I'm going to refer to the girl doing peace sign as the heroine.
The boys, from left to right : A, B, Taek, and C. Because I have trouble remembering the names in korean dramas, except Taek because his name is easy.
I'm just going to jump straight into what I think about the heroine & Taek's relationship.
Their relationship was one of a quiet nature. Serene. A relationship they had exclusively to themselves, and never for the public's eye. A relationship with no exact juncture that either of them can pinpoint to as the Start, but had somehow always been there. Their onscreen moments were always brief, and consisted of small, subtle gestures. No grandeur of proposals, no elaborate speech of confessions, no huge sacrifices, no lavish dates, but every little moment they had made my heart flutter. A relationship of waiting by the phone late at night and falling asleep while waiting, only to wake up immediately when it finally rang, of piggyback rides, of protecting the other person from an oncoming ball, of walks around the neighbourhood at ungodly hours, of sheer happiness upon seeing the other person's face, of looking for the other person in a room of people, of making sure the other person eats well, of saying 'I love you' at the oddest of times. If you've read my post here, you'd know how much I love small moments like these. I fell for Taek right from the first time his face made an appearance in the drama, something about his eyes and his smile and the peculiar ways through which he navigated his day to day life. And my feelings for him were affirmed when he said he had no particular reason to like the heroine. "I just like her," he said. Haih, I'm in love with Taek's character.
But my heart broke for A. He really did love the heroine, I have no qualms about that. It's a shame that he was victimised by his own hesitation & lack of guts. The amount of things he'd done for her, and the extra miles he went just for the sake of her, but love is not about keeping score of who's done more for who. The spark is either there, or it isn't. I would have been hurt, but in peace, if he had confessed to the heroine & got rejected. But to have his sincere confession turned into a joke was soooo mean, I cried so much during that scene. He deserved to at least have his feelings acknowledged as real, not a mere laughing stock. Even if A did not get his happy ending with the heroine, the writers shouldn't have just neglected him in the final episode. He was barely there in the last episode!! The writers did great injustice to his character, would it have killed the writers to have at least a farewell scene revolving around A?! Show me if he found another person to love, show me if he couldn't move on from the heroine, show me if he moved to another part of the country for a higher position of his job, show me anythingggg, but don't abandon his character altogether. If I were in Team A, I would have been so awfully betrayed.
This is why I don't like love triangles, ugh.
I like Taek. I don't hate A, I just don't think he's the one for me. But that's the thing, this drama wasn't about me. It was about the heroine, or at least, it was supposed to be. This is why this drama frustrates me; I didn't get enough insight of the heroine's character. Her feelings were a great mystery that I couldn't tell who she actually loves. Forget about who loves her, who does she love?! I was so, so disappointed because I was made to understand her conflict of being a middle child, of not quite excelling academically, of being kind and considerate to others, of not knowing what to be in future at the age of 18, but I wasn't made privy of her inner thoughts as a girl/woman. I would have respected her decision regardless if it's A or Taek, but I need to know her deepest thoughts to justify her choice. When she began to try to latch herself onto A after her friends told her that they think A likes her, I felt like that was just a teenager's giddy excitement from finding out that someone likes him/her. But I didn't know for sure what the heroine felt!! I was dying to know what exactly she felt about Taek before Taek made a move to her. Or maybe her feelings were there and I just needed to read between the lines and I'm bad at reading between the lines?? Oh well.
This drama centres around the ideas of family, neighbours, friendship, loyalty, togetherness, with a little space allocated for love (of the heroine). I'm actually a sucker for those themes. I mean, the drama started off really well, with everyone in the neighbourhood sending their dinners to each other's houses when an easier, more time efficient option would be to have a large dinner together at one common place hahaha. I loved it so much!! You know what the Chinese say, "good neighbours are better than distant relatives". Taek's relationship with his father reverberated in me the most, especially in the episode where his father had to do the interview but he couldn't answer most of the questions, he felt like a failure as a dad. Also when the heroine's dad asked her to forgive him because that's his first time being a dad. Those two parts made me realise that even parents have their own shortcomings, and just because they're parents it doesn't mean they've figured everything out in life. Another one of my favourites is the episode where A's mum went away for two days, and came back to find the household unaffected by her absence, as though she was not needed to keep things in order, so she was saddened by this. When A realised this, he turned things upside down so that his mother could come to rescue. Such a sweeeet episode!! Oh and another favourite would be the episode where the children tried, in their own ways, to make menopause slightly more bearable for their mothers. From manicure, to birthday party turned into a wedding, my heart just melted to see how they didn't turn the other cheek to one of the biggest issues for ageing women. Haih. Oh and don't forget the part where B said to Taek "Seriously your personality is perfect and you perfectly.... Suck at chopsticks," when Taek, the Baduk prodigy, was fumbling with his chopsticks hahaha. This drama brought back the nostalgia of the past seamlessly, from multiplying your name with your crush's name to calculate the percentage of love (we all did this before) (don't lie, tipu dosa), to the folklore of shoving a garlic up your anus as a remedy for haemorrhoids, to putting a cassette in the freezer to make it work well again, everything was so well done. I've watched Reply 1997 and couldn't help myself from comparing the two, I honestly think Reply 1988 surpassed Reply 1997 by miles, for the first half. But by episode 12 onwards, I was overdose on the family, neighbours & friendship aspects already and I was deprived of the love part. I was pissed off because, even with 1 hour 40 minutes running time of each episode, the progress of the heroine's love story was very slow, all the way through Episode 17. And there were scarce glimpses of the 2015 Heroine, that I actually forgot that the entire drama was a mission to guess who her husband was. The stories of other people completely overshadowed the heroine's love story. And then Episode 18 onwards tetiba banyak pulak muka si Taek ni (not that I'm complaining, what a sight to behold), and sikit je muka A keluar. It's inconsistent. The 2015 Taek in the early part of the drama was also inconsistent with 1988 Taek. Fine, people might change, time does that to people, but I couldn't see the logical transition between 1988 Taek and 2015 Taek.
Would I recommend this drama to another person? Yes, if the fact that each episode lasts 1 hour & 40 minutes does not hinder that person's steadfast commitment for a korean drama. The pace is a bit too slow for me, but maybe not for you because, you know, to each his own. You have to watch it to find out yourself. This is such a beautiful, intricately woven drama that I guarantee will make you wish you live in the era and in the neighbourhood area itself. Every line was so thoughtfully written and perfectly delivered by every character. Overall, I'd give this drama 8.5/10.