Rain or Shine—also known as Just Between Lovers—was a random watch for me. I was browsing titles on Netflix and was intrigued by its poster as it looked grim next to all the cute posters. Right after reading the two-line synopsis, I started watching it.
I ended up watching the entire Korean drama in one day. Whenever I had a free minute, I watched this.
what is Rain or Shine about?
The drama mainly follows two characters who are survivors of the same building collapse. The Space S mall collapsed 10 years back, killing 48 people who were inside, and injuring several others.
Lee Gang-doo lost his father and suffered a serious leg injury that crushed his dreams of becoming a football player. 10 years after the collapse, he is still not coping well. When he hears of a new construction project in the area of the collapse, he nabs a night guard job there out of curiosity.
Ha Moon-soo lost her younger sister in the collapse and lost her memories of the tragedy. She has terrible survivor’s guilt and tries to take care of her mother, who is still deep in grief, as much as possible. She ends up getting a full-time position in the new construction project as a model maker for the architects.
Gang-doo and Moon-soo cross paths often and slowly begin to fall in love. They work together to ensure that the project is done well and also help each other move on.
The drama has two other main characters as well. Seo Joo-won, the lead architect of the new project and son of the architect of Space S mall, wants to do better than his father and hires Moon-soo after seeing her accurate insights on blueprint design mistakes. He starts liking her which forms a love triangle in the drama.
In order to have someone on his side to help him do this project properly, Joo-won asks Jung Yoo-jin to jump onto the project. Yoo-jin is a tenacious and clever leader in the construction firm. She is also his ex and is still in love with him.
Rain or Shine is a raw and haunting portrayal of grief and survivor’s guilt. It shows how the tragedy affected so many people despite seeming “small” in numbers to unaffected parties. Several lives were interconnected and completely changed due to that one incident.
my thoughts on the Rain or Shine
Considering that I watched the drama in one stretch with no breaks, you can say that drama is gripping. It is not one with twists at the end of every episode, but the story burrows into your heart.
It is an emotional and poignant drama that solely focuses on one tragedy. It explores everything around it—the corruption and tiny misses that resulted in the collapse, the innocent lives affected, the way it was dealt with afterwards, and the lasting effects on people.
Instead of keeping things simple and focusing on only the main characters, the drama makes the effort to show various kinds of grief and coping mechanisms through supporting characters as well.
Through Ha Moon-soo, the story goes into survivor’s guilt, the guilt of forgetting those crucial memories which allows her to move on a little better, and watching a family be angry and rip apart in grief instead of holding each other up.
Lee Gang-doo remembers every single thing from the collapse. He was the last survivor to be rescued. He went through some very hard things during those days. Memories and voices haunt him to this day. His coping mechanisms are not pretty. He is a grump and rash on the outside but he is actually a very sweet person who takes care of everybody and helps wherever he can.
Moon-soo’s mother gets drunk every single day in order to cope with grief. She barely takes care of herself and often forgets that she has a daughter whom she can take care of. Moon-soo has to keep herself together because if she doesn’t keep things running, no one will.
Seo Joo-won’s father was the main architect for the Space S mall. After the collapse, his father killed himself, leaving behind another grief-stricken family. On taking up the new project, Joo-won copes with grief by going through everything twice and digging into his father’s designs. His grief was less visible on the outside but it shows when we see the drama as a whole, especially through some things towards the end.
Watching the characters cope, learn, and try to do better every single day was hard-hitting. Gang-doo, Moon-soo, and Joo-won had to grow up too fast and live almost normal lives. But they are dragged back to the tragedy through the smallest triggers which are normal for others.
Rain or Shine does not shy away from showing the gruesome and painful things. As Gang-doo and Moon-soo remember the past, we see what happened clearly. There is no suggestion or plain references. The drama shows destruction, blood, pain, death, and severed limbs. It is firmly NOT a light-hearted show.
It is really emotional at times too. I teared up multiple times. It showed emotion—especially sad emotions—very well. A couple of times, I teared up because the characters were trying so hard to savour joy amidst struggle. While individual character struggles were hard to watch, the relationships and interactions are what pinched my heart.
