Movie Review

'Bitter Sweet Hell' On MBC Review: A Fresh Take In Thrillers That Exposes The Veneer Of A Picture-Perfect Family

Outlook Rating:
3.5 / 5

Starring Kim Hee-sun and Lee Hye-young in lead roles, the first two episodes of 'Bitter Sweet Hell' are out now. Is this show worth watching every weekend, or can you skip it? Read on to know more.

'Bitter Sweet Hell' Photo: MBC

This month has been filled with interesting K-Dramas that promise to captivate you and keep you coming back every weekend to watch them. Now, a new addition to the list has surfaced: ‘Bitter Sweet Hell.’ There was so much anticipation surrounding the release of this intense thriller, particularly due to the talented ensemble. So, in case you wish to explore a mysterious and different mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship, here’s all you need to know about ‘Bitter Sweet Hell.’

‘Bitter Sweet Hell’: Story

The story revolves around Noh Young-won, a renowned celebrity psychiatrist, whose seemingly perfect life is shattered when she discovers her husband, Choi Jae-jin, is having an extramarital affair with the mysterious Lee Se-na, who also visits as her patient. Se-na’s sudden intrusion triggers a series of unfortunate events, pushing Young-won’s family into chaos and exposing the fragility of their seemingly flawless façade. As she faces death threats from an unknown blackmailer, Young-won is determined to confront the truth. In a bid to protect her family above everything else, she joins forces with her mother-in-law, Hong Sa-gang, with whom she doesn’t exactly share the best relationship. The series will delve into how their seemingly normal and happy family harbours hidden secrets that one would have never thought of.

‘Bitter Sweet Hell’: Performances

Kim Hee-sun consistently captivates audiences with her compelling charisma, leaving us eager for more. It’s primarily because of her that there is a perfect blend of suspense and thrill. She has played her character with such grace and warmth that you’d find yourself feeling bad about events happening around her. Additionally, Hee-sun’s chemistry with Lee Hye-young is going to be something that will be exciting to look forward to. Speaking of the latter, as an experienced actress, she has skilfully brought out the layers of her character with such sass and vulnerability. Her tone of voice carries a mix of politeness and scepticism, keeping everyone around her in check.

In his limited screen time, Kim Nam-hee is adept at maintaining the image of a happy family life. His interactions with Hee-sun are filled with such affection that he has perfectly masked the turmoil brewing beneath the surface. He seems so in love that you wouldn’t have been able to tell otherwise. And as for Yeon Woo, she is the one to watch out for. She has this enigmatic aura around her, and I, particularly, love her psychological battle of wits with Hee-sun.

The rest of the characters will have more to offer as the storyline further unfolds.

‘Bitter Sweet Hell’: Script, Direction & Technical Aspects

From the first scene itself, ‘Bitter Sweet Hell’ lures you in with its enthralling narrative. A plethora of tension takes over every alternate scene, hinting at the tumultuous events yet to unfold within the picture-perfect Choi family. As the narrative further unfolds, it becomes evident that the family has a wealth of secrets, each revelation more shocking than the last. With the arrival of the next episode, the mystery deepens. With the help of an exceptional cast, the clever script by Nam Ji-yeon keeps you guessing at all times, ensuring that there is never a dull moment. The storytelling is nothing short of riveting, as every character introduced so far is shrouded in layers of emotional complexity, backed by believable back stories.

With a focus on character-driven plots and compelling narrative, Lee Dong-hyun has made sure to weave together suspense, drama, and mystery to create a gripping viewing experience. This has been enhanced by visual aspects. Wide shots have established the serene front of the characters’ lives, juxtaposed with intimate close-ups to convey the emotional conflicts they experience. During pivotal moments, there’s an eerie and dark atmosphere throughout. In terms of editing, the pacing has been kept balanced to maintain momentum and not once does it go off track or make you feel bored. However, there are some scenes, which feel exaggerated and could have been trimmed down. In addition to this, the elegant yet simplistic costumes, grand production design, and music compositions have matched the setting of the show.

‘Bitter Sweet Hell’: Cast & Crew

Director: Lee Dong-hyun

Cast: Kim Hee-sun, Lee Hye-young, Kim Nam-hee, Yeon Woo, Kwon Hae-hyo, Park Jae-chan, Hwang Chan-sung, Choi Jeong-in, Ahn Gil-kang, Shin So-yul, and Jung Gun-joo

Available On: MBC TV             

Duration: 2 episodes (as of today), approx. 1 hour each                

Premiere Date: May 24, 2024

Genre: Black Comedy, Thriller

Language: Korean

‘Bitter Sweet Hell’: Can Kids Watch It?


Outlook’s Verdict

So far, the show is off to a strong start. The first two episodes were intriguing and engaging from beginning to end. The show offers a different take on family dramas. It explores what happens when everything that was taken for granted in the name of family is shaken from the core, revealing the true nature of relatives you thought you knew well but didn’t. There were several surprising twists and events that made the episodes worth watching.

*Disclaimer: This review is done after the release of the first two episodes.*