Just Bananas About: Week of 3/28/16

Lee Sung Min has played a wide variety of supporting character roles over the course of his career.  Recently, I think we’ve been embracing him more in the lead roles, especially after playing the inspiring Section Chief Oh in Misaeng.  In his latest work, Memory, he plays a talented but heartless lawyer who would do anything for his clients.  And yet, the thing that draws me to Lee Sung Min is that when his character is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he manages to make us empathize with him.

Park Tae Suk (Lee Sung Min) is a lawyer at the top of his game.  He counsels the highest paying clients and uses his sharp tongue to win cases.  Jung Jin (Lee Jun Ho) is a young lawyer who is assigned to help Tae Suk with his cases.  One of the first cases they must deal with is defending a rich family with a medical malpractice suit.  Because Tae Suk is so good with rich clients, he’s assigned to look after the family of the Korea Group, Shin Young Jin (Lee Ki Woo) and his brother-in-law, Cha Won Suk (Park Joo Young).  Unfortunately, they are your typical corrupt chaebol who believe that they are above the law.  As much as Jin is idealistic and doesn’t see eye to eye with Tae Suk’s tactics, he also realizes that money talks.

Tae Suk is asked to handle a case of medical malpractice involving Won Suk.  He hears that the doctor who plans to expose Won Suk’s mistake has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and uses that information to tell him to keep things secret.  Unfortunately, the doctor ends up committing suicide instead just as Tae Suk’s receives his own diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  I love that his friend who disclosed that confidential information and expected him to keep it a secret tells him that he’s getting what he deserves but for now the chaebols are okay to rule the universe as they please once again.

The chaebol are just one part of the story and really, not a story that I’m very much interested in.  I understand that they shape the world that Tae Suk is in and in that sense, it’s essential to the story.  However, the thing that makes Tae Suk relatable is seeing his personal life.

Tae Suk was previously married to Na Eun Sun (Park Jin Hee), a court judge.  It appears that they divorced after the death of their young son who was killed in a hit-and-run.  Although they’ve tried to search for their son’s killer for years, they were not able to.  Eun Sun has not gotten over the death of her baby boy and it appears that this has caused a rift in their relationship which lead to the divorce.

Tae Suk is now married to Seo Young Joo (Kim Ji Soo) and they have two children together.  She’s a typical homemaker who loves caring for her children but her marriage is filled with loneliness.  Tae Suk is so involved with his work that he often neglects his home life.  She’s also knows that he was previously marriage and while she’s understanding of what caused their divorce, the fact that he hasn’t been able to let go is something that concerns her.

In addition to neglecting his wife, his son, Park Jung Woo (Nam Da Reum) just wants his father’s attention.  It’s clear that something is going on at school but Jung Woo doesn’t feel like talking about it with his mother.  I’d be interested in seeing how Tae Suk’s diagnosis will affect their relationship but I can imagine that it’ll get worse before it gets better.

As for Eun Sun, she refuses to forget her boy and is unable to move on even though it’s been many years since the accident.  She learns that there is a strange man putting flowers at the scene of the accident and she’s convinced that it must be her boy’s killer.  He’s come back because he feels guilty about what he’s done.

The strange twist here is that the strange man happens to be Lee Seung Ho (Yeo Hoe Hyun), the son of Lee Chan Moo (Jun Noh Min) and Tae Suk’s boss.  He’s working at the courthouse for experience.  I’m not sure if he purposely wanted to work closely with Eun Sun out of guilt or if it was by pure coincidence.  The latter seems a bit contrived but I’ll admit that I’ll bite because I’m more interested about how his guilt is affecting his actions and the effect it has on her.

As shady as Tae Suk can come off at times, Lee Sung Min does a great job in making us identify with his character.  He’s not a good guy but it doesn’t seem like he’s always been that way.  He and his ex-wife dealt with their grief in different ways.

Eun Sun decided to dwell in her sorrow while Tae Suk tried to forget about it.  And now, he’s being haunted by puzzling dreams involving his dead son and the culprit who may not be his son’s killer.

It’s quite upsetting to see Tae Suk desperately trying to hang on to every piece of memory that he can.  It’s compelling when Tae Suk is seen by himself repeating information that he shows know by heart.  And yet, he’s slowly losing his grasp.  The confusion on Lee Sung Min’s face feels tangible.

I already feel for Tae Suk’s character and hope that we get to see him grow as a person.  Because the haughty, insensitive lawyer is not the character that we’re rooting, we’re rooting for the hurt, desperate father who is losing his grasp of everything that’s important.

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