Kdrama Review: Stars Falling From the Sky

Stars Falling from the Sky poster별을 따다 줘

Romanized title: Byeoreul Ttada Jwo
English titles: Stars Falling From the Sky / Pick the Stars / Wish Upon a Star
Broadcast station: SBS
Broadcast dates: 4 January – 16 March 2010
Episodes: 20

Synopsis:

Jin Pal Kang is an immature, selfish young woman. In her mid-twenties, she is the eldest daughter of a small-time doctor. Her family is poor and struggles to make ends meet, but that does not deter her parents from adopting five other children making a loud, chaotic environment. Pal Kang spends her days running from a creditor, trying to unsuccessfully sell insurance policies, and trying to get attorney Won Kang Ha to notice her. But all that changes when her parents die in a mysterious car accident.

Pal Kang becomes the head of her family and must get her act together to support her five younger siblings. This is not easy when she finds out that her parents cashed in their insurance policy, leaving behind no extra money to help Pal Kang raise the kids. To make matters worse, the woman behind their parents’ deaths has the Jin house and clinic destroyed so that they have nowhere else to go. Pal Kang goes to put her youngest sibling in an orphanage as he would be safer there, but her little brother (and the next eldest) Joo Hwang, refuses to let the baby go. Joo Hwang threatens that they all will go and leave Pal Kang alone as she never really cared for them since they are not her real siblings. Pal Kang breaks down and keeps all the children with her.

With no money and no place to turn, Pal Kang seeks out Won Joon Ha, Kang Ha’s little brother, to ask if she could still be a live-in maid in the Won household. Joon Ha initially refuses, but when he learns that she did not show up for work due to her parents’ deaths, he gives her another shot. Pal Kang happily takes the chance. She cuts off her long hair, gives up on her unrequited love for Kang Ha and sneaks her siblings in to live with her. Kang Ha is less than thrilled, but he puts up with Pal Kang even though he would rather toss her out as she cannot cook at all and has had other mishaps cleaning.

Of course, you can’t hide five kids for long. Soon the cat is out of the bag and Kang Ha is livid, but he gives Pal Kang and her siblings a chance after Joon Ha and their nephew beg him to. The warm and boisterous Jin family soon begins to worm their way into the Won family’s hearts. Joon Ha becomes close with Na Rang who hopes that Joon Ha will marry Pal Kang while the nephew Woo Tae Gyu becomes close with the other sister Cho Rok. And wouldn’t you know, one of the youngest boys manages to inveigle his way into Kang Ha’s frozen heart. Pa Rang who sleepwalks becomes Kang Ha’s little buddy and favorite. And while the men open themselves up to the children, they all begin falling for Pal Kang. Tae Gyu is immature and pushes his feelings on Pal Kang while Joon Ha initially has an ulterior motive, but comes to care for Pal Kang for real. Even Kang Ha finally opens his heart to Pal Kang.

However, things never go smoothly. Jung Jae Young is determined to have Kang Ha at all costs, ignoring the fact that it is always Joon Ha who has loved her and been by her side. Jae Young uses Kang Ha’s achilles heel against him in order to make him marry her. Jae Young dislikes Pal Kang intensely and does her best to try to get between the burgeoning love. Her obsession ultimately leads Kang Ha to actually despise her versus pitying her and turns her best friend against her. Jae Young’s mother is unhappy with her daughter’s choice, but does her best to support it, while also working at more underhand ways to try to get rid of Pal Kang before Jae Young’s grandfather finds her and gives her the inheritance that should rightfully go to Jae Young.

Main Cast:

Choi Jung Won as Jin Pal Kang
Pal Kang starts off the series being shallow and vapid, only caring about herself and trying to win over Kang Ha. But after her parents’ accident, she slowly starts to mature and vows that she will focus on being a good mother to her younger siblings. She also decides to do her best to become a good housekeeper and a good insurance salesman. When she first starts working for the Wons, she can’t even make rice, but she steadily improves her cooking skills and housekeeping knowledge. She has a horrible habit of talking back when Kang Ha starts scolding or yelling at her and she can say some really mindless things at times, however, you learn that Pal Kang was never a bad person, just immature. When Grandpa Junk comes back, Pal Kang takes him in and works hard as a housekeeper and as a salesman in order to earn enough money for a house for all seven of them to live together.

