Netflix K-drama Navillera: Song Kang plays ballet dancer in heart-warming and easy-going family dramajessie tan
For the third time in four months, young Korean star Song Kang is back with a new show, following Sweet Home and the second season of Love Alarm , both of which debuted on Netflix.
Song plays to type as a stubborn young dancer in Navillera, a tvN drama streaming worldwide on Netflix, but he’s also going beyond his usual fan base. The show is airing twice a week, on Mondays and Tuesdays, for a total of 12 episodes until April 27.
Song co-stars with Park In-hwan, one of South Korea’s most beloved older actors, and the strong family themes and the it’s-never-too-late-to-follow-your-dream premise mean the show is aimed at a mature audience.
Park plays Sim Deok-chool, a septuagenarian retired postman who lives with his wife, Hae-nam (Na Moon-hee). After attending the funeral of an old friend, he happens to pass by a ballet studio in which he sees young dancer Chae-rok (Song) practising.
This plants a seed and reminds him of his passion for ballet as a youth, a passion that has remained unfulfilled for decades – but no longer. He goes back to the studio and asks owner Ki Seung-joo (Kim Tae-hoon) to teach him, but he is turned down.
Seung-joo is having trouble with his star student Chae-rok, who has talent to burn but a chip on his shoulder, which is partly because of the impending release of his father from jail. Seung-joo suddenly gets the idea of making Chae-rok train Deok-chool, while Deok-chool can serve as a manager to try to temper Chae-rok’s behaviour and keep him in check.
Deok-chool is delighted at the chance to learn, while Chae-rok is embarrassed and annoyed, at least at first. However, they each have other problems to deal with. Chae-rok is occasionally harassed by his former friend Ho-beum (Kim Kwon), whose sports career was derailed by Chae-rok’s father.
Meanwhile, Deok-chool is carrying out his ballet sessions in secret but, before long, his wife and his three grown children, two of whom are vehemently opposed to his new hobby, find out.
Navillera is based on a webtoon of the same name and focuses on the unlikely pairing of two men from very different generations. It’s a heart-warming tale that sees these two characters come together and ultimately help each other, while at the same time being a drama that focuses on certain local social issues.
As male ballet dancers, both men encounter stigmas, Deok-chool especially as a senior citizen. There’s also Deok-chool’s granddaughter Eun-ho (Hong Seung-hee), who works at the same restaurant where Chae-rok does part time work.
Eun-ho is aiming to get a full-time position at the company but is being used by her boss, who takes advantage of her position to make Eun-ho do her own work.
The story begins largely from Deok-chool’s perspective. Given the funeral opening, and his meet-ups with several old friends (another of whom dies in his hospital bed), the show has a wistful air, filled with reminiscences and regrets and tinged with nostalgia.
At the funeral, one of Deok-chool’s friends wonders why he isn’t shedding tears. Deok-chool matter-of-factly explains “as you get older, you get used to goodbyes”.
Deok-chool doesn’t want to upset his wife and children, but he also bristles at the expectation that he should, in his wife’s words, not trouble their children, and just watch television, go for walks and grow old gracefully.
The ballet sequences are a fun diversion, and Song fans will get a kick out of seeing him perform pirouettes and pointe – but make no mistake, Navillera is a family drama through and through.
Deok-chool dreams of performing Swan Lake on the stage just once, and Chae-rok is finding his feet so that he may achieve his potential, but the bulk of the narrative is about seeing how their respective family issues hinder their goals.
Over the next few weeks we’ll likely witness more internal family roadblocks preventing them from achieving these goals, and there’s every chance that the melodrama may heighten significantly with something along the lines of a major illness or Deok-chool developing Alzheimer’s, which has already been vaguely hinted at.
Heart-warming and easy-going, if occasionally histrionic and underwritten, Navillera is a bit like those walks that Deok-chool’s wife pleads with him to go on – undemanding and dotted with simple pleasures.
Navillera is streaming on Netflix.