Twinkling Watermelon: A Time Slip to the Past

Twinkling Watermelon: A Time Slip to the Past

I’m sure everyone, at some point in their lives, has wondered: “What if I could turn back the time, change the course of events, and maybe relive some moments for a second time?” The Korean TV series ‘Twinkling Watermelon’, directed by Son Jong-hyun, seamlessly blending elements of time-travel, coming-of-age, family and love, delves into the idea of rewriting the past. However, the approach is different as the main leads Ha Eun Gyeol (Ryeon) and On Eun Yu (Seol In-ah) are, in fact, trying to rewrite the lives of their parents, ultimately leading to a restructuring of their own life. This drama reminds us that our parents were also once teenagers with their own hopes, dreams and inner struggles. That there was a time they were once called by their own names, not just “mom” or “dad.”

Ha Eun Gyeol leads a double life: as a straight A high school student during the day and as a street singer at night. He desperately wishes his parents to enter his world of music in which he has found solace. However, having deaf and mute parents, he could do nothing but keep this world a secret, while being guilty that they can never feel its charm. Doom falls on Eun Gyeol as his father, Ha Yi Chan (Choi Won-young), accidentally witnesses Eun Gyeol singing! In a boy band! After a heated argument between the father and son, Eun Gyeol storms off, sick of having to pretend as the perfect ‘trophy’ of his father. Meanwhile, the female lead, On Eun Yu, whose looks are an exact copy of her mother in her teen years, suffers from major anxiety due to her mother’s constant expectation for her to become a prominent cellist against her own wishes.

The main leads, after going through a major conflict with their parents, accidentally stumble upon a strange and gloomy music store, where the owner, Master, offers a new life in exchange for their musical instrument. When they walk out from there, as the Master shouts “Viva La Vida!”, the characters step into the world of 1995 where their parents are mere teenagers. The character dynamics of the two main leads are portrayed intricately through the distinct choices they make. Ha Eun Gyeol, learning that his teenage father (Choi Hyun Wook) is neither mute nor dumb at 18 years old, swears to protect him from the accident that stole his hearing. On Eun Yu, however, has devised a perfect suicide plan to separate her parents and help her mother to strengthen her bond with her first love, whom she believes is no other than Ha Yi Chan, and in turn cease to exist.

Ha Eun Gyeol, being the CODA of the family, having to be the ears and the voice of his parents and brother for years, and the dot that connects his family with the outer world, is overwhelmed and burnt out. He feels that no matter how hard he tries, he cannot enter their world. However, the time slip to his parents’ past is a chance for him to be a part of his father’s world and getting to know a side of him he has never known before. His inner child is healed as he grows up next to his teenage parents for a year. He gets to learn subtle details of them that he never noticed. Such as, the reason why his father prohibited him from being a musician was that his father could once hear, and formed a band himself, only to give it up due to the loss of his hearing, and that his mother lied when she said she grew up an orphan.

The relationships between the characters are wholesome and the development of their bonds add to the complexity of their character. As their bonds evolve, so do they, blossoming into individuals who prioritize growth and strive to enhance their understanding of themselves and others. It was humorous to see how chaotic the relationships between Eun Gyeol and the 18-year-old versions of his parents were at first, when he suddenly started to follow them around calling them ‘eomma’ (mom) and ‘appa’ (dad), before growing to be friends. However, Yi Chan’s acceptance of Eun Gyeol, who arrived from nowhere, to his home, establishes his character as caring and endearing. While staying by his 18-year-old father’s side and realizing his innocent dream of having a “twinkling” high-school life, by forming a boy-band, before he sacrifice his future to take care of his ‘halemoni’ (grandma), Eun Gyeol promises himself to make his father’s dream come true, and also to make his entire life “twinkle.” This is where the son becomes a father figure to his father. Moreover, Chung Ah’s (Eun Gyeol’s mother) once indifferent and overbearing father, noticing the understanding and dedication of her friends in learning sign language to bridge the gap between their worlds, starts to finally warm up to her. Seeing him learning signs and trying to communicate with her clumsily is very wholesome to witness.

The cast gives a stellar performance in portraying the characters and the complexities of their reactions to daily challenges. Shin Eun Su, having no dialogues throughout the drama, portrays the raw emotions of Yoon Chung Ah, a deaf and mute girl with her eyes, facial expressions, body language and sign language, which earned her the award for “Best New Actress” at 2024 Korea First Brand Awards. She never for once speaks to the audience’s ears but directly to their hearts. Chung Ah, who had already accepted her disability, is dejected as she finds Yi Chan wounded and unconscious after being beaten to a pulp, on the street. Her eyes widen in disbelief and her hands shake as she touches

the blood on his face. As she tries to contact emergency services through a payphone, realizing she cannot speak, her fingers shake and stop short as she tries to dial the keypad, and tears stream down from her downcast eyes. Moreover, her demonstration of signs is so beautiful that, when she communicates using them, her hands look almost like a butterfly fluttering in the sky.

