If there is one thing to say about “Fantastic” is that the drama has bold ideas. Combining the promise of a happy, light series with the premise of its lead dying of cancer is a very daring move, although one Dramaland has not succeeded very well in yet. Still, this drama tries to juggle the illness, romance and a hefty dose of family drama to go with.
Lee So-hye (Kim Hyun-joo) is about to write her most ambitious drama when she is told that she is terminally ill with cancer. So-hye struggles with her illness and a budding romance with Ryoo Hae-seong (Joo Sang-wook), an old acquaintance and terrible star actor who becomes the lead in her drama. As you can tell by the premise, this is a romantic drama at heart, although its desired romantic comedy label is at odds with its premise.
“Fantastic” is essentially a story about not living with regrets and letting fear or one’s perceived obligations act as obstacles. The series has several messages which are clear through its characters, their situations and their relationships and for the most part those are consistent, albeit quite simplistic. While the series features cancer, it is more about living life than losing it and it features some heart-warming human connection.
Cancer is simply used as an element which allows for the exploration of these things from a more urgent perspective. While the drama does its best to avoid the dire nature of its premise, an issue I will talk about in a bit, it does look at some of the more existential topics related to life and death. Even so, the aforementioned simplistic approach means that this is not a very contemplative piece.
“Fantastic” is sadly yet another drama which feels something as thematically heavy as cancer can be used in combination with comedy despite Korean drama’s difficulties with nuance. The series therefore encounters the usual pitfalls of occasionally using the illness for suspense and tear-jerking while largely avoiding the topic altogether for its romantic comedy bits and never diving too deep into life and death with the illness.
The bigger issue is the secondary story of the lead’s friend as a mistreated bride. While this side-story fits into the theme of living with no regrets regardless of the time one has left, it is very soapy and does not fit the series. The husband and monsters-in-law are cartoonish, uninspired and annoying; an ill-conceived justification for the “adultery-baiting” romance between the bride and a young, handsome savior.
Despite its reluctance to focus on its chosen premise, “Fantastic” is an okay series. It is simply one which does not know what to do. There are clear messages there, but the creators seem unable to make a story which can truly elevate them. While it has its occasional profound moments and a lot of good points, its divided focus ultimately leaves all of its topics underdeveloped.
“Fantastic” is directed by Jo Nam-gook, written by Lee Seong-eun and features Kim Hyun-joo, Joo Sang-wook, Park Si-yeon, Ji Soo and Kim Tae-hoon.
Written by: Orion from ‘Orion’s Ramblings‘
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