Look Back: I’m thankful for writers who surprise me – Thank You

This older drama is perfect for those who are missing their weekly dose of Shin Sung-rok! I watched this drama shortly after its original run and again recently and loved it all over again. I hope you will too.

Thankyou

Recently I had the good fortune to watch a drama that managed to be both touching and surprising. I’d chosen the series for two reasons – the lead actors I knew to be very talented and the writer had done excellent work in the past – but not without some trepidation. After all, it was no secret that the story featured a young girl who been infected with HIV as the result of a blood transfusion, so the concern was there that it would dissolve into a “disease of the week” teary melodrama. The series sat in a stack with others, waiting for that moment when I felt that I could face whatever the story offered. After all, sometimes you just feel like a good cry.

But the author, Lee Kyung Hee (이경희), had other plans. “Thank You” (고맙습니다), starring Jang Hyuk (장혁) as the troubled Dr. Min Gi Seo, Gong Hyo Jin (공효진) as the courageous and loving unwed mother Lee Young Shin, and the charming Seo Shin Ae (서신애) as her daughter Bom, charmed, delighted, and yes, made me cry, but never in a manipulative way. It was memorable as much for what it did not include as what it did. For example, the brash doctor is the son of the predictable chaebol head (his mother) but we are spared the cliché of a mother opposing a son’s interest in an unsuitable woman. (Unless, of course, we consider the reaction of Bom’s grandmother as her son learns that he is the father of an 8-year-old daughter and wants to make amends.) Instead we are treated to a series of small moments in which life in an island village unfolds, and how a grieving man comes to honor the promise to his dying lover and finds family, a meaningful life, and love.

The performances are outstanding in this drama. Gong Hyo Jin, with many memorable performances to her credit, including roles in “Ruler of Your Own World” and “Hello My Teacher“, inhabits the role of the prettiest girl in the village who succumbs to the charming boy she loves and pays the price, but ends up fiercely in love with her daughter and willing to make any sacrifice. You can’t take your eyes from her. Jang Hyuk, in his first series after his army duty, shows a maturity and sophistication in his acting, and as well an emotional connection. As his character Gi Seo comes to find his place in the community and a home you see this peacefulness wash over him, especially when Gi Seo picks up Bom, to protect her, to calm her, or to play.

The supporting characters also contribute to the strength of the story, particularly Shin Goo (신구) as Mr. Lee, Young Shin’s senile grandfather and Shin Sung Rok (신성록) as Choi Suk Hyun, Bom’s father. However, to fully describe what this drama does so well would be to spoil it for you. It is highly recommended.

This drama can be seen on Viki.com

#choi-kang-hee, #gong-hyo-jin, #jang-hyuk, #lee-kyung-hee, #lee-young-shin, #seo-shin-ae, #shin-goo, #shin-sung-rok, #thank-you

Revisiting Thank You – Final impressions

For a drama that I’d seen before, I got wrapped up once again in the story and the acting. It was particularly gratifying to see that it held up to a second screening, because frankly some do not, but should I really have been surprised with Gong Hyo-jin and Jang Hyuk in it? In fact, I got so involved once again that I started staying up late to watch “just one more (and more)” episode!

One of the things that I appreciate once again was how Jang Hyuk’s angry and bitter (and often downright mean and rude) Dr. Min Ki-seo changed and opened up his heart. Watching the expression on his face as he cradles a baby he’s just treated at the clinic, or picks up Bom to comfort her when she’s had her feelings hurt, or protects her from the ignorant villagers afraid of AIDS is a beautiful, beautiful thing. He is exceptionally good with children – I don’t know why he doesn’t try a drama where he’s a family man, perhaps taking care of his kids… a widower, maybe? The way his face just goes from burning with resentment to calm and contented as he listens to Gong Hyo-jin singing her daughter to sleep is perfect. I also loved the final episodes, in which he shows how much this little family has become his refuge by doing things like shaving and bathing the senile grandfather.


Gong Hyo-jin is, of course, the little heartbreaker we know her to be – bravely trying to create as normal a life as she can for her daughter and grandfather in that narrow minded little community. When Ki-seo first lets her know he’s interested in her, she makes it so clear that Shin-young cannot even fathom what this can mean. How hurt she was by her betrayal – she’s willing to run away rather than try and work things out. I would want a thousand answers about why he spent so much time at her house and didn’t tell her about his dead girlfriend’s mission, and I’d want to listen to his answers if I loved him (as she thinks she might). But I am not 26 years old, the mother of a 7 year old who is HIV positive, I didn’t get pregnant when the boy I loved all my life made love to me for a bet (ostensibly), and I didn’t live 8 years being gossiped about as a result after said boy doesn’t even have the courage to stick around to see if there are consequences AND appears to have known about it but conveniently put it out of his mind for those 8 years. Yeah, maybe she has a right to be leery.

 

 

Shin Sung-rok’s character, btw, was someone I felt sorry for (a little bit) on the first viewing, but I’m not so sure I did on the second time around. Yes, he loved her, but in order to make a point to an absent father and pushy mother, he completely forgets about his love for the girl (and lets his decent fiancée walk away too). When he first almost runs over Bom and is shocked to see her it’s as if he’s forgotten all about his night with Shin-young. When he asks Ki-seo to step aside because it’s taken him so long to come back to Shin-young and Bom, well let’s just say that I cheered when Ki-seo tells him “Shiro.” (I won’t.)


And of course, I can’t forget the little actress who plays Bom – Seo Shin-ae was so cute and heartbreaking in this – spot on. And man, could she cry like the world was ending! There was one scene where she was crying and I swear it made Gong Hyo-jin start crying too. The scene in the bath with her grandmother was just wonderful; one of many wonderful scenes.


What was your favorite scene? There are a lot to choose from! I was really happy to watch this one again.

#gong-hyo-jin, #jang-hyuk, #seo-shin-ae, #shin-sung-rok, #thank-you