My biggest complaint about Pal Kang is her stupidity – like when she takes the baby out in a snowstorm on a mountain to try to find a friend of her parents’ for Grandpa Junk. Another form of stupidity is her silence. She never tells anybody whats going on when if she had, they might have been able to help her figure things out earlier. I also get annoyed when she realizes that she does love Kang Ha, but won’t give him the time of day so she can focus on her family and career. There is nothing wrong with that, but then she caves in and agrees to his proposal only after a 6th kids ends up on her doorstep. But I must say that I truly do love Pal Kang’s character. She is feisty and can be outspoken and she stands up for herself and her siblings. I am happy with how she decides to give up on love and actually does. She doesn’t actively pursue Kang Ha anymore and concentrates only on her siblings and her work, which is something you don’t see too often in kdramas. Whenever someone swears off love, they always seem to be actively pursuing it long after they said they wouldn’t. I also liked how she matured and refused to accept such a large inheritance. Yes, it would have made her life and siblings’ lives easier, but she also knows her own character. Afraid to be tempted to go back to her shallow ways, she works hard to earn her own money and not take anyone elses. It is admirable, but honestly, would a lot of people refuse such a thing?

Kim Ji Hoon as Won Kang Ha
Kang Ha is the illegitimate, eldest son of the Won family. He keeps this fact hidden from his beloved younger brother, which I find stupid as I had a hunch through the entire series that Joon Ha was already aware of the truth (and I was right). Kang Ha’s heart is made of ice. He doesn’t love anyone accept his brother and he only toys around with women, having never loved one. He is ruthless in his career, not caring for the people who can’t get their insurance policies for whatever reasons. He is also a perfectionist and a neat freak. The upstairs of the Won house is devoted entirely to him and he hates people invading his space, which constantly makes him butt heads with Pal Kang who always seems to manage to go upstairs when he is there.

Like I said, my main complaint about Kang Ha is his weakness. Especially since his younger brother already knows the truth. I also don’t like how he decides to be selfless and give up the only woman he loves to his younger brother because he can’t take anything away from him. The feeling is commendable, but won’t make either Joon Ha or Pal Kang happy (notice how men never take the girl’s opinion on the matter into consideration at all). That said, I do love how he matures throughout the series as well. He opens his heart first to the rascible Pa Rang and even opens up about his painful past to the kid. It was nice to see him going from a statue-like uptight attorney, to a carefree man who could get messy and have fun with kids. Of course, Kang Ha is the typical bad boy who wins the girl. Bad boy in the sense of his drinking, toying with women, and overall bad personality. Like so many kdramas, he gets reformed by the warm-hearted young woman. Twas formulaic, but I really did like the character of Kang Ha.

Shin Dong Wook as Won Joon Ha
Joon Ha is the complete opposite of his brother, or so it seems. He is openly warm and caring to people, but his princely manners mask a more jaded personality. He initially tries to help Pal Kang woo his brother, but changes his tune when Jae Young returns. He then does his best to help the woman he loves land his brother. Kang Ha warns his brother not to be as nice to Pal Kang unless he plans to take responsibility. This is where the princely guise starts cracking. Joon Ha can’t/won’t so he withdraws a bit from Pal Kang (after becoming like her best friend). But he ultimately can’t stay away from her and is won over by her genuineness. Just like Kang Ha, Joon Ha toys with women as well. He is just nicer to women and stays with them longer. He is a sucker for helping women with their problems and he is warned by an ex that that will be his undoing.

When Joon Ha begins to notice Kang Ha’s interest in Pal Kang, he does his best to come between the two and begins to pursue Pal Kang himself. This is where I got really annoyed with Joon Ha’s character. At the beginning of the series, I rooted for him to get with Pal Kang because he seemed like the better choice, but he proves just how bad a choice he really is. Due to his one sided love for Jae Young, he begins to pursue Pal Kang. Since Pal Kang is aware of his true love, she does not take him seriously and tells him to stop playing with her (Kang Ha tells him the same thing). But somewhere in his grand diabolical scheme, Joon Ha begins to fall for Pal Kang for real, leaving Jae Young out in the cold (the witch deserved that). Despite my annoyance, I did find it rather refreshing that Joon Ha wasn’t the typical angelic best friend who sacrifices everything for the heroine but winds up alone at the end. So despite the fact that I hated his initial actions towards Pal Kang, it was at least refreshing and he just can’t stop being the good guy even when he’s the bad guy. I do love how he doesn’t want Pal Kang just because Kang Ha gives up on her for his sake. He doesn’t just want to take away the woman his brother loves, but if Kang Ha refuses to go for her, then he will pursue her whole heartedly even being unhappy about the reason why his brother gives up.

