It must’ve been a hard day at work. I want you to sit back, relax those muscles you’ve been tensing ever since the morning, and imagine yourself sitting by the beach with a warm drink. You smell the saltiness in the air and the sweetness of the wind. The waves crash and the sky is crystal clear, and then there’s the small town that surrounds you, like a blanket. Around you, two nine-year-olds run around, a man reminisces his past while his daughter fangirls over a K-Pop band, a divorced couple still give each other longing glances amidst their squabbles while a woman eavesdrops, three grandmothers vent out, a couple expects their baby, and four very different hearts bloom. You somehow realize that the best things in life aren’t objects.
Such is the foundation of TvN’s Hometown Cha Cha Cha (Korean: 갯마을 차차차), the K-drama that just finished airing on 17th October 2021. Known as the “healing” drama in the fandom, it is perhaps one of the most realistic, honest, and beautiful dramas I’ve watched in a long time. At a time when the world is clearing up the trails of the second pandemic, the political atmosphere is still daunting and drama lovers are trying to get over the pain of Squid Game, Hometown Cha Cha Cha is the one-stop I hope everyone makes.
The drama draws its inspiration from Mr. Handy, Mr. Hong – a 2004 rom-com movie dealing with the same basic plot – yet truly holds on to the modern essence of the remake with many other characters, and the revelation of unexplored sides of our mains, Hong Du-shik (Kim Seon-ho) and Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-a).
One search of Google may lead you to a summary that goes something like “two polar-opposites meet in the seaside town of Gongjin and somehow, fall in love” – but that doesn’t begin to cover the vast atlas of stories laid out beautifully by the writers. Our drama opens with a financially strong and independent Seoul dentist, Yoon Hye-jin, who is sure of what she wants in life (and always likes to have a plan ahead). As the episode advances, our lead ends up in Gongjin, a town with no clinic nearby, raw fish restaurants, a café-cum-bar with the worst coffee ever, and the most awaited Chief Hong – Hong Du-shik, the man who is good at everything but wants nothing superficial from life.
Although Hye-jin always falls in trouble, Du-shik finds a way to guide her to safety – “If you can’t pick up spilled milk, you should at least apologize to them for spilling the milk rather than avoid them” he says. It may be true that our leads are opposites, yet the way their hearts bloom and invite each other in is truly a feast to the viewers. Also, can we please talk about the perfect dimples of Kim and Shin?
The drama shows the little things that need to be appreciated in life – from cleaning the town with neighbors to hosting an event for the elders, it truly evokes a familial feeling in today’s fast-paced world. Back when lives weren’t as technology-driven, people used to rely on each other’s company, and families used to grow beyond the four walls of enclosure. This is what Hometown Cha Cha Cha offers.
An instance is when Oh Ju-ri (the teen fangirl, and perhaps my soul sister) runs away from her house to Hye-jin’s without thinking twice, or when every single member of the village comes to Du-shik’s birthday with a feast and seaweed soup (a Korean birthday necessity) ready. The affection between the neighbors is highlighted in every aspect, from grandmother Gam-ri bringing Du-shik up and calling him “son” and “grandson”, to Hye-jin helping in the delivery of Yun-kyung’s baby, and the secret spying of the neighbors when they find out that Du-shik and Hye-jin are keeping their relationship a secret (I mean, who’d forget Ju-ri’s puke when our main leads were all lovey-dovey?)
However, the best part about the drama is that, like in real-life, every single character has a story to share. Be it Oh Cheon-jae’s failure in music, Hwa-jeong, and Yeong-guk’s forgotten love, Nam-sook’s lost motherhood, or perhaps the most mysterious of them all – Du-shik’s secret. Hong Du-shik says: “Life isn’t so fair for all of us. Some spend their whole lives on unpaved roads, while some run at full speed only to reach the edge of a cliff.”
Every single past, as different as they may be from each other, brings out hidden tears and I end up bawling my eyes out at the screen with the character, only to smile with their smiles when they face their sadness and learn to take a step ahead. Also, “lalalalala romantic Sunday” is perhaps something I hum even in my sleep.
Now that the drama is over, I feel way more at peace and know somewhere in my heart that no matter what happens, keeping an open heart would solve everything. Just like grandmother Gam-ri wrote, “Life may seem like a burden to you at times, but if you choose to be among others…someone will carry you on their backs.”
Hometown Cha Cha Cha really is a hometown for all of us – a hometown of comfort, happiness, and familial love.
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