[Review] The Strange Housekeeper – 수상한 가정부

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Park Bok Nyeo (Choi Ji Woo) is hired by the Eun Sang Chul (Lee Sung Jae) after the loss of his wife.  Bok Nyeo is the perfect housekeeper with the exception that she’s unsociable and never smiles.  She helps the family through their grieving process and to become a family once again.

I’m not sure what the deal is with the J-Dorama’s love of characters who are inexpressive and android-like.  In the case of The Queen’s Classroom, I never liked that we never got to know more about the mysterious Teacher Ma.  She never quite becomes a real person for me.  However in this drama, we get a chance to learn who Bok Nyeo is as a woman and not simply a problem solver.

As for the family, there is an honest portrait of a family in pain here which made them very relatable.  Han Gyul (Kim So Hyun), Doo Gyul (Chae Sang Woo), Se Gyul (Nam Da Reum) and Hye Gyul (Kang Ji Woo) each struggle with their grief and growing pains.

It’s interesting to note that the kids have unique names.  Han Gyul means “much more” and I suspect the naming of the 2nd and 3rd child whose first syllable mean “two” and “three”, respectively, is meant as an expression of love the mother had for their children.  The maknae’s name sounds like the word for “resolution” (albeit spelled a bit differently) and it’s kinda humorous when you put it all together: “One, two, three, resolve.”  So it’s clear that their mother loved them despite the choice she makes to leave them.

As the patriarch, Sang Chul starts off being selfish and spineless that it was easy to dislike him.  However, the most painful scene for me is when the kids ask their father, pleading even with their eyes, if he loves them and he just stands there unable to respond.  And yet, Eun Sang Chul is such a human character who slowly builds his self-confidence through Han Gyul’s tenacity and Bok Nyeo’s pragmatic personality.

In learning who Park Bok Nyeo is and why she cannot smile, the drama introduces a stalker.  Although I’m always happy to see Song Jong Ho, I wasn’t so happy with this makjang twist.  It veered the natural pacing of the drama.

On the other hand, it springs Eun Sang Chul into action.  Previously he was only lead by his own motives which was mostly fear of outside opinions.  He’s very forward about not being in love with Bok Nyeo but caring for her like she’s a part of their family.  Lee Sung Jae handles the growth of this character so gradually and realistically.

I think it’s important not to forget that there is a fairy tale-like quality to the drama.  While some scenarios seem a little far-fetched and perhaps other aspects of the drama might be too mature for young audiences, the drama does feel like a family drama.  I believe someone once compared The Queen’s Classroom’s Teacher Ma to Nanny McPhee but I never really saw them being alike.  If anything, Bok Nyeo resembles the McPhee character more and takes the character even further by allowing us to see her humanity.

Rating

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