Moreover, Seol In-ah who plays the role of both On Eun Yu, and her mother at 18-years-old, demonstrates her ability to immerse herself fully in different roles and breathe life into each character with depth and authenticity. As On Eun Yu, Seol In-ah brings a vibrant energy to the character, portraying her as fun-loving, humorous, chaotic, and having deep love for her friends. In contrast, Seol In-ah’s portrayal of On Eun Yu’s mother at 18-years-old (Choi Se Gyeong), reveals a different side of her versatility as an actress, as Se Gyeong embodies a sense of sophistication and ambition, portraying a character who is classy, spoiled, and focused on her own desires without much regard to friendships. Moreover, she delivers a powerful performance in a scene where On Eun Yu, who usually masks her struggles from others, finally lays bare her fears and insecurities to Ha Eun Gyeol, in the movie theater. Seol In-ah’s portrayal in this scene is compelling and authentic with raw emotion and vulnerability, as she confronts her own inner demons through her heart-to-heart talk with Eun Gyeol.

In addition, Ryeon masterfully depicts Ha Eun Gyeol’s feelings of pain and loneliness as he cannot enter the silent world of his parents and brother, in the 2023 timeline. His guilt as he is afraid his family might not be safe due to their disability, when he is sound and safe, and that he is happy when they are not, is clear through the apologetic look in his eyes when he is with his parents. The scene where he emotionally breaks down inwardly as his father expresses his expectations of him to become a doctor, all while smiling, evokes deep sympathy for Eun Gyeol.

The drama is filled with many emotional scenes. One of them that left a deep impression on me is when Eun Gyeol learns of his mother’s painful past when he goes back in time. When he realizes that Chung Ah is locked in a dark room, he storms in to find her tiny 18-year-old mother, crying in the corner, all fragile and depressed. When she says “you finally found me. After 12 years of a hide-and-seek game”, I bawled my eyes out. Eun Gyeol notices all the drawings she has done on the walls so far when she was locked in, from callous drawings of a child to expressive paintings (given that she is a fine arts student), which shows that this abuse was going on for a long period of time. He rushes to her and hugs her, crying like a child, unable to believe the pain she has gone through all this time. It was heartbreaking to see how that little girl was trying to color her grim, dark, and silent world.

‘Twinkling Watermelon’ is also a slice-of-life drama which speaks to the audience through its characters, and gives uplifting messages. When Eun Gyeol’s brother, Eun Ho, urges him not to waste his youth because he can never get it back, we feel it. Furthermore, when On Eun Yu tells him to put his family’s burden down, that it’s not his burden to carry, she is speaking for all teenagers who had to shoulder their family due to various situations. The moment Eun Ho asked Eun Gyeol “let yourself twinkle while you can”, it almost feels like he is talking to all of us.

Moreover, the drama tries to depict how disabilities are not weaknesses but only one aspect in one’s life. Adult Ha Yi Chan (2023 version) reveals to Eun Gyeol that he fell in love with Chung Ah for her voice. Seeing the confused look on his son’s eyes, he says that her sign language was so soft and beautiful that he cannot take his eyes off her. In fact, as I noticed in the comments made by viewers, the drama encouraged many viewers to start learning sign language. Also, given that Chung Ah is a painter, her silent world allows her to notice the world in much detail that stimulates her creativity. Thus, it encourages everyone to see that every aspect of their life can indeed be a strength.

All in all, it can be stated that this drama offers a fresh perspective on the theme of family, shifting the spotlight from the typical portrayal of parental love towards a poignant exploration of children’s affection and sacrifice for their parents. Unlike many series that primarily emphasize the love from parents to children, this narrative illuminates the profound bonds and sacrifices made by the younger generation, highlighting their deep-rooted love and devotion towards their parents.

I recommend ‘Twinkling Watermelon’ to anyone who is interested in genres like magical realism, fantasy, time-travel, family and rom-com. But I have to warn you, this Kdrama will “break you first, then heal you” as pointed out by one of my friends, recently. One time you will be kicking your feet gleefully seeing the friendship and fun encounters between the characters, and the slow-burn romance between the two couples. Next time you will be choking on your snacks witnessing the strange humor in some scenes, which is typical of Kdrama. Those who are obsessed with sad scenes, do not worry, because this Kdrama is one emotional ride, with many scenes to make you bawl your eyes out, as it did to me. Plus, the OSTs that are played at the perfect time in these tragic scenes, will make you cry even harder.

Therefore, do give it a watch and find out for yourself: How much of their life Ha Eun Gyeol and On Eun Yu were able to change by transforming their parents’ lives? Was Eun Gyeol able to prevent his father’s accident? Did On Eun Yu succeed at ceasing to exist, or has she found a new purpose in her life? Also, where did this Viva grandfather’s strange music store appear from?

Ps: May your life “twinkle” at every moment! Viva La Vida!

Rtr. Michelle Perera

Share this content:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.