‘A Time Called You’ review: a body swapping, time loopy romance

‘A Time Called You’ review: a body swapping, time loopy romance

This South Korean remake of acclaimed Taiwanese series Someday or One Day, is a heartbreaking saga that features time travel, body swapping, a whodunnit, a love triangle and so much more. A Time Called You follows Han Jun-hee (Jeon Yeo-been), a successful 36-year-old woman in 2023 who is grieving the loss of her finance, Gu Yeon-jun (Ahn Hyo-seop), a year after his passing due to a plane crash.

Simultaneously, we’re introduced to a shy high school girl in 1998 named Kwon Min-ju, who looks exactly like Jun-hee. Weirder still, the lonely girl is soon befriended by two classmates, Jung In-gyu (Kang Hoon) and his best bud Nam Si-heon, who looks exactly like Yeon-jun. The quiet and unpopular In-gyu has an obvious crush on Min-ju, which prompts the extroverted Si-heon to initiate a series of wholesome hangouts, so that his pal can get closer to her. Unfortunately for In-gyu, Min-ju ends up falling for the handsome wingman instead. But adolescent jealousies are put aside when Min-ju almost dies in an apparent hit-and-run.

Back in 2023, Jun-hee is unable to accept Yeon-jun’s death since his body hasn’t been recovered. Hopes are raised when a mysterious stalker, who she suspects to be Yeon-jun, begins leaving presents for her. However, the contents of these packages are baffling because they actually belong to the kids from 1998, including a picture of the trio posing outside a music shop in Nakwon. Jun-hee is startled by the lookalikes, but is certain that they can’t be younger versions of her and Jun-hee because she has no recollection of this ever happening. As Jun-hee puzzles over this conundrum, she dozes off on the bus, only to wake up in the hospital 25 years earlier, in the body of an injured Min-ju.

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Even early on, A Time Called You is juggling a wide swathe of mysteries across two concurrent timelines. For the most part, writer Choi Hyo-bi and director Kim Jin-won manage to keep the story’s many plot points intriguing throughout, while still grounding the show’s fantasy riddles in the emotional arcs of its main characters. Beyond the metaphysical destiny that connects our protagonists, the show also contains a pivotal criminal mystery, when Jun-hee’s uncle in 2023 reveals that she was murdered in October of 1998. How and why is this time travel and body swap happening? Who is after Jun-hee, and can her killing be prevented? These questions and more (which we can’t spoil) propel the K-drama’s narrative.

Like other temporally complex love stories such as Your Name or Dark, this series knows that such heady paradoxes are best digested through the heart. To that end, A Time Called You does a fantastic job of getting us invested in the romances (and bromance) at its core. Not only are the parallel relationships in both periods equally engaging, all five main characters are likeable and fully fleshed out as individuals. While each of the three leads deliver admirable performances, special praise must be given to Yeo-been for making her dual roles so distinct.

In fact, the show’s best moments involve watching Jun-hee’s personality adapt to her 1998 circumstances and take charge of Min-ju’s existence – like a reverse version of Big. While the latter’s meek demeanour has caused her to be mistreated and overlooked all her life, Jun-hee’s adult confidence and competence causes her peers and family to see her in a new light. Character beats like that are the show’s greatest strength, but those elements are overwhelmed later on by time travel twists that get far too confusing. Yes, everything does make sense by the end, but the road to get there is overly protracted.

A Time Called You did not require 12 episodes to satisfactorily hit all its checkpoints. Despite the clever construction of its circuitous chronology and the winning chemistry of its protagonists, sluggish pacing and an outrageously convoluted plot (especially in the second half) sometimes dull the show’s emotional charge. Nevertheless, A Time Called You is still a well-made and engrossing series, with an abundance of bittersweet warmth underneath its messy timeline.

A Time Called You is available exclusively on Netflix

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