Dae-sang: Ma’am, when was the happiest moment in your life so far?
Hye-Ja: I wouldn’t say it was any special day. You see, those ordinary days made me happy. Around the time when the whole village was filled with the aroma of rice being cooked, I’d start cooking rice on the stove as well. my son had just started walking back then. I’d hold his hand and go out to the front yard with him. Then we’d see the sun setting from afar… Those were the happiest moments. Those days.The Light in Your Eyes, Episode 12
“The Light in Your Eyes” is the kind of drama that leaves you appreciating life more, and learning to celebrate ordinary days. It is particularly timely that I watched this drama during this #stayhome season and I resonated so strongly with with Hye-Ja’s lines above. As she said those lines, what came to mind was me cooking dinner or washing up after dinner every evening, then looking out of the window to enjoy the sunset view. For the past few evenings, the skies have been a lovely purple hue. The happiest moments in life are not the big moments, but these everyday moments are the ones that should give us joy, because they stay in our memories.
While this message is conveyed throughout, the series delivers a twist towards the end that just brings home this message so strongly. It’s such an amazing twist that makes you feel even more for the characters and deepens the pathos of the story. As you finish watching this show, you cannot help but be in awe of the masterful storytelling and beautiful tapestry of memories weaved together in this show.
In brief, the story centres around our main character, Hye-Ja (the young version played by Han Ji Min), and we meet her in her younger days where she has aspirations to be a reporter, but meets many setbacks along the way. She meets Lee Joon-Ha (played by Nam Joo-Hyuk) at a class reunion party and has a crush on him. It turns out Joon-Ha is her neighbour and they have several meaningful encounters together.
In the first episode, we see that Hye-Ja has a special watch which she found along the beach when she was younger. This watch enables her to turn back time and relive same moments again, but when she does so, she gets older. As a child and teenager, she has used the watch several times and thus grown up faster than her peers, hence she decides to stop using it.
One day, her dad Dae-Sung (played by Ahn Nae Sang) meets with an accident while he is driving a taxi and passes away. In her attempt to save him, she decides to use the watch again, but she has to turn back time many, many times so that she can finally find a way to save him from the accident. Finally, she manages to save his life, but because of the many time-reversals, she has aged so much and becomes a 25 year old trapped in the body of an elderly lady (played by Kim Hye-Ja).
The rest of the series explores the journey of Hye-Ja adjusting to her life as an elderly woman and accepting that identity. Her friends, Hyun-Joo (played by Kim Ga-Eun) and Sang-Eun (Song Sang-Eun), remain loyal throughout and provide much warmth and support for Hye-Ja. Hye-Ja meets Joon-Ha again at a nursing home at a point of his life where he is at his lowest, having lost his grandmother and being harassed by his father for the insurance payout. Hye-Ja tries to provide him with emotional support and advice, but Joon-Ha mostly pushes her away and has become cold to life. Hye-Ja also works through her family relationships as she starts caring more for her mum (played by Lee Jung-Eun) and her father.
This is a show that will make you smile, laugh and cry as you journey along with the characters. Along the way, it explores timely and relevant issues like the elderly and our perception of them, dealing with regret and finding strength in life. Ultimately, like the title suggests, this show is about learning how to live life with light in your eyes – how to rediscover it when it’s lost, how to sustain it, and how to help others to find it.
At the end of the series, Hye-Ja’s eyes sparkle with light because she has realised that true joy comes in the everyday moments. The show closes with these poetic lines:
My life was filled by misfortune but there were happy moments too.
They say that life is nothing but a mere dream but I was still grateful for mine. The cold, brisk air at dawn, the sweet breeze right before flowers start to bloom, and the scent of sunset that fills the air at sundown. Every single day was dazzlingly beautiful.
Even if you’re struggling right now, everyone alive has the right to enjoy all this. Even if one ordinary day is followed by another ordinary day, life is still worth living. Don’t waste the present regretting the past and worrying about the future. Live this day beautifully with light in your eyes. You deserve it.
To all of you who were a mom, a sister, a daughter, and yourself.The Light In your Eyes, episode 12
When Kim Hye-Ja (the actress) won the Daesang award at the 2019 Baeksang Arts Award ceremony, she read these lines too during her acceptance speech, showing how this message had become her life message too. While her lines are directed towards women, it is a message that we can all embrace as well.
How wonderful it is to encounter a drama that aims not just to entertain, but to inspire. To encounter one that’s so intelligently constructed as well is even more rare. I highly recommend this show.