K-drama Twinkling Watermelon: Ryeoun-led fantasy teen romance borrows Coda’s cue sheet

This article contains mild spoilers.

Lead cast: Ryeoun, Choi Hyun-wook, Seol In-a, Shin Eun-soo

Latest Nielsen rating: 3.3 per cent

The new music- and disability-themed fantasy teen romance Twinkling Watermelon opens with a pair of episodes that make for breezy viewing, save for the fact that they brazenly lift from Coda, the best picture winner at the 2022 Academy Awards.

Leading this drama is Ryeoun ( The Secret Romantic Guesthouse), who plays student Ha Eun-gyeol. Just like the protagonist in the aforementioned Oscar winner, Eun-gyeol has two deaf parents and a deaf brother.

In their respective stories, both characters find themselves torn between their dreams to pursue music and their desire to always be there for their parents, who do not, at least initially, support them.

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Following a quick intro with handsome brothers Eun-gyeol and Ha Eun-ho (Bong Jae-hyun) in a cafe, the story begins in earnest in the past, when the siblings were young boys, living with parents Ha Yi-chan (Choi Won-young) and Yoon Cheong-ah (Seo Young-hee), who run a construction site canteen.

The family moves to a new semi-basement flat – like the one in Parasite – and the parents struggle with their new restaurant, while Eun-gyeol excels at school. He also discovers a passion for music when he passes by Grandpa Viva’s (Cheon Ho-jin) guitar shop and is drawn in after hearing Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”.

Later, a tragic incident involving a fire leaves Eun-gyeol guilt-stricken and forces him to hide his prodigious new-found musical talent from his family.

Choi Hyun-wook plays Ha Eun-gyeol’s classmate in a still from “Twinkling Watermelon”.

Jumping to the present, Eun-gyeol is now a mysterious masked busker shredding it up on the streets of Hongdae, a university neighbourhood in Seoul known for its indie music.

A popular local band – who call themselves the “Coldplay of Hongdae” – soon invite him to join them and together they land an audition in the presence of legendary music producer Oh Ma-joo (Kim Hyeong-beom). But Yi-chan catches wind of Eun-gyeol’s secret hobby and confronts him.

On the verge of smashing his guitar later that evening, Eun-gyeol suddenly notices two shadows on the ground and looks up to see two moons in the night sky. The La Viva Guitar Shop magically appears in front of him and he goes in to sell his guitar. However, when he leaves the store, it is 1995.

Seol In-ah as cellist Choi Se-kyung in a still from “Twinkling Watermelon”.
Before magically jumping back to the past we are introduced to a few other characters. There is the beautiful cellist Choi Se-kyung (Seol In-ah, Business Proposal), who happens to be Grandpa Viva’s daughter; a happy-go-lucky teen played by Choi Hyun-wook ( Twenty-Five Twenty One); and their deaf classmate, played by Shin Eun-soo ( A Model Family).

What isn’t made clear at first is that the scenes involving these characters are actually taking place in 1995, and that Choi and Shin are playing the teen versions of Eun-gyeol’s parents Yi-chan and Cheong-ah. The already bewildered Eun-gyeol is given quite a shock when he bumps into Yi-chan.

Unlike Coda, or the French film it was based on ( La Famille Bélier), Twinkling Watermelon features no deaf actors in its cast, and rather than present a realistic depiction of life in Seoul for the hearing-impaired, it leans on these characters as cheap, sentimental crutches.
Shin Eun-soo as a deaf student (left) and Choi Hyun-wook in a still from “Twinkling Watermelon”.

The social themes may be opportunistic and the story comes dangerously close to being an unlicensed remake but there’s no denying that the show smoothly marches to its own beat.

The attractive cast and the simply drawn characters they play operate in a comfortable and familiar register and it’s hard not to get sucked in to the fast-paced narrative presented in these opening episodes.

What happens next as the story settles into what will surely be a teen love quadrangle will be another matter entirely.

Ryeoun and Seol In-ah in a still from “Twinkling Watermelon”.
After thoroughly mining Coda, the series looks as if it will have to copy a few pages from Back to the Future’s playbook, as Eun-gyeol will surely find himself in a situation where he needs to ensure that his parents wind up together and thus ensure he will be born in the future.

This is because Yi-chan, who in the past isn’t deaf, is already head over heels in love with Se-kyung.

Narrative originality aside, the make-or-break factor of this show going forward will be the chemistry between its four young leads. What little of that we have seen so far does bode well.

Twinkling Watermelon is streaming on Viu.


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