Netflix’s recent addition to its rich palette of K-dramas, “Doona!”, introduces a non-supernatural storyline that’s equally fantastical to the typical time-travel or super-powered romantic tales we’re familiar with. The show stands out in its attempt to blur the lines between reality and fiction, making viewers ponder the authenticity of its romantic escapades.
Set against the bustling backdrop of Seoul, the story follows a studious young man named Lee Won-jun, portrayed by the up-and-coming Yang Se-jong (known for “Still 17”), who moves into a shared student residence. Ambitious and diligent, Won-jun is a dedicated engineering student whose aim is to excel academically and earn his way through college by tutoring. His journey begins when he is jovially dropped off in the capital by his best friend, a die-hard fan of the K-pop band Dream Sweet.
In a humorous twist, upon his arrival, his friend jokingly requests him to greet Lee Doona, the favorite member of Dream Sweet. Little does Won-jun know that this jest would soon become a reality. Settling into a house situated atop a hill, he acquaints himself with two eccentric male roommates. But the real surprise is the enigmatic first-floor resident, who he frequently observes, engrossed in thought while smoking outdoors.
Despite experiencing an uncanny familiarity, he struggles to identify her. However, following multiple unplanned encounters and the realization that he’s been inadvertently flaunting his Dream Sweet merchandise around her, it dawns on him that his elusive neighbor is the very same K-pop sensation, Lee Doona. The revelation is made even more humorous as Won-jun scrambles to convince Doona of his innocence, ensuring her that he isn’t a fanatical stalker.
While their initial interactions aren’t fueled by romantic inclinations, especially from Won-jun’s side, the indifference seems to intrigue Doona. She persistently seeks his company until he eventually gives in, marking the start of their unique camaraderie. However, just as their bond begins to solidify, an unexpected figure from Won-jun’s past emerges. Kim Jin-ju, his high school crush, steps back into his life, adding a layer of complexity to the narrative.
“Doona!” primarily delves deep into the evolving dynamics between the lead pair, with Jin-ju’s character merely skimming the surface of the plot’s potential conflicts. While the pacing of the budding romance between Doona and Won-jun is deliberately unhurried, it sometimes feels excessively prolonged. The storyline struggles with its portrayal of Doona’s character; her K-pop related challenges seem somewhat inadequately explored, often resorting to clichéd visuals rather than in-depth characterization.
Bae Suzy, a real-life K-pop sensation from the group Miss A, effortlessly slips into the role of Lee Doona. Despite her commendable performance, the script doesn’t do justice to her character’s depth and potential. The show’s aesthetics, undoubtedly, are its redeeming quality, with every frame dripping in atmospheric ambiance, thanks to Netflix’s substantial production budget.