Lee Kyun as Woo Tae Gyu
Tae Gyu is a very immature and dimwitted character. His simplicity helps balance both of his uncles complexities. It would be horrible if he was just as complicated as the Won brothers are complicated enough in and of themselves. Tae Gyu lived in America for a long time and came to live with his uncles to study at university in Korea. He is always making mistakes with his Korean and is constantly being corrected. He was the housekeeper initially, but never did his job, so he is forced out of his room, thus he dislikes Pal Kang intensely when she first arrives. But somehow dislike turns to love and he childishly begins pursuing her, much to her annoyance. Pal Kang doesn’t see him as a man, only as a little brother, so he is unlucky there. He also doesn’t seem to notice what really is going on right under his nose (Joon Ha’s plan and Kang Ha’s love). He is the first to discover the kids and is actually dumb enough to fall for the ghost story the Jin’s make up. He does his best to win the kids over with bribes and money. Cho Rok is the only one on his side and does her best to help the beloved oppa win over her unni.

Chae Young In as Jung Jae Young
Jae Young is the daughter of a bar worker. Her mother did whatever she could to get married to the wealthy man who was Jae Young’s father, even going as far as suicide. Jae Young does not want to be like her mother and chooses Kang Ha as the man she wishes to marry because he is strong, not like her father. Jae Young doesn’t care that Kang Ha has no interest in her at all and merely sees her as a little sister. She also doesn’t care that her single-minded pursuit hurts her best friend Joon Ha the most. She does everything she can to try to make Kang Ha like her, but fails every time. When she learns that Kang Ha is only Joon Ha’s half brother, she uses that as leverage to get him to agree to marry her. This is, of course, right after he has discovered he has feelings for Pal Kang and decided to pursue her.

My biggest complaint with Jae Young is her blind obsession. You can’t call it love. True love means wanting the person you love to be happy, even if that means you are not the one they choose. She is also blind to the fact that Joon Ha has stayed by her side not just for friendship, but because he is also in love with her (I say love for him because he is willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy). I especially hate how angry and upset she gets whenever she is dissed by Kang Ha or gets caught doing something not nice to Pal Kang. She brought it on herself by forcing Kang Ha into marriage when he loves someone else. She deserves the pain and torture for being stupid enough to hang on to someone who never wanted her in the first place. And for not wanting to end up like her mother, she was sure heading down a path like her mom (by being manipulative and calculative).

Supporting Cast:

Park Ji Bin as Jin Joo Hwang – Joo Hwang is the eldest male in the family and does his best to keep Pal Kang on the straight and narrow. In fact, he is the main reason behind Pal Kang quitting her job as a hostess as she doesn’t want to shame her siblings. He takes on a lot of responsibility and tries to ease Pal Kang’s burden by taking care of the other four siblings and even getting a job on the side. He is a better cook and housekeeper than his sister and unlike the rest of his siblings, he doesn’t choose sides on who he wants his sister to marry.

Joo Ji Won as Jin Cho Rok – The fourth child of the Jin family, Cho Rok is very frugal. Before the accident, she and Grandpa Junk would collect bottles and scraps for money. Before Pal Kang was reformed, she would often steal Cho Rok’s savings to buy clothes and other stuff for herself. She likes Tae Gyu. It seems like she has a crush on him, but she does her level best to help him win over her eldest sister’s heart.

Chun Bo Geun as Jin Pa Rang – The fifth child, Pa Rang is always causing mischief. He sleepwalks which is how he is discovered, plus he played with firecrackers inside the house, setting it on fire. He really likes Kang Ha and hopes that Pal Kang will get with him as Kang Ha talks to him, buys him food, and lets him sleep with him. He accidentally gets lost in one episode and thinks his family abandoned him, but Pal Kang and her siblings assure him that will never happen even if he is a great nuisance.

Kim Yoo Ri as Jin No Rang – No Rang is the third child who wholeheartedly supports Joon Ha as the match for her sister. She and Joo Hwang are the first discovered as they were making porridge to eat when the men come home. She is more lady-like and refined, but doesn’t do as well in school as Cho Rok or Joo Hwang. When Joon Ha decides to go for Pal Kang, he does his best with No Rang’s help.

Jin Nam Yi – Nam is the baby (literally) of the family. Pal Kang has a hard time because Nam is still so young and still on formula (which they can’t afford). When he cries in the night, she smothers his cry as best she can and tries to convince the others it is just a stray cat yowling. He ends up with a medical condition that puts his life at risk as he cannot hold down any food. Kang Ha stays with Pal Kang and does his best to help her find a donor for Nam to save his life.