Sometimes, the drama also hits with beautiful dialogues. They talk profoundly about grief, survivor’s guilt, and moving on in plain sentences. It is as if they’re telling the viewer “you’re not alone, here’s how you can cope”. I couldn’t relate because I haven’t been through anything similar, but I imagine it would mean a lot to viewers who can relate.
The drama shows how corruption is evident in almost every level of a business which can lead to disaster. We see how people cut costs and make deals that seem like nothing to them in the beginning. But when done enough, it leads to a building collapse years later, impacting several lives. The characters talk about materials, costs, and even how the architect should consider extreme weather for design.
We also see the characters fighting against authority and doing what they can to do things right. Being meticulous, going over things four times, and verifying can take more time and effort. But it pays off in the long run. It can literally save lives. The drama puts that responsibility on every member of the team, especially if they have any power.
The characters had depth. The drama showed them brilliantly. When we first get to know them, they seem pretty straightforward. But as the drama goes on, we uncover layers in people. There is a focus on even the supporting characters, not just the main ones.
Rain or Shine had a really good supporting cast. Each of them had backstories, flaws, strengths, and contributed to the story. They weren’t simply accessories around the main characters.
Every character had a character arc. Even some characters like Ma-ri and Jung Yoo-taek whom I didn’t think much of in the beginning had arcs. We see each character growing and changing, slowly but surely. By the end, we can see how much each of them have changed. The character development for each member was done well.
The drama tried to add a few elements which aren’t directly connected to the building collapse like Moon-soo’s best friend’s story. Wan-jin was an avid motorcycle rider who got into an accident that left her wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life. We saw just a little bit from her perspective about her personal tragedy which others can’t relate to.
But since the bulk of the attention was given to collapse related things, Wan-jin’s arc wasn’t given much importance. It could have been explored further but it could have also been cut out since it clearly wasn’t fitting in with the rest of the story.
Besides Gang-doo, my favourite character development has to be that of his sister Lee Jae-young. I thought nothing of her for a long time but she subtly became a big part of the show and had her own important role. In the epilogue, I cherished her position because of how she reached that point. It also showed how similar she and her brother are despite being very different on the outside.
Rain or Shine has a wonderful found family trope. Characters from very different walks of life are connected to each other in different ways and form a weird chaotic loving “family”. I didn’t even notice the building of the group until a part towards the end which brought everyone at one place. That scene warmed my heart.
Each relationship between individual people was great too. We see several types of relationships, each of them special in its own way. Some of them don’t naturally click like the one between Gang-doo and Jeong Sook-hee but turn out to be the sweetest. Their relationship seems weird because they’re debtor and debtee, and also illegal medicine seller and buyer. They throw barbs at each other and aren’t outwardly affectionate. But they have so much love for each other and the general population too.
Then there’s the relationship between Gang-doo and Sang-man. These two bros were the cutest! Their relationship stayed constant throughout the drama and was strong like steel. They’re the best of friends. I wish we got to know more about how they grew close.
Another great relationship was that between Gang-doo and Yoo-jin. If I had to pick the unlikeliest couple to end up as friends, I would have picked these two. They’re from different worlds, have different lives, different priorities and world-views, and simply don’t fit. But they worked! Randomly and subtly, they developed a nice friendship. They became drinking buddies who share life and love advice.
There was one relationship I couldn’t like, though. Moon-soo’s best friend Kim Wan-jin’s relationship with her beau. The drama tried to do something there. They tried making another unlikely relationship work but this one didn’t work for me. I couldn’t see the chemistry. Compared to the other great relationships, this one was dull.
Gang-doo and Moon-soo’s relationship was on the front stage of the drama and it was done well. Their relationship development is one of the best that I’ve seen. Both of them are flawed characters coping with pain in their own way. But they share trauma and pain in a way no one else will understand.
They meet after Gang-goo gets beaten up in another random fight that he got himself into and Moon-soo, finding him lying bleeding in an alley during rain, takes him to her father’s place out of kindness. After that, their paths continue to cross and they grudgingly become friends. When they notice each other’s coping mechanisms and triggers, they say nothing and just support each other. They recognize the pain in each others’ eyes which makes their relationship special from the start.
