Once Upon a Small Town review: A comforting tale of love

Netflix’s Once Upon a Small Town follows two unlikely but predestined individuals falling for each other, with a surrounding cast of nosy characters; a love triangle that entails delicate dynamics; and a lot of romcom clichés.


Once Upon a Small Town begins with a veterinarian doctor named Han Ji-yul receiving a harrowing call about his grandfather.

When he runs off to Huidong village, he sees that his grandfather has gone with his wife on a trip around the world, having pranked his grandson into house-sitting and handling the village veterinary hospital.

The initial experience at Huidong is a cultural whiplash for Han Ji-yul, a person who’s generally quiet and reserved, devoted to his work and keeping people out of the personal boundaries he’s created.

The people of Huidong are anything but interested in respecting superficial concepts like personal space or boundaries, constantly violating Han Ji-yul’s, who has a hard time navigating through this region of extroverted social beings.

One person, in particular, Ahn Ja-young, manages to annoy Han Ji-yul a bit too much. She’s the local cop whose duties lie far beyond professional obligations.

Everyone in the village calls her for any issues they contend with in their daily lives, and Ja-young obliges happily, exhibiting little regard for her wants and needs.

However, what at first starts as a dynamic rife with annoyance and frustration, soon warms up when Ji-yul sees the unrelenting selflessness of Ja-young despite her sad and lonely upbringing.

The two grow closer and during all this, a very crucial and core part of this whole ordeal continues to elude Han Ji-yul. He had once visited Huidong in his childhood and became “secret friends” with Ahn Ja-young.

While the latter remembers the very precious experience, the memory of which she holds dear and near to her heart, Ji-yul is clueless about all of it.

Meanwhile, Ja-young’s best friend since childhood, Lee Sang-hyun grows jealous of her growing proximity with Ji-yul, having developed romantic feelings for Ja-young himself.

The love triangle breeds several awkward and passive-aggressive confrontations between Ji-yul and Sang-hyun.

The latter also requests Ja-young to reconsider their relationship and give a chance to the idea that there could be something more non-platonic between them.

Ji-yul finally remembers who Ja-young is and his perspective on her becomes even more drenched in romanticism. He now vies for her love and wants to profess his.

However, when the two start getting really close and spending quality time together, in comes Ji-yul’s ex-girlfriend from the past, who tries to get back into his life.

However, defying all the hurdles and clearing up all the conflicts with the other people on the periphery, Han Ji-yul and Ahn Ja-young come together and finally, get into a relationship.

The end of Once Upon a Small Town sees the two navigating their new lives and learning to better understand and care for each other, ultimately ending up in something akin to a happy-ever-after bliss.


The Netflix kdrama revolves around the standard rom-com affair, and with that kind of a deal, the premise generally involves many melodramatic moments.

Once Upon a Small Town has a great cast of actors doing a satisfactory job playing out the melodrama with ease.

The lead actors do a good job conveying the varied range of emotions and making the frequent and abundant close-ups less awkward.

The supporting cast does a great job playing, many times, the perfect foil for the main cast.


Once Upon a Small Town falls into the usual trappings of the romcom clichés and tropes but intentionally so, as the crux of the whole affair is to provide a comfort watch for the audience.

There is an innocence woven into the narrative with the simplicity and the lack of cinematic embellishments it exhibits. Nothing distracts the viewer from the story at the center and the show is all the better for it.

Being a romantic comedy with a considerable amount of drama sprinkled on top of it, Once Upon a Small Town does a great job not falling for the problematic tropes of the aforementioned genres.

The simplicity of the show doesn’t deprive it of depth, both in terms of the characters and the themes. The way it gives a resolution to the love triangle trope is particularly healthy and free of unnecessary and dramatic clutter.


Once Upon a Small Town suffers from quick pacing that accelerates the narrative through many chapters that need a restrained and more meditative treatment.

Dwelling on some developments, morose or jovial, allows for more time to take in the underlying message the story wants to convey — sadly an element sorely missing from Once Upon a Small Town.


Once Upon a Small Town is a wholesome affair that revolves around a whole lot of cute stuff, staying within the much-trodden lane of romcoms without dwelling on the bumpy parts of it. There are lovable characters, a beautiful backdrop, and a predictable story and yet an effortless and comforting ride, breezing through its 12-episode run.

Once Upon a Small Town
Once Upon a Small Town review: A comforting tale of love 1

Director: Kwon Seok-jang

Date Created: 2022-09-06 17:30

Editor's Rating:

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