“Love Area Season One” Series Review (Ep.1 to 6)

I am a bit surprised at myself for liking this drama so much. Variations of this theme have been done previously, with some having limited efficaciousness. But this one really works. While seemingly contrived in the beginning, it settles down quickly into a solid story of self-discovery and coming to the realization that your actions do affect others.

Kaitoon, (Chavitpong Pusomjitsakul/Pak) is a bit of a loner and almost emotionally reclusive. Mainly because he has no family and had to rely on himself for so long. He is incredibly resourceful and a very industrious person who, rather than whine about his plight, simply moves on and finds another path. Never either with a holier-than-thou attitude or with any sense of hopelessness. He has an acceptance of the reality without a hint of resignation about it. Serendipitously, he is spotted by Pangko (Waeinda Noenphoemphisut/Ant), owner of the restaurant ‘Love Area’. Because of his creative ingenuity, she sees his worth and offers him a job even if he seems adrift. By happenstance as well, he moves to a new place where he is befriended by a senior named Nont (Norawit Bowonsantisut/Pan) who lives right across from him. Nont shows covert signs of being attracted to Kaitoon. Because Kaitoon is more than a bit naïve when it comes to Nont’s overtures, Kaitoon apparently only sees him as a friend. While friendly towards Nont, and enjoying his company, there are built in boundaries that Kaitoon is unwilling to cross (like insisting on calling him brother) and a romantic interest in Nont is unthinkable.

On his way home from the restaurant after getting paid, Kaitoon is robbed by a desperate and rather bumbling individual who apparently has a gambling problem. In an ironic twist, that individual turns out to be Panko’s brother, Valen (Gun Tieosuwan). Valen sees little value in hard work and is always looking for the quick fix to getting money. His sister is desperately trying to get him to reform his ways and has had enough of bailing him out of trouble. So, he is given this opportunity to work at the restaurant (to pay back his debts) while under the watchful eye of his trainer, Kaitoon.

So far, this story line seems iterant, but what makes this one work is that the unfolding is more organic, and the characters are so much more alive, real, and relatable. You can sense that Valen wants to change but has no tangible incentive to do so – up until now. We do not know much about his family except that he feels abandoned and isolated, much like Kaitoon. Perhaps that is why they have a natural attraction to each other. Despite Kaitoon being in the right, he never held that against Valen. He never mentions his troubles with Valen to his sister. In every sense, Valen and Kaitoon are complete opposites and because of that, there have a tendency to repel each other. But over time, they begin tapering each other’s faults or weaknesses, and start seeing individual strengths. A sense of comfortableness in being with each other evolves; something that frankly, they both have never experienced with others previously. Their desire and yearning to be together overwhelms them. Their need to be together becomes a part of their learning curve. Valen needs Kaitoo for direction; Kaitoon needs Valen to show him that life is not one long workday. The stirrings of a romantic interest in each begin to take shape, especially as Kaitoon helps Valen prepare for his stage performance.

Their connection together is a thing of beauty to watch. While they continuously bicker, their attention and focus is always concentrated on the other. In the meantime, as Nont becomes more deeply invested in his feelings for Kaitoon, he begins to realize that Kaitoon is slowly being drawn to Valen. He tries to pursue Kaitoon gently and gain his attention, but he fails. This failure is more painful because it is a failure of omission rather than a commission on the part of Kaitoon.

This series is unique for its ordinariness. This story should NOT work but it does mainly because of the strength of the acting. We get to see each character’s unique strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and capabilities. What underlies this series is the willingness to accept individuals as they are. I found that so refreshing and, in this series, they used this concept to drive the narrative forward. The last episode is so remarkable in its tenderness that I found it one of the most romantic scenes in any BL drama. When Valen tricks Kaitoon into going away for the weekend and they have finally an opportunity to be themselves; they talk openly, share, and more importantly, connect more intensively on different levels. The end when they are on the beach and their hands find each other’s and touch, both slowly grasp and gently fold their hands together, I found myself tearing up. Sometimes, romance can be so soft, gentle, and touching, but can still move mountains. And that is what this scene does. Yet, at the same time, this scene juxtaposes Nont’s own painful reality, sitting forlornly alone, waiting for someone he knows is not going to come. Love is like a coin with two sides. These guys portrayed their characters with exceptional acuteness coupled with softness, realism, and a complete understanding of their emotions.

Yet, the individual who stole my heart is Waeinda Noenphoemphisut (Ant), as Pango. This character has a complete understanding of each of the individuals whom she connects with. Subtle though it is, she treats each person as if they are unique and important to her. Pretending to be busy with her paperwork, she observes, notes, and processes more that anyone realizes. She understands what is going on and provides encouragement when necessary, direction when needed, and advice when asked. I have always appreciated an individual who can take a small but integral role and make it unique and pivotal to the development of others. Without her uniqueness, this series would not have moved along as well. She does so with consistency and a show of real internal strength.

What this story unmasked so well was the awakening of two individuals whose lives have become routine and mundane. They were going through life on autopilot. Suddenly the presence of someone significant touches their soul and changes their life’s equation. No longer is life simply about yourself. Unexpectedly, someone else enters your world and you learn to live outside your comfort zone. Sometimes that can be disheartening or exhilarating, or even both at the same time.

This is a worthy story that goes beyond its cuteness and gives us a journey to enjoyment.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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