Lee Soon Jae as Jung Gook – The Jin siblings know him only as Grandpa Junk, a homeless man that was friends with their parents. He collapsed and was unaware of the death in the Jin family. When he finds out, he sets out to find Pal Kang and her siblings in order to complete his dream and help them out of their dire circumstances. He is also looking for his eldest deceased son’s child who happens to be none other than Jin Pal Kang. He is cold towards his younger son and their wife, but he wants the best for his granddaughter Jae Young. That is why he doesn’t want her to marry Kang Ha if Kang Ha doesn’t love her. Througout the series he keeps up his poor pretense and goes out often to visit Pal Kang and her siblings as he feels better with the warm and caring Jin family than with his own. Pal Kang feels betrayed when she realizes just how well off Jung is, especially when she learns he is the owner of the insurance company.

Kim Gyu Chul as Jung In Goo – He has an inferiority complex when it comes to his elder brother. He feels  that he never had his father’s love. He goes out drinking and goes to hostess bars quite often, but he sincerely loves his wife. He has no backbone and really wants Kang Ha for a son-in-law. When he learns that he has a possible niece or nephew, he feels even sorrier for his brother whom he disliked and wished that he could have at least taken in the child to raise.

Jung Ae Ri as Lee Min Kyung – Jae Young’s mother comes from a family background not unlike Pal Kang’s. The eldest of many, Min Kyung became a hostess in order to support her siblings. She ended up getting pregnant and since Jung In Goo was too wishy washy, nearly ended killing herself. She and her baby survived and the two were wed. She does her best to be a good daughter-in-law, but the claws come out when she learns that Jung plans on giving away his inheritance to the Jins for a free clinic (in honor of his dead son who was a doctor). She has the Jin parents killed and the Jin siblings evicted from their only home. And at the end when she finds out who Pal Kang is, she even tries to have her killed. In then end, she shows remorse, but we never find out if she killed herself, ran off, or what.

Lee Doo Il as Kim Jang Soo – an investigator for the insurance company, he looks into the death of the Jins for Pal Kang and discovers the culprit behind the accident. He also carries a torch for fellow co-worker Han Jin Joo.

Park Hyun Sook as Han Jin Joo – Pal Kang’s best friend, she abuses credit cards like Pal Kang and is looking for a wealthy husband. She is blind to Jang Soo at first, but soon comes to care for him while helping him investigate Pal Kang’s parents’ deaths. She steals money out of her sister’s and mother’s purses to help Pal Kang out.

Kim Ji Young as Choi Eun Mal – a cleaning lady at the insurance company, she is also a good friend of Pal Kang who watches Nam while Pal Kang has to work (since Pal Kang can’t afford child care). She is the first to know that the chairman is pretending to be a poor, homeless man and uses that to get lighter cleaning duty as she is getting older. She allows Pal Kang and the kids to move in with her when the initially leave the Won house.

Jang Jung Hee as Jin Pal Kang’s office supervisor – she initially shows contempt for Pal Kang who used to see clients as dollar signs, but when Pal Kang starts mending her ways, she sees her potential and hires Pal Kang back on. This annoys Jae Young, but she believes in Pal Kang and does her best to guide her

Review:

A typical and yet not typical drama. It is typical in the girl who needs to grow up and who is forced to due to some radical change in their life. Also typical in the fact that a warm-hearted girl as to thaw out and reform a bad boy. And of course we have the girl who will do anything to land her man, and the man who loves said girl and does everything he can to help even when he knows it’s wrong. Plus, the plot is typical along with some typical characters. A dirt poor person down on their luck ends up getting help from a wealthier person – even moves in with them as their maid (like in Successful Story of a Bright Girl or even Boys Before Flowers), which ends up causing problems for the rich guy and the poor girl.

Despite the typical characters and plot line, the drama was endearing and full of comedic moments. And like I said earlier, some of the typical characters actually broke out of their traditional modes. Joon Ha is the typical best friend who doesn’t get the girl and supports the girl no matter what, however, he is not he perfect friend that is usually portrayed – he is flawed as he uses underhand methods and is actually more scarred and flawed than these characters normally are. Besides being the perfect prince character, he is also the guy who loves the bad girl, but he doesn’t necessarily reform her or help her before too much damage is done, and unlike in most dramas, he actually gets fed up enough to leave Jae Young. Kudos for that. And Pal Kang isn’t the usual damsel in distress. She does give up on love and doesn’t actively pursue it. When three men come after her, she perceives it all as their game and no seriousness at all. She is focused on being a good mom, which actually is quite rare. And I loved Kang Ha as he sincerely care for his brother and tried his best to protect him, proving that he is not as icy as he first seems. And it is not that Pal Kang actually reforms him, but rather brings out the man that he really is underneath it all. He is still an insecure little boy yearning for love.

