[Review] Dear My Friends – 디어 마이 프렌즈

I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU

A group of friends rediscover themselves as they navigate through their twilight years.

Martin Smith – Go go! picnic

마틴스미스 – Go go! picnic

As Park Wan’s (Go Hyun Jung) mother, Jang Nan Hee (Go Doo Shim) became divorced when she discovered that her husband was cheating on her.  Although she has trust issues when it comes to men, she is incredibly loyal to her friends.  Lee Young Won (Park Won Sook) was once Nan Hee’s friend from school but who have grown apart.  Oh Choong Nam (Yoon Yeo Jung) has never gotten married but that has never stopped her from befriending intellectuals who often abuse her gracious hospitality.

Jo Hee Ja (Kim Hye Ja) is the soft-spoken one of the group who was recently widowed.  Unwilling to rely on help of her children, she decides to keep living in the house she once shared with her husband to show that she is capable of doing things by herself.  After hearing the news that Hee Ja is widowed, Lee Sung Jae (Joo Hyun) reappears in her life.  The vivacious, jubilant Moon Jung Ah (Na Moon Hee) always keeps a positive attitude despite the fact that her husband, Kim Suk Kyun (Shin Gu) naturally irritable temper because she holds on to the dream that one day she and her husband will travel the world once they are retired.

As a single, unmarried woman, Park Wan is often dragged into helping out this group by her mother.  Though she hides her own pain and sadness, she begins to learn her own life lessons by observing this group.

At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a drama I would end up enjoying as I’m not sure that I could relate to stories featuring mature adults.  In some ways, I watched this drama out of sheer wonder for my own future.  Despite the age gap, I found that there are a lot of universal themes that people could relate no matter what age.  Without being broad and prosaic, the drama is really about life.  It’s about its hopes, dreams, its uncertainties, about discovering yourself and the impact you can make for the time you are on Earth.  It’s about life in transition.

 

Because of that and the fact that we see an anthology of different sub-plots, I think there is something everyone can take away from this drama.  While  don’t have the luxury of time and space to go over it all, I do want to discuss a few stories that did touch my heart.

What was interesting about Jung Ah and Suk Kyun is that they are your typical Korean elderly couple.  There are a number of Jung Ah and Suk Kyun’s in my own family.  As a child who grew up in the States with more of Western idealism about feminism, these kind of relationships always made me feel uncomfortable.  I think that’s why I immediately felt a soft spot for Jung Ah.  Despite Suk Kyun’s ornery demeanor, she always seemed to put forth a positive outlook.  It’s easy to be prejudiced again Suk Kyun and we learn that Suk Kyun may not always say or show that he loved his family but he matures throughout the drama and tries to show it in his own way, especially when he learns about his eldest daughter.

I’m surprised that the drama tackled the subject matter of domestic abuse.  Not too far back in the day, domestic abuse in Korea almost seemed to be acceptable in households as long as you didn’t air your dirty laundry.  After all, ignorance is bliss.  I liked that the drama didn’t handle this story with kid gloves.  It should make you reel back in horror.

And yet, I love that Suk Kyun is given the chance to be the knight in shining armor.  He may not be that white knight we often find in fairy tale stories but his love for his daughter spoke volumes and the last meal that they both share was powerful for the very little dialogue that is spoken between them.

LYn – 바람에 머문다 (Languishing in the Wind)

린(LYn) – 바람에 머문다

As for Oh Choong Nam, she’s not the first, nor is she the last, to seek her own brand of the fountain of youth.  I love that she is the type of personality that maintained her vitality through education and culture.  She is also the person who is the first to step up and help the next person, whether it’s her family, friends or struggling artists.  Unfortunately, she fails to see that she is being used by the artists that she thought were her friends.  Even at her age and although she may come across as worldly, she learns how naïve she can be as well as discovering who her true friends are.

I also loved that the drama would cut to scene’s featuring Nan Hee’s parents, Oh Ssang Boon (Kim Young Ok) and her dad.  As much as Nan Hee has trust issues that extended from her failed marriage, her mom also had to deal with the fact that her husband would cheat on her when they were younger.  However, I’m amused about how their situations has reversed as Nan Hee explains that now her mom always used to upon her husband while her husband always sought other women.  And now, Ssang Boon looks out into the world and enjoys the beautiful scenery around her while her invalid husband who can’t really speak only looks upon his wife.  It’s such a beautiful role reversal.

There’s also the story of Park Wan, whom as a younger viewer, we can relate with the most.  I find it interesting that despite Wan’s rebellious attitude toward her mother, Nan Hee still says how Wan is an obedient daughter.  There is a realistic ebb and flow in Nan Hee and Wan’s relationship and Nan Hee’s natural mistrust has made a significant impact on the choices that Wan has made in her life and her relationship with Seo Yun Ha (Jo In Sung).  For most of the drama, Wan lives a double life.  It’s such a realistic portrayal of mother/daughter relationships that I was very intrigued to watch as Nan Hee’s eyes are opened to the pain that Wan desperately try to bury.  As much as we get blinded by the fact that the past can repeat itself, I could relate with the lesson that each new generation has to carve its own path.

Park Ji Min (15&) – 떠나가지마 (Don’t Leave)

박지민(15&) – 떠나가지마

The drama is filled with a ton of cameos and guest appearances from Daniel Henney, Sung Dong Il, Jang Hyun Sung and even SNL Korea’s Kwon Hyuk Soo.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Lee Kwang Soo’s performance as Hee Ja’s youngest son, Yoo Min Ho.  As much as we’re used to see Kwang Soo being the funny and foolish, I loved that this drama showcased his dramatic side because he’s such a great actor.  We see Min Ho torn between trying to take care of his elderly mother while also being there for his wife who is about to give birth and he’s so effective at bringing those deep emotions to the surface that I’m a little sad that we don’t see Lee Kwang Soo in roles like this a lot more often.  When I would see Lee Kwang Soo in this drama, I no longer saw the Running Man Lee Kwang Soo persona.

Choi In Hee, Ahn Ji Hoon, Jang Kyung Jin – On The Road

최인희 , 안지훈 , 장경진 – On The Road

The feeling that I take away first and foremost from this drama is the feeling of catharsis.  Yes, at times the drama made laugh but the various stories also made me cry because of its bittersweet tone but at the end of the bucket of tears, there is a feeling of warmth and lightheartedness.

The drama is about the changes that we all experience as we go through life, whether you’re young or old.  We all handles these life changes by making mistakes, leaning on our friends or just powering through the hardships the best way we know how.  And that uncertainty about life is what makes this drama relatable.

Rating

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