Sobz. I’m back. To face a mountain load of backlogs — why do new shows keep coming up when I haven’t even finish the old ones?! (grinds teeth in frustration)
But one show which I have been keeping updated with overseas is Twenty Again. The appeal of Twenty not only stems from Choi Ji-woo‘s performance as the vulnerable-turned-tough-cookie character, Ha No-ra, but also from the heart warming storyline of rediscovering oneself.
The whole idea of putting a late-30s ahjumma back into school already screams of “new experience”, or “new SCARY experience”. Throw in the secondary idea that said ahjumma is someone who has been kept in “deep freeze” for more than 2 decades, and we also have the “turn back time”, “second chance” themes popping up. I like it that Twenty packages the secondary theme in Hyun-seok’s production “Finding Lost Time” in the last ep. It reinforces that there is nothing more painful than someone who has lost precious time — the character of the girl who wakes up from a 20-year coma has no experience of loss, or happiness, which the other characters had. It made her situation more worse off than the others who had loved, but lost.
So it’s not surprising that No-ra identifies with that character. For her, time has stopped too, when she became pregnant with Min-soo and had to move to Germany. Being kept in isolation by her husband (and i consider this a form of mental abuse), she became a recluse, fearing everything that is not approved by Woo-chul and wholly dependent on him very much like a house-kept rabbit. In a sense, No-ra has never “grown” beyond the high schooler girl. She had entered stasis; she never got to experience the ups and downs of adulthood, much less any form of coping mechanisms which a normal, well-balanced adult would have.
Thus, by throwing No-ra back into Uni is like pressing the Go button after a long, long while. Gradually, she defrosted, and reclaims what are originally hers, and who she originally is. As No-ra becomes No-ra, Time restarts — but weirdly, from the time she was a young adult. In many ways, her behaviours — whether in school, or facing Hyun-seok — is reminiscent of a slightly giddy teenager. She is easily excitable over the tiniest things, like learning how to log on to the school’s library network, and goes back to drawing cute cartoony figurines in her journal. And of cos, her reaction at realising she may like Hyun-seok romantically is hilarious.
Like a high schooler experiencing her first rush of romantic love, she stalks him, moons over him, runs away in embarrassment when he approaches, and then hiccups when he confesses his interest in her. I’m not sure whether to say it is the first time she loved anyone, cos technically, she was attracted to Woo-chul years back. But her actions towards Hyun-seok is rather like the high schooler No-ra, shy, but excited (and interested).
However, since she has quite a fair bit of growing up to do, her transition from teenager to adult has to be pretty fast. It is not long before No-ra realises that attending Uni has no purpose — she is too old to re-enter the workforce as a new graduate (with zero work experience), and she really has no interest (and inclination) in studies. What she does learn from her stint as an undergrad is independence, confidence, courage to try out new things, and a renewed interest in living (instead of merely existing).
No-ra’s final test into “adulthood” is her eventual acceptance of Hyun-seok, and overcoming her fear that she will be “dependent” on him. She passes that test when she realises she can still be a separate entity in the relationship, and when her old self reminds her to be honest with her own feelings.