes for a job interview at the Gilmu, an entertainment law firm where he is a client. Mi-ran holds a grudge after what she had previously heard Kang-ho say and trips him when he walks past her. More awkward encounters and confrontations follow between the pair. However, Kang-ho is fascinated by Mi-ran, who is different from any other woman he has met before, and when he sees her fighting abilities, he asks her to help him prepare for his new acting role. When a rumour threatens Kang-ho’s career, Won-jun proposes that Mi-ran and Kang-ho have a three-month contract relationship.
The plot is quite formulaic; as the pair spend more time together, they get to know each other, and very soon, it blossoms into more than just a pretend relationship. In a twist, Kang-ho is the first to realise his feelings, while Mi-ran takes time to admit her feelings. I do appreciate how they handled the relationship between the pair; for example, the writers did not drag out any misconceptions/misunderstandings to create tension which is usually done in the genre.
The strength of the show lies in the two charismatic leads. Kim Ok-bin is charismatic as Mi-ran; you really can’t help but fall for this character; while she’s quick to react, she’s also quick to apologise when she’s wrong. She has a strong sense of justice, she’s a girl’s girl, and you can’t help but root for her. While Kang-ho starts out as a chump, he does transform; however, his transformation seems more internal. Teo Yoo is quite revealing in his facial expressions, and you see the character struggling with his prejudices when Mi-ran does something different from his ‘expectations’, a bit more time and nuance could have been spent on how he unlearned his prejudices. The pair have great chemistry. Yoo’s facial expressions are so on point that you see the exact moment when Kang-ho falls for Mi-ran. I also appreciated that the character was very supportive of Mi-ran’s hobbies, how sexually liberated she is and her past relationships.
As for the supporting cast, I also enjoyed the bromance between Kang-ho and Won-jun. It was great to see Kim Ji-hoon (Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area, Flower of Evil) show some range in a different type of role. There is also a secondary romance between Won-jun and Mi-ran’s bestie, Shin Na-eun (Go Won-hee). I thoroughly enjoyed their interactions, and the will they/won’t they date guessing game had a fresh take.
While the show is relatively light, it attempts to tackle some weighty themes like the double standards between men and women in the entertainment industry and society. For example, Hwang Ji-ye (Song Ji-woo), an actor who Won-jun also manages, is ostracised in the media when her husband files for divorce under the pretence that she cheated. The show also attempts to critique toxic celebrity fan culture; in the final episodes, Kang-ho and Mi-ran’s relationship faces a crisis when her past is revealed, and the public turns against them.
Love to Hate You is an oddball romantic comedy that does not reinvent the wheel when it comes to the enemies-to-lovers, fake dating trope; however, what makes the show compelling is the unconventional charismatic leads. While the show sometimes subverts the usual tropes, it also plays into them, making it a delightful watch for fans of the genre.
Source: news 24