Netflix's 'Love Alarm' shines with an interesting premise and stellar performances but the unexplained contrivance is a let down
In Netflix's 'Love Alarm', the app after which the show is named, puts one's affections on display for the public. The app rings like an alarm if anyone within 10 meters around you likes you. Your crush is made public and it can make the lives of people whose affections are not reciprocated hard
Spoilers ahead for 'Love Alarm'
How does one express they like someone today? Do you walk up to them and say so? That's hardly the case ever as with feelings we also carry insecurities - about ourselves, about the depth of our feelings and about how long we would even feel a certain way about someone.
In today's love story, it has become quite common for men and women to find love on apps such as Tinder, or they "slide" into direct messages on social media platforms. Didn't Nick Jonas DM Priyanka Chopra on Twitter?
In all of this, you still have a choice to confess, or not to. In Netflix's 'Love Alarm' one doesn't have a choice. The app, after which the show is named, puts one's affections on display for the public. The app rings, similar to an alarm, if anyone within 10 meters around you likes you.
Your crush is made public and as the show displays, you can even get outed for being gay or lesbian when you are not ready. It can also make the lives of people whose affections are not reciprocated hard, hard enough to even consider ending lives as seen in the show.
The app makes it easier for a few who are hesitant about expressing their feelings to each other, and yet, it also becomes an instrument for certain people to stalk, even attack people they have feelings for. It is messy and at one point, even depressing because we come face to face with the fact that there might not be anyone who actually likes you.
The lead characters of the show Kim Jojo (Kim So-hyun), Lee Hye-yeong (Jung Ga-ram) and Hwang Sun-oh (Song Kang) live in times where such an app is popular and we see how each of their decisions is influenced by the presence of this app.
The beauty of falling in love, the heartbreak of falling out of it and everything in between come to fore. For instance, Jojo's relationship with Sun-oh begins when she is already in a relationship. When they share their first kiss, they do not even love each other and it is just curiosity that the two try to quell.
Sun-oh wants to understand why his best friend Hye-yeong would like someone like Jojo. Then we have Jojo, who is curious about this new student in her school who seems to know her. Of course, her boyfriend Il-sik (Shin Seung-ho) finds out the truth and we learn that her relationship in the past was purely convenient, not just for her but for Il-sik as well. The two blindly trust the app to tell them the truth about each other's feelings.
When things get tougher for Jojo and Sun-oh and when she is uncertain about how Sun-oh would react to the tragedy of her past, she decides it is better to end the relationship. There is a time in their lives, just a few days, when Sun-oh is out of reach and Jojo realizes how lonely things have gotten in his absence.
She realizes that if she were to lose him while being in love with him, she might not be able to move past the heartbreak and that's when she takes the initiative to break things off. When Sun-oh hears she is not in love with him anymore, he tries to confirm her feelings the only way he knows how - through Love Alarm.
It is fascinating to see these teenagers base their decisions solely on how they feel about receiving that notification on the app because we never learn how the app works. We are never told how the app finds out how people feel about each other and this one logical misstep irks you until the end of the show because you keep thinking - why did the app not reflect Jojo's love when she was trying to break up with him.
Had she really fallen out of love with him so quickly? This was the biggest and possibly the only disappointment because the show's portrayal of insecurities, that every individual carries with them, was done with great nuance.
It is a Korean drama with an interesting study of characters and that's not restricted to the lead characters, but also the supporting ones. Jojo's cousin Park Geul-mi for instance; all she ever wanted to do was to find a way to attain fame and fortune. She doesn't want to be poor and this one thing drives her entire life.
From rejecting a confession by a classmate to later stealing money from Jojo, she is ready to go to any extent. The effort that has gone into setting up these characters is, in part, thanks to the webtoon the show is based on and the rest lies with the performances of the actors.