Star in My Heart was a very popular drama back in 1997 on the MBC network, starring Choi Jin Shil, Cha In Pyo and Ahn Jae Wook. I came across it while watching the first episode of Reply 1997, and what caught my attention was the beautiful instrumental intro theme.
Watching a few oldies (before millennium, that is) had always been on my bucket list and it seemed like a good time to start that trend.
The story is pretty plain to be honest- Choi Jin Shil (I was sad to hear of her passing) portrays Lee Yun Hee, a poor orphanage girl that’s being adopted in her late teens by a friend of her father, Mr Ahn. She gets the chance to study and live a proper life wanting to become a teacher but harboring a love for fashion. Of course while Mr Ahn is a sweetheart, his wife, his daughter and son are nasty piece of craps that get on Yun Hee’s case every chance they get. (they’re borderline caricature characters to be honest, being mean for no other reason than being mean)
In contrast to what would you expect from the cliché Cinderella setting, Yun Hee does stand up for herself (though, not everytime but she gets to use her uppercut slap quite a few times!) so that is peachy to see.
Cha In Pyo as Lee Joon Hee, is the first one to meet the heroine in a fashion event, as the witch stepmother is a fashion designer and he works on that front too- we find out very early in the series that Yun Hee looks exactly like a woman that abandoned him in his sleep all alone in his Castlevania Castle. (I mean seriously, what is this medieval castle lol)
Later we find out that the woman’s name is Sophia (a dual role that Choi Jin Shil pulls out greatly as Yun Hee and Sophia are vastly different) a photographer from Milan that is solely seen on many flashbacks (you know a flashback is coming when you see Joon Hee’s melancholic face usually accompanied with a drink and a cigar*) till she makes an actual appearance in the latter half of the series.
Kang Min Hee is Joon Hee’s close friend that comes from a rich family but wants to pursue his dreams of becoming a singer (Ahn Jae Wook was a great casting choice, as he has a melodic ruspy voice but also possess a gentle charm that is needed for this role) despite his father being a monumental tool and trying to stop that to the point of sending bodyguards to smash his studio. (really?) And that takes place more than once, oh boy.
The main trio gets entangled after some chance meeting and the story progresses with steady pace from there on; what I really like about the relationship the three share, is that is one of positive effect and encouragement. There aren’t many misunderstandings and unnecessary angst and the story is not limited only to “me me me oh my woes!/got no time for anything else but my romance!111”. No, there is focus on how hard you have to work in order to achieve something and then work some more to maintain it.
Joon Hee, especially, is one of the most supporting characters I’ve ever seen- he always influences positively both Min Hee and Yun Hee, and is the voice of reason. He has a very calming presence and is someone everyone can rely on.
He could also participate in a gaze-stare contest without losing a round- well, maybe Sophia could rival him. (seriously that gaze-off must have been more than a half minute alone!)
Min Hee is also a very uplifiting person, when crap doesn’t hit the fan, and is seen very patient with Yun Hee’s friend that aspires of becoming a singer herself, despite not having the best of voices.
He’s also very patient with the witch step sister refusing her advances time and time again while he could very well tell her to get out and let the door hit her on the arse. Now that I think about it, Min Hee’s main trait is that- patience.
Yun Hee’s main trait on the other hand is super hard work- to the point of overexerting herself but that stems from her need to stand on her own feet. And while she’s facing many difficulties that get her down she’s a strong person that is focused on realizing her dream and does everything to achieve her goal.
There are a few side-characters, like Yun Hee’s friend that is a genuine person sparing no effort to becoming a singer, there are the nice co-workers in the fashion company and of course the evil parents and their children that you would just love to punch in the gut.
Oh and of course special kudos for Sophia- she’s.. well, she’s a handful character of her own. She’s the friend of the pigeons, the protector of their realm lol. I don’t wanna give away any spoilers, so you just have to see.
The soundtrack is very, very good– there are the powerful ballads, the pop-rock songs and some brilliant instrumental pieces that will stay with you. The music accompanies very well certain scenes and make them stand out more.
The acting is spot-on (yes, there are some overexaggerated scenes, that will make you roll your eyes but nothing awful) the cinematography is pretty decent, the production is quite good.
Overall Grade 7,3/10
* the series could be having an alternative title of “Joon Hee looking good and his cigar agrees”. Seriously, I lost count on how many times he holds a cigar, not only him, other characters too, but Joon Hee is the cigar lord!