I don’t know if you guys know this about me, but I really do enjoy a good family drama. The best ones give me such cozy, heartwarming feels; it’s like getting wrapped in a fuzzy, floofy blanket, as you sink into the feels. (My all-time favorites are Life Is Beautiful and Ojakgyo Brothers, in case you’re wondering. Father Is Strange and Five Enough are very solid too.)
I just don’t watch them much anymore, because they tend to be upwards of 50 episodes, and that’s a lot of drama hours that I could be using elsewhere. 😅
..Which makes this little drama special quite perfect, in my opinion. I get all the family drama feels, but in a compact little 1 hour and 11 minutes. Win and win, I say.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Just entering middle school, Man Bok (Kim Hyang Gi) is a cheerful and sweet girl with a noisily loving family. However, she does have a secret that she’s keeping from them.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be useful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of this little show:
1. Our story leans simple. This might feel like a small(ish) story to some viewers, but taking into account the fact that our protagonist is in middle school, makes it easier to sympathize with why the stakes feel high to her.
2. The humor leans a little broad, but it’s not too much, and there are nice spots of poignance to balance it all out.
3. Our main family can be pretty noisy, but they are harmless and loving, and they grew on me quite nicely.
STUFF I LIKED
1. Kim Hyang Gi is excellent. She was only 14 when this drama special aired, and she does such a great job of bringing Man Bok to life. So much sweetness and cheer, that feels effortless and charming, and so much heart in the more heart-pinching moments, that feels so raw and true.
2. Park Chul Min and Ra Mi Ran are excellent too, as Man Bok’s parents. There’s a bit of comedy around how Mom and Dad are served up, but there’s so much heart in these characters, at the same time. I love how Park Chul Min and Ra Mi Ran inject both the funny and the heartfelt, so effortlessly, into their characters.
3. The family feels are great. I know I mentioned this earlier, but I thought I’d mention it again. I really liked Man Bok’s family and how warm they are.
4. It’s great to see some familiar faces. I was particularly tickled to realize that Man Bok’s brother Dae Bok, is played by Shin Dong Woo, who plays our mischievous goblin boy in My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, and Man Bok’s best friend Ha Eun, is played by Noh Jung Ui, who plays Lee Do Hyun’s daughter in 18 Again. They look like little babies here! 🤩
5. The song that’s featured in our story, Letters, is very pleasant to listen to. I’m glad that we get to hear it several times.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I was really quite sad to realize that the reason Man Bok was seeking out her birth father, was not because she particularly wanted to reconnect with him, but because she didn’t have the heart to burden her adoptive family, with her impending loss of vision. Oof. That’s heartbreaking, that a young tween should be grappling with struggles like these.
It says so much to me about Man Bok, that her primary concern, at her impending vision loss, isn’t for herself, or what she might miss out on, in not being able to see, but for her adoptive family, who will have to care for her. She’s so thoughtful and considerate, isn’t she?
At first, I wasn’t sure why she didn’t identify herself to the cafe owner (Yoon Sun Woo) whom she believed to be her birth father, but then I realized that she was thinking about a lot more than just reconnecting with her birth father. She was thinking of leaving her current family, to live with her birth father, and that’s a huge step. No wonder she hesitated to start taking it.
The whole sequence of her family racing to the wedding hall, to try to stop Man Bok from gatecrashing the wedding, is really quite hilarious, and I couldn’t help giggling, especially at the way Oppa puts Dad in a shopping cart, to gain some speed and momentum. Such a great background track choice to go with this scene too: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” I loved that! 😆
In the end, Man Bok didn’t actually need to know that this wasn’t her birth father, in order to guide her decision in how to speak with him. In the process of finding her way to him, and observing him, she’d come to the conclusion that she wouldn’t attempt to ruin his wedding, or tie him down, or leave with him. She’d come to the conclusion that her real family, is the noisy, warm one that she already lives with.
Also, her final message to Not-Quite-Bio Dad is absolutely fitting, for the role that he’d played in her life. He had loved her and Bio Mom once, and then had given up on that love, because of pressure from his family. He might not be her Bio Dad, but he did abandon her at some point, after playing a parental role in her life. And therefore, her message to him now, to never give up, and always stay by the side of the ones he loves, is perfectly apt, regardless of whether he’s biologically related to her.
Most of all, though, I’m so heartened by how Man Bok’s family crowds around her, to give her all the love and comfort she might need, no questions asked. It feels like they’re just glad and relieved to have her back in their fold again, and that’s really heartwarming. I think it’s particularly sweet, that the only time Man Bok’s told that she’s pretty, is in this moment, as she’s making her way back to her family. For the record, I do believe that Dad means “lovely” just as the subs translate it, but I thought it would be good to mention it, since “pretty” is literally in Show’s title.
I’m glad that we get that little timeskip at the end of our story, so that we get to see that several years down the road, Man Bok’s still as happy, cheerful and loved as ever, and her family’s still as warm, good-humored and buoyant as ever. Truly, ain’t no mountain high enough, to keep this family apart, and I love that. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Easy, warm and feel-good, with well-delivered lashings of poignance.
FINAL GRADE: B++
WHERE TO WATCH: