The ‘does-not-like-men’ lakorn trope is one that I really love watching. I am a sucker for these and if someone were to tell me that a show has a heroine who is a man-hater, I would more often than not check it out. I am curious not only to see how the backstory is constructed, but how the heroine’s thought process is changed throughout the show. For the sake of the age-old man-hating argument: all men are bad- can the show prove to our heroine that not all men are bad? It may seem like such a simple obstacle, in that she would just need to meet a man who changes her mind, and that may be true, but Hidden Love, Part Five of the Cupid Series, proved this argument wrong in such a thoughtful and careful way, no stones were left unturned. It is for this reason that I close out this seven-episode lakorn with such a therapeutic, rewarding feeling.
The essence of our heroine’s character -Nantisa aka Oi (Cheer Rittapunin) is explained in one analogy and choice: when faced with a threat of snake and man, Oi will always choose to kill the man first. Because a snake’s venom can only hurt her once, while a man’s venom will cause long lasting pain. She does not have first hand experience, but she sees irreparable damage that men have placed on the two people she loves the most: her mom and grandmother. She has learned through her elders’ pain that in order to survive in this world, she must never trust a man.
Ironically she works at Cupid Hut, a matchmaking firm. Her struggling boss gives his employees a year to find a boyfriend in order to turn the business around. But Oi has no intention to be with any man and sets her goal to cash out at the end of a big project- she would resign and open a dessert business with her mom and grandmother instead. Unfortunately in order to succeed with her final project, Oi requires her boss’ blessings, though she’s currently in the hot seat for being perpetually late for work. It doesn’t reflect well on her since she’s head of Personnel Relations, but in her defense, she leaves for work at the crack of dawn, but just has trouble making it out of the house and overcoming the very slow and very long commute. This results in hysterical hijinks just to get to work.
Her boss gives her an ultimatum: she must move into his condo for the duration of the project, it is the only way he can ensure that she makes it to work on time. This forces Oi out of her comfort zone and shakes things up in her world, especially when she believes that the next-door neighbor is a man of questionable character. Their first encounter was even before she moved into the condo; she had squeezed up against him in the elevator and believes him to be a pervert. Then he hosts female guests; two at a time at his condo, seemingly doing perverted things with them. Oi is convinced he’s a bad guy. Oh, but she could not be more wrong, and this is where it gets fun.
Anggoon aka Art (Toey Pongsakorn) runs an architecture/construction firm but is also an avid painter. It’s his hobby that gets him in hot waters with the new woman next door. During his downtime, he invites people of particular interest to him over to his condo- sometimes these people are trans or old- and because we aren’t shown why Art is seeing these people, we don’t really fault Oi for arriving to the wrong conclusion: that he’s a pervert who doesn’t discriminate who he sleeps with. This only furthers along Oi’s discrimination against men.
Maybe Oi is onto something, men cannot be trusted. A great case is Mark, Bua’s fiancé (Art’s sister). Right off the bat we know he’s not a good guy, and that he’s only seeing Bua for her money. Art’s mom has a bad feeling about this guy and decides she’ll make a new family tradition: the younger sibling cannot marry before the eldest. This causes Bua to scheme and try to seek help from Cupid Hut to hook her brother up with a girlfriend. When this fails (Cupid Hut has a rule that the customer only sign up when he’s ready and that match making cannot be forced), Bua decides to take matters into her own hands and set her brother up with her own friends. She has four contenders that she hasn’t seen or hung out with for ages, but thinks that based on their looks and status, they can win her brothers’ heart.
Art goes along with his sister’s set up because we have come to learn that Art is a gentle guy who cannot disappoint nor break his sister’s heart. He has a tendency to buckle under a woman’s tears, and when his first date cries because he told her the truth and declined her, Art hightails out of there. But he spies that Oi witnesses the whole debacle and she consoles the poor girl. From the sideline, Art sees that Oi is able to cheer up a person with just a few words. He also notes how loving she is towards her own mother and grandmother, and decides to approach her with an offer. He would hire her to help him deter his sister’s friends.
Never in a million years would Oi agree to this offer, but her new project fell through because her client apparently found his own love, so the money that would have come from this project slipped through her fingers. Oi would not be able to fund her dream with her mother and grandmother, unless she accepts Art’s offer. What I love about this set up is that our heroine puts in 110% of her efforts to help Art, which results in hilarious schemes to deter the girls, and her efforts do not go without notice to Art. He found every hijinks as adorable as he found her. We see how he slowly falls in love with the tough anti-cupid, but more importantly, we see how Oi understands his true character. Also living next door to each other offers some convenience and late night talks.