I loved the plot even when I found it ridiculous. How can anyone hide the fact that their are four kids and baby living with them? As silly as it sounds, it did make for interesting times. The kids helped make the show as good as it was, especially when the siblings began to choose sides in the battle for Pal Kang’s heart. Joo Hwang remained neutral, but everyone else chose sides and fought amongst themselves to see who would be right.

The whole lost grandchild plot was again overdone and didn’t really add to the story at all. Everyone knew after the first few episodes that Pal Kang was really Jung’s long lost granddaughter. And to have Jae Young’s mother constantly go after the Jins got old fast. Just when Pal Kang was getting back on her feet either Jae Young or her mother would rear their ugly head. I personally liked watching the interplay between the Wons and Jins and watching Pal Kang study and learn what it truly means to work better than the other part of the plot. I also disliked how easily Kang Ha caved in to Jae Young (of course when he decided he wanted to go with his feelings and keep Pal Kang closer to him) just because he was afraid his little brother would learn the truth. By that time, you’d think that Kang Ha would’ve realized his little brother probably knew about Kang Ha’s true origins.

And I really hated Jae Young and her pity party scenes. She brings the heartache on herself, but wants to pin it all on a conniving Pal Kang and a cold Kang Ha. She knew what Kang Ha was before forcing him into agreement of marriage, so she has no rights to complain. I also hated it when Joon Ha went after Pal Kang because I had the niggling suspicion that he wasn’t doing it because he liked her, but in order for Jae Young to have Kang Ha. I am happy that Joon Ha really started to genuinely care for Pal Kang because that meant he actually started putting Jae Young in her place, which she dearly deserved. I felt no sympathy for the girl whose best friends were all turning against her because, as I said, she brought it on herself.

The show was paced fairly well with a little bit of something for everyone: romance, comedy, melodrama, unrequited love, cute and heartwarming family moments, and even mystery. Despite the good pacing, everything was left to the last episode. In the final episodes, Nam is cured (which I am happy about, but they really didn’t need to add a sick baby to the Jins already horrible and trying life), Kang Ha is finally freed of Jae Young, Min Kyung’s evil deeds are unveiled, and Kang Ha and Pal Kang finally settle down at the very end. But what I hated most was the rushed ending. It looks like Joon Ha and Jae Young got together (after making up), but we don’t know for sure. It also looks like Joon Ha and Jae Young are the ones carrying out Jung’s dream of a free hospital instead of Pal Kang and Kang Ha. And I do not like how Pal Kang agrees to marry Kang Ha only after a baby girl is found on the Jins’ doorstep. With 20 episodes, to have so much crammed into the finale is a bit much, especially when they don’t bother to explain certain details. I really wanted to know what happened to Min Kyung as she finally apologized for her evil deeds, but she did so on a rooftop. Did she just disappear, go to jail, or did she end her own life? Who knows, your guess is as good as mine.

But I really did enjoy the series and was kept addicted and watching until the very end. I think I finished this in a week of nonstop watching after work, which shows that even with the flaws and over done plots, it was still an enjoyable series to watch and you could really feel for the characters, not like in some kdramas where you have no idea why these two people like each other and wonder why it is that they end up together (like in Prince’s First Love).

Soundtrack:

The soundtrack is currently available from YesAsia.

Stars Falling from the Sky OST

01. 별을 따다줘 – 카라
02. 그대니까(내 사랑 너니까) – 이진성(먼데이키즈)
03. 아마도… – 제이케이드
04. 눈물의 거리 – 준하
05. I Am a Mother – 지혜
06. Once Again – 공보경
07. 희망을 찾아서
08. 그리운 가족
09. 별의 노래
10. 사랑의 상처
11. 거짓된 진실
12. 무지개 동네
13. 달려라 신불자
14. 행복 예감
15. 아픔의 눈물
16. I Am a Mother (String Ver.)
17. Warm-Hearted – 이담
18. 술에 취해 – Yellow String Boys
19. 오후풍경 (Pt.2) – Main Street
20. Magic (Feat.나현) – Blue Sorbet
21. Lullaby

Releases:

  • Streaming online with English subtitles on DramaFever
  • Complete series with English subtitles available on DVD from YesAsia

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