In the second half of the show, I liked the persistence with which they held on to each other. Especially Moon-soo. (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) When her father and mother disapprove of Gang-doo early on because he clearly has baggage, Moon-soo responding with “do I not have as well?” touched me. Instead of shoving it under a carpet and doing what she wants, she argues with them and defends him. I really liked that. (SPOILER END)
A lot of the tension in the romance was due to internal factors and not external. The drama dealt with it head-on and deep-dived into the reasons and vulnerabilities. This also felt like a consoling message to the viewers. “You may also feel the same, but here is how you’re holding yourself back. It is not wrong to want and hope for something.”
The romance in this drama is not one with obvious sparks, good banter, or cuteness. It was about finding the one person to hold hands with during bad times and supporting each other. Gang-doo and Moon-soo have a solid relationship. It was wonderful to see a romance like this compared to the romances we see otherwise.
the love triangle
I generally don’t like love triangles. It is generally because we know that the second lead will not get the girl and we feel bad for them. The second lead syndrome is a big thing for Kdrama viewers.
But in Rain or Shine, the love triangle didn’t make sense. The drama’s plot is so heavy on Gang-doo and Moon-soo’s relationship that any other possibility doesn’t even close to it. We can’t even consider it.
Seo Joo-won liking Moon-soo was weird. It actually took personality away from his character. There was clearly no chemistry or even possibility of a romance between Joo-won and Moon-soo. But it was a slightly big part of the plot.
In my opinion, the story would have been just fine without this link. It was not required for the plot or any character’s development. Even if it was just a crush that went away in episode 3, it would have been fine. Instead, it was dragged on for longer than necessary.
the main characters
I’m not surprised that Won Jin-ah won an award for this role. Ha Moon-soo is smart, independent, dependable, and responsible. She takes care of things and her mother. She is determined to do her job right and point out mistakes. She is also kind and friendly. When she is rattled, she can be mean but she smoothes things over with people.
Moon-soo’s flaws are less visible. She keeps things bottled up. When she gets rattled, doesn’t tell anyone or ask for help. When something triggers her PTSD, she gets through it alone. She makes it her mission to not burden her mother anymore. She has survivor’s guilt because she survived whereas her younger and “more talented” sister didn’t.
Her growth in the drama is slower and less apparent because she seems “well adjusted” on the outside. But there is a quiet strength that builds in her as she loves and receives love. It was wonderful to see that.
Played by Lee Jun-ho, Gang-doo is a rough and scruffy guy who doesn’t have a great life. He is rebellious, outspoken, and quick to fight. But underneath it all, he’s is a grump is a very soft heart. He just uses the more outwardly painful ways to deal with his PTSD.
While Moon-soo’s personality shines individually, Gang-doo’s personality shines through his interactions with people. He pretends to not care about anything but he helps everybody. He is dependable in a very different way. No matter what, he will be there for his loved ones. Each of his relationships with Moon-soo, Sang-man, Yoo-jin, grandma Seok-hee, his sister, and even Joo-won show something about Gang-doo.
There is a point later in the drama where we get background on his relationship with Ma-ri that cements his personality. Until then, their relationship was the only one I didn’t understand but it clicked right then. It was the last piece required to declare that Gang-doo is a great character.
I would say that Gang-doo could have been played better. There were areas where the acting wasn’t great. There may be other actors better suited for the role. But Jun-hoo did try his best and it comes through in several small ways.
The actor has become popular recently due to his apparently great performance in The Red Sleeve. I’m looking forward to see him act in that Korean drama.
Played by Lee Ki-woo, Joo-won was the only character whom I didn’t like. His character was so perfect in the beginning that he didn’t feel real. He is so righteous and showed no flaws. At the time, I was neutral to him. After a while, when I fully could not get behind him liking Moon-soo, my opinion became worse.
Gang-doo and Moon-soo were going through tons of growth and doing so many things. Meanwhile, Joo-won was not doing much.