What I love most about this show is the dialogue. It’s witty, astute and so very wise. For example, when Oi finally enters Art’s condo and sees the painted portraits of what she believed were his lovers, Art’s explanation of those portraits can wring tears. Nude paintings are considered art, but what fascinates him the most about nude paintings are the stories they tell about the person and their inspiration. He has painted an old woman who lost a breast due to breast cancer/mastectomy. The woman is smiling widely in the painting because she realizes that life is too short to not appreciate that she’s alive and it teaches her to live life to the fullest. There is another painting of a woman abused with deep and dark marks scaring her body, the scars serve to remind her that she’s a survivor. Oi realizes that Art is a sympathetic and sensitive person. Along this line, she also discovers that Art hired her to help him because he doesn’t want to make women cry, a woman’s tears is his undoing. In one of their lovely evening talks, Art tells her that his father abandoned his family for another woman and made his mother cry, a person who never cried and always showed her strong side. But he witnessed her in her weakest moment and vowed never to do that to a woman.
Art also admitted that he raised his sister in a very sheltered way, and takes responsibility for her naïve view on men. He mentions that the way she was raised has caused her to be over confident and a know it all. And he wouldn’t be further from the truth because for a woman who’s confident and knows it all, she knows nothing. She clearly knows nothing about her friends (who turned out opposite from what she believed) and has been dating a guy for a few years (her fiancé) but could not see through his ulterior motives. Art takes it upon himself to help his sister come to her own realization that her fiancé is a bad person. He also enlists Oi’s help because Mark turns out to be a scam artist. He grew up in Oi’s town and everyone knows him to be a terrible kid. He ran away from home and started a new life by scheming and taking advantage of women.
Art is one of my favorite heroes: he’s gentle, kind, genuine and ever so loving. He’s both a kitten and a tiger. So he’s kind and respectful, but also protective. Through the course of the story, he changes Oi’s perspective: in that she can’t base her point of view about men because of two bad men in her life. Oi admits that she has never met anyone like Art before and allows herself to love and be loved. But their biggest obstacle is to overcome her mom and grandmother’s prejudice against men. We know Oi could easily cut off her family to be with Art, she’s a grown woman and does not need her family’s approval. But we have come to love Oi because of her love for her family, and that she cannot be truly happy if she could not have both her love and family in her life.
The story starts off hilarious and will make your stomach hurt from all of the laughing. But towards the end, the story will grab you by the heart and wring out all of the tears. When Art realizes that his presence in Oi’s life has caused her and her family pain- when all he really wanted is to be with her and make her happy- we all knew that what he ended up doing makes sense because of his character. He could not go on and cause her pain when he knows he could never win over her mother and overcome years of prejudice and heartbreak. So he waves the white flag and gives in, relenting that he hopes mom would continue to love Oi the way she has always loved her. Ugh, my heart. Then Art’s mom approaches Oi’s mom and tells her that no one gets to feel disappointed over another person’s life: everyone is a master of their own destiny. And that a mother’s love isn’t about dictating her child’s life, not to mention projecting her own experiences on her daughter. Even grandmother chastises mom for being selfish for wanting Oi to live out a repressed life when she should want her daughter to live out the happiest life possible.
Mom’s undoing is when she eavesdropped her daughter telling her friends that she is miserable and that she only put up a happy and brave front so as not to upset her mother. But she’s not ok. She thinks about Art every minute and wants to know everything that is going on with him, and every night she cries herself to sleep because she misses him so much. I can see that both Oi and Art could die of heartache for each other. And when mom finally came around, we feel that Oi and Art’s happily ever after is fully deserved.
I am impressed with the acting and directing in this show. Toey and Cheer are standouts and I am glad that Cheer is a free agent now (she was originally exclusive to Ch7). I noticed Toey from the Gentlemen Series and thought he was amazing for his debut, but in Hidden Love, he is absolutely swoony. Cheer is by far the best actress in this series. So much emotions, so much talent. From funny to sad, this woman can carry a show all her own. Besides, she’s freaking cute with Toey. Another actress that I took note of is Marina, who plays Bua. She’s Margie Rasri’s younger sister, I didn’t notice the resemblance, but she’s beautiful and emotes very well. I hope she gets to play the lead one day.
This show stands out among the other parts in this series because it successfully marries great acting, directing and writing. It’s not perfect, because I could do without the crazy Mark (who is the weakest actor), and for all of the damages that he wreaked, his punishment was just getting captured by the police. But Mark’s character does serve to teach Bua’s character how very wrong she is about, well, everything. That’s a lot to process and I can imagine that it’s going to take her awhile to learn how to trust herself again. Meanwhile, Art and Oi’s obstacles (first Oi and then Oi’s mom) have so many issues they can work through, that additional subplot with Mark is not needed. Having said that, this show succeeds in making me feel a whole slew of emotions. It has been a while since a show took me along for the ride, immersing me in the storytelling (they win the argument of all men are not bad) and the couple. Now if only other writers continue to create such perfect heroes and perfectly imperfect heroines, I’ll be forever in their review/recapping debt.