You know a show’s gotta be Quite Something, if it’s luring me out of the writing-hiatus-cum-drama-rut I’ve found myself ensconced in for the last couple of months.
I literally just finished watching the last episode of Father Is Strange today, and liked it enough to start poking around to craft a review right away. Considering that 1, Father Is Strange is a 52-episode family drama, and 2, I’ve been feeling pretty uninspired on both the writing and drama fronts, this is a Big Testament to how likable I’ve found this show and its characters.
Even if you’re not usually into family dramas, I really do think you might like this one.
STUFF I LOVED
Given that this show’s screenwriter is the same one who wrote Ojakgyo Brothers – which happens to be one of my favorite family dramas of all time – it’s no surprise that Father Is Strange boasts similar strengths to 2011’s Ojakgyo Brothers. It’s engaging and well-paced despite its sprawling cast and multiple narrative arcs, and the characters feel like real people, even when things lean a little treacly at times.
There’s a lot to love in this show, and it would be near impossible (not to mention intimidating) to try to talk about them all. Instead, here’s a quick run-down of my favorite things in this show.
1. That warm hearty family warmth
There’s a particular brand of cozy, toasty family warmth that I prize in family dramas; the atmosphere of the drama is so tangibly snug that I almost feel like I’m a marshmallow wrapped up in soft woolly blankets as I soak it all in, and feel my face being toasted lightly by its warmth.
Father Is Strange possesses exactly that warmth. From start to finish, whether the family members are laughing together, or bickering with and making faces at one another, that warmth is never far away, and I found myself lapping it all up, episode after episode.
2. Lee Yoo Ri as Hye Young
I enjoyed almost every character in this show, but my hands-down favorite is Lee Yoo Ri as Hye Young. She is – in a word – Awesome. I think I didn’t even know what I wanted in an awesome female character, until Hye Young exploded onto my screen.
You know how some dramas try to create strong female characters, and in doing so, often end up making them unreasonable, violent and unlikable instead? Not so here. Hye Young manages to be strong, feisty and flawed, without ever coming close to being unlikable. I loved Hye Young all the way through, for all that she was.
I loved how Hye Young is a hardass and a tenderheart, all at the same time. She loves passionately, is loyal to a fault, and best of all, is completely unafraid of showing it. I love too, that she’s a professional who is kickass at her job, and proud of it. Yet, she’s got her moments of ridiculous aegyo as well, and manages to laugh at herself too, to boot. How awesome is this woman??
Kudos to Lee Jung Sun writer-nim for writing such a fabulous character, and, mad props to Lee Yoo Ri for delivering Hye Young in a way that is unapologetically fierce and yet genuinely funny and lovable at the same time. Just, Hye Young rocks. So Freaking Much. <3
3. Mi Young and Joong Hee’s loveline
Among the sibling lovelines, my favorite is the one between second daughter Mi Young (Jung So Min) and prickly actor Joong Hee (Lee Joon).
Jung So Min (who kinda reminds me of Anne Hathaway, with her endearingly slightly droopy doe eyes and wide toothy smile) is great as the sweet, shy and bashful Mi Young, and Lee Joon is just pitch perfect as the proud, sensitive, slightly awkward Joong Hee, who’s flashy on the outside, but a bundle of insecurities on the inside.
I loved watching Joong Hee soften towards Mi Young in degrees, going from angry, to accepting, to hyper-aware, to completely smitten over the course of the show. Watching him think of ways to make Mi Young happy without blowing the cover right off his fast-growing crush, was absolute gold, and put a goofy grin firmly on my face.
4. Dad & Mum’s loving relationship
In the myriad of romantic relationships in this drama world, the one that stood out to me the most was between Dad and Mum (Kim Young Chul and Kim Hae Sook, who coincidentally also played Dad and Mum in my favorite family drama of all time, 2010’s Life Is Beautiful). Beyond the flush of courtship that their kids went through at various stages of our story, to me, the longstanding affection and care that Dad and Mum had for each other was even more beautiful and moving.