Towards the end, the drama finally shows his flaws and vulnerabilities. But it still wasn’t enough. The acting wasn’t great as well, especially with expressions, so that affected my views on the character as well.
I really liked the actress Kang Han-na in Start-Up and was happy to see her again. It was a little disappointing that she had a similar role in this drama as in Start-Up because I couldn’t get to see her range. But she did bring her all into this character.
Yoo-jin is a competent, smart, and confident team leader in the company sponsoring the project. At Joo-won’s request, she comes onto the project and supports him in all the right decisions. She also butts heads with her brother, the CEO, often.
What made me really like her was how she defied her status and class for a simple friendship. Her relationship with Gang-doo, where she even accepts romantic advice from him, threw her in an entirely new light. Through Joo-won and Gang-doo she showed herself as a dependable friend. Sure, she has her flaws like still pining over Joo-won but she trumps past them to be the best version of herself.
She also had great growth and I was really satisfied with where she was at the end of the drama. In the beginning, she was shown only as Joo-won’s ex, but her character was cemented properly by the end. I started off not liking her but liked her way more by the end.
discussions (INCLUDES SPOILERS)
If you don’t want to get spoiled, click here to skip to the “overall” concluding section.
Some quick spoilery opinions:
- The way Wan-jin’s romance started was not impressive. Meeting the guy because she filed a report against him is fine. But the way he barged into her house and suddenly started taking care of her? Yeah, didn’t like that.
- I loved how Moon-soo and Gang-doo didn’t suddenly become “cured” of PTSD because they fell in love. Even at the end of the show, when they get back together for good, we see a scene where both of them are triggered by going to a mall. They experience it separately and don’t even talk about it. They hold hands and move on. That symobolized a lot. Their pain is still their pain, but they get through it with a loved one now.
- The drama is definitely one of hope. Gang-doo goes through so much pain and trauma. Right when he was grabbing the good things in life, he was dying. And right at the end, a miracle saved him. That may have been a tad unrealistic and in favour of a happy ending, but I’d like to interpret it as hope. Even when you’ve lost hope of everything, a miracle can happen. Don’t hesitate to grab it.
- What Gang-doo went through was horrible. The drama doesn’t shy away from taking us with him through his trauma. It was painful but the part that I still think about is him holding Moon-soo and crying. He cried and said that he’s happy that she forgot. She’s able to move on better than him. Watching that scene was like sticking pins into my heart.
The timeline of what happened right after the collapse is not clear. This is really bugging me. We saw flashbacks where Gang-doo met Moon-soo, got her out, and then (I assume) met Sung-jae. And then things get murky for me. We clearly saw flashbacks where Sung-jae holds onto Gang-doo’s leg, begging him to save him. It looked like Gang-doo was getting himself out, leaving Sung-jae. For a long time, I thought his guilt was because of leaving Sung-jae behind. But later, we saw a flashback where Gang-doo goes to Sung-jae and gets a rock off him only to find that his leg was severed. (That was scary.)
We also saw flashbacks where Gang-doo and Sung-jae were sitting together and talking right before Sung-jae passed away, sitting next to Gang-doo. Gang-doo, scared, kept talking to Sung-jae as if he was still there. Years later, Gang-doo can still hear Sung-jae’s voice in his head.
Now, the part that I’m confused about: the flashback of Sung-jae holding onto Gang-doo’s leg and begging him to save him does not match what I mentioned in the last paragraph. Gang-doo clearly helped Sung-jae when he found him. Gang-doo did not leave him alone to die. So when did that scene of Gang-goo trying to get away from Sung-jae occur? Was it real? Was it not? Were those flashbacks due to PTSD which warped his memories? If you have a clearer perspective of this, please explain in the comments.
I binged the show so I didn’t notice the faults of the drama as much. I didn’t give myself time to pick it apart. Still, I can say that the drama is not perfect. The casting wasn’t perfect, the plot isn’t amazing and the directing could have been better. But the drama had a message to convey and it was done well.
It is a sad and comforting show. The feelings coexist because, through the sadness, the characters find comfort and happiness. And that gives hope.
I highly recommend this drama if you’re looking for one with a lot of emotion and depth.