Romantic drama Twenty Five Twenty One, partially set in 1998 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, harks back to a slower era of life.
It is a coming-of-age story about carving out a new path after broken dreams, told through two people who fall for each other when one is 25 and the other 21.
Here are five things to know about the K-drama, which is available on Netflix.
A touch of nostalgia
With the series set in the late 1990s, shooting locations were specially chosen to transport audiences to that time period.
Nam Joo-hyuk (Start-Up, 2020) plays a student whose father becomes bankrupt during the financial crisis.
Nam, 27, says in a group interview with local media: “These days, there are skyscrapers everywhere you go. It’s not easy to find locations that have smaller buildings and a touch of nostalgia. But the crew did and that left an impression on me. I found it healing to film in those places.”
Starring alongside Nam is actress Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, 2016), who plays Na Hee-do, a fencing athlete whose team is broken up after the crisis.
The 31-year-old says: “To prepare for my role, I took fencing lessons for about five to six months. When I had time, I would practise for two hours a day. I started from the basic steps and trained up my stamina – it’s what every aspiring fencing athlete would have to go through.”
The production’s recreation of a fencing arena also left a deep impression on Kim. “The set was so well-made and sophisticated, with small references to the 1990s as well,” she says.
Cheeky male lead
When asked if there was anything about 1998 that interests him, Nam, who was born in 1994, showed his prankster side.
He says: “I don’t remember much about that era. But since there weren’t smartphones then, you had to go through a completely different process when you’re arranging a meet-up with someone. It’s not very easy.
“If I could experience that time, I’d like to try arranging a meet-up with a friend and just not showing up.”
Kim saw herself in the character of Hee-do because of their similar personalities and life trajectories.
“Hee-do’s the kind of person who had to learn how to be independent at an early age. I’ve also lived a very independent life where I’m the one making decisions for myself so I could relate to her.
“But Hee-do also meets a lot of people and her world is much expanded by the end of the series and that’s also similar to me. I thought I would live a life that is very independent, but I’ve actually met so many wonderful people over the years who gave me a lot of love and support.”
Summer fashion in winter times
While much of the story is set during summer, with the cast in warm-weather fashion, Nam reveals that the series was actually shot during winter, when temperatures could go below 0 deg C.
“I was like: ‘Why don’t we have scenes set in winter?’ We put in a lot of effort into pretending like we were in the summer and warm,” he says.
Kim adds that the series has many scenes of the cast playing with water – splashing it on one another, running in the rain – which only made them colder.
She says: “I’ll come in and realise: ‘Oh, we’re going to have to shoot a scene with water again.’ We had a few shoots like that and we actors will complain and bicker among ourselves.”
Twenty Five Twenty One is available on Netflix.