Pressing play on Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, even if you have watched it already, is as easy as it comes. This is because it has the right amount of everything — well-timed comedy moments, nuanced main characters, memorable side characters, picturesque locations, and a gorgeous soundtrack. This Kim Seon-ho and Shin Min-ah starrer is the perfect watch if you are looking for a relaxing time.
Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-ah) is a dentist who is true to her profession but it ultimately costs her her job. Struggling to maintain her lifestyle in the city, she decides to move to the sleepy town of Gongjin and open a dental clinic. Enter Chief Hong (Kim Seon-ho as Hong Du-shik), Gongjin’s go-to person for literally anything — from plumbing to fishing, he knows it all and charges the minimum wage for all tasks. The two are as different as they come with contrasting attitudes towards life, leading to constant bickering. Meanwhile, Ji Sung-hyun (Lee Sang-yi), a director and Hye-jin’s college senior, comes to town to shoot his latest venture, rekindling an old spark between him and Hye-jin.
The town of Gongjin is alive, not only with its bustling sea port and breezy seascape, but also with its colourful residents like the former singer who now runs a cafe and is struggling to manage his teenage daughter; three grannies who are living their end days to their best; and a school teacher who returns to town and is caught amidst a divorced couple. And above it all, there are “Gongjin’s Three Mysteries”.
To chalk up Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha as just a rom-com might feel like injustice but it is predominantly what it is. It has its grand romantic moments and more than a sprinkling of standard K-drama tropes like childhood coincidental meetings. However, what makes it unique is the nuance with which the story unfolds. Du-shik and Hye-jin are the ideal cutesy couple but their mutual respect towards each other, each other’s pasts and struggles are deeply admirable.The show’s treatment of trauma, loss, and forgiveness is refined and beautiful.
Kim Seon-ho and Shin Min-ah are both brilliant actors with terrific on-screen chemistry. Du-shik’s bromance with Sung-hyun, which comes instead of a tiring love triangle, is also a refreshing and fun dynamic to watch. Most notably, Cho Hui’s (Hong Ji-hee) sexuality and her confession is dealt with subtlety and not with performative fanfare fishing for appreciation. The treatment of such various pertinent subjects in a subtle way, alongside a romance that’s central to the story, makes Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha not only worth a watch, but even rewatches.
Genre: Slice-of-life; romance
Where to Watch: Netflix
You Will Love it if You Love:
Breezy small-town settings
Multiple side plots
Feel good shows
The Telegraph rating: 4.5/5
Characters We Treasure
Shin Min-ah as Yoon Hye-jin: Elegant, poised but passionate, Hye-jin may come off as cold but as the drama progresses, we see her warm up to the town that simultaneously alienates and welcomes her. Her dynamic with the townspeople and her admirable maturity in dealing with Du-shik’s secrets make her a favourite.
We also loved her in: Oh My Venus, Our Blues
Kim Seon-ho as Hong Du-shik: Kim Seon-ho is a brilliant actor and he shines through the at-once cheerful but serious and to an extent mysterious Du-shik. Du-shik’s perpetual smile hides difficulties and incidents that he has not dealt with for years but with Hye-jin, he finally confronts them to find comfort. Kim Seon-ho’s good looks do add to the appeal of the character.
We also loved him in: Start-Up, Welcome to Waikiki 2
Lee Sang-yi as Ji Sung-hyun: One of the best things about Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is its mature characters which makes it a fun yet memorable watch. Director Ji has liked Hye-jin since their days in college but even when she rejects him years later, he is not the jilted and bitter lover often seen on television, but rather, chooses to optimistically move on.
OSTs We Love
- Romantic Sunday by Car, the Garden: This song rightly encompasses the beautiful ambience of the K-drama. It perfectly fits the breezy townscape shown as well as the soothing vibes at the core of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha
- My Romance by CHEEZE: Du-shik and Hye-jin’s romance is the definition of “slowly, then all at once” and this song is the right fit for it. Their blossoming romance that is not only cute, but also mature and healthy is complemented by this song.
- One Sunny Day by Kassy: Long after you finish the drama, this song will definitely remind you of the streets of Gongjin and its colourful bunch of residents. Hye-jin’s bold step to move to the countryside, her eventual acceptance of the townspeople and their various antiques and finally, as she learns to be more carefree with Chief Hong, all of it and more fits in this foot-tapping track.
- Here Always by Seungmin of STRAY KIDS: Seungmin’s soulful voice with beautiful synth beats make up this gorgeous track. Du-shik and Hye-jin hit a rough patch when the former is reluctant to share his past, and avoids confronting it. However, there is no anger as is typically seen in rom-coms. Rather, they give each other time and work through it by being there for each other as this song encapsulates.