I love that in the big and little things, they unfailingly stood by each other, and supported each other, and demonstrated love, care and concern for each other. Even when they disagreed and argued, it was clear that they never stopped caring about each other. If anything, any disagreement they had tended to be rooted in a deep sense of concern for each other.
Serious relationship goals, truly. <3
5. Joong Hee’s budding relationship with Dad [MODERATE SPOILERS]
My favorite relationship between a non-couple in this show, has to be the growing bond between Dad and Joong Hee.
I found the entire arc completely moving. From Dad’s desire to let Joong Hee finally feel a father’s love, to Joong Hee finally opening up to Dad and allowing himself to be loved, this relationship moved me, so much.
Major kudos to Kim Young Chul and Lee Joon, for their stellar performances that totally pulled me into Dad and Joong Hee’s world. Every time Dad or Joong Hee teared up, so did I, and every time they took a tiny step forward in their relationship, my heart cheered. More than a couple of times, these two made me smile and cry, all at the same time. <3
Ra Young and Cheol Soo’s loveline [MODERATE SPOILERS]
While the loveline between Ra Young (Ryu Hwa Young) and Cheol Soo (Ahn Hyo Seop) wasn’t my favorite all the way through, I will admit that there was a nice stretch of episodes where these two were the main couple that lit up my screen.
Mostly, these were the episodes where Ra Young mistakenly thought Cheol Soo was gay, ha. The way she let down her guard and treated him as a casual bestie instead of a boy she was trying to impress, felt nicely refreshing. More than that, I enjoyed watching Cheol Soo’s awkward discombobulated reactions to her sudden chummy behavior. Too cute.
STUFF I DIDN’T LOVE
Mum-in-law being a dramatic drama queen
The one thing that I didn’t care for so much, was the character of Hye Young’s mother-in-law, played to shrill perfection by Song Ok Sook. For most of the show, Mum-in-law comes across as petty, self-centered and completely unreasonable, and I often found myself wishing that her scenes would hurry up and finish coz she was being so awful.
The silver lining is, Mum-in-law isn’t completely bad, and by drama’s end, she’s softened up a whole lot and even becomes marginally likable. That’s.. not bad at all, really.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
As can be expected of a family drama of this ilk, all’s well that ends well, and we leave all of our characters on a cheerful, happy note.
I like that Dad’s given the chance to reclaim his identity, and that we get positive hints that his retrial will give him back the justice that was stolen from him all those years ago. I like too, that each of our couples gets a happy ending. Joong Hee’s eagerness to marry Mi Young is quite adorable, and I love how involved the entire family is, when Joong Hee formally asks for her hand in marriage. I enjoyed too, the fact that Hye Young and Jung Hwan (Ryu Soo Young) chose to end their marriage internship and get married for real – each bringing out a set of rings for their proposals, no less, heh.
On the other hand, I thought it was rather convenient that Chairman Dad (Lee Byung Joon) came around so thoroughly to Cheol Soo and Ra Young’s relationship. Similarly, I thought the refreshed relationship between Hye Young’s in-laws rang a little too sweet to be true as well. But, in the interest of happy endings and new beginnings, I’m happy to accept a little bit of convenient storytelling – especially for characters that have endeared themselves to me so well.
Most of all, I loved where we ended our story, with Dad and Mum going on the road for a bit, to reclaim and relish the freedom that they’d given up all those years ago when Dad chose to protect his family by taking on his friend’s name. Now, with their hearts light and their consciences free, Dad and Mum can experience and savor all the little things that they couldn’t before. Knowing that they were taking steps to live the lives that they couldn’t before, just made me very happy.
In this kind of family drama where I know going in, that we’re highly likely to get a happy ending all around, it’s more important to me how we get to that happy ending, and the nuances around the journey, rather than the happy ending itself. And I hafta say, Father Is Strange got us to its happy ending with a boatload of emotional resonance, feeling and heart.
Well done, Show. Well done. <3
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Just the right balance between earthy and aspirational, wrapped in extra layers of warm fuzzies.
FINAL GRADE: A
KBS World has the entire series up on YouTube, subbed – woot! Here’s episode 1, in case you’d like to dip your toes into this one right away!