Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ballad of 박은빈: Father I Will Take Care of You

Father, I Will Take Care of You is a sitcom that attempts to deal with serious issues alongside common soap contrivances. For a glimpse of suds, watch (with the sound off) a short clip on Youtube to see the soapy up-close facial expressions, pauses, and love triangle melodrama. If that turns you on, great -otherwise this is a very long series I doubt anyone would choose as an entry point into the world of Korean drama. 

The narrative hangs on so many things unsaid and the many misunderstandings it creates. Too often the dialogue is what we'd rather not hear: complaining, wailing, arguing or the whiny stammering of the character Sun Sik. Why won't these characters just say what is on their mind (except for Sun Sik)? Because each protracted pause, each missed opportunity to explain, carries one episode to the next. 

This silence is an agony of past mistakes -of which little can now be done. As everything comes to a head, forgiveness can be sought, but may not be given. The show works as a warning, or reminder, that one never fully escapes past actions, however well-meaning, and to be mindful before acting or speaking. This theme is consistent across several series I've watched. It's a compelling hook because who among us hasn't acted inappropriately, or sinned, or hurt another? All to often our actions have consequences that, had we understood them before acting, we likely would have made another choice.

As the title suggests, this is a soap opera exploring parenting -are dads (Oppa!) and moms (Eumma!) required to be biological, can children choose their parents, what of surrogate caregivers, what responsibility do children have to their parents (or grandparents) and to what can parenting failures lead? What responsibility do we have as children to our parents' reputation? A line of dialogue from one episode shares that children are rarely better than their parents -a warning to parents; one that counters our western, individualist point of view (which, in one U.S. mass-shooting case, is about to be tested).

Entwined into this long series is a long act of revenge taken by the character Lee Hyun-Woo. His revenge was instigated by a wrong suffered by his father and brother at the hands of the community years prior. Unfortunately, little time is given to exploring the people who've chosen to lie in order to protect themselves and their loved ones at the expense of the innocent.

I have to remind myself that I am watching TV, a genre where there is always an appeal to a lowest common denominator. In Korean dramas, this is often romance, or always romance, along with a current of moral didactics. In Father I Will Take Care of You, as we watch elderly and middle-aged married couples, we chart the course of two young romances. It is almost too complicated to describe...let's see...okay -one young woman (actor Park Eun Bin) who aspires to be a soap opera writer who falls for the producer (actor Lee Tae Hwan, in above photo, center) of such shows, who also happens to be related to her by marriage. Or did he fall for her? Does that even matter? 
What matters is there is a love triangle and, ever so familiar, it pits the innocent-hearted, creative, and something else I cannot spoil against the snotty, privileged, entitled woman (actor Lee Seul Bi, in above photo on left) who also is said producer's employer. The second romance is between the man (actor Kim Jae Won) who aims to take revenge and a woman (actor Lee Soo Kyung) who is the niece of the family he aims to destroy. Oh -is that complicated? And yet, there's so many more plot twists that I wouldn't think of getting into it -after all each episode is an hour long with 50 episodes. It takes conviction to see it through.
To watch Kdrama is to get comfortable with the wrist grab
A few other thoughts: This was the first program I watched that had hair-pulling fights among the women characters -I've seen it since, but was taken aback by it this first time. If you are new to Korean dramas, be forewarned -you might be disturbed by the slapping, pushing, wrist-grabbing, and aforementioned hair pulling. 
Although handsome, the leading character Han Sung Joon (actor Lee Tae Hwan) was quite tall, with a neck so long and beefy that he was hard to look at for the first few episodes. He didn't say much either, in fact had very little personality whatsoever. I mentioned this problem with male leads in another post. His character also had a mild aggressiveness toward his love interest that came off a little strange. Spoiler...There was a moment, deep into the series, where a teen, played by actor Son Bo Seung, is shown to have quite the lungs for song and it was one of the few positive moments for this family. Although one might expect Park Eun Bin's leading character to deliver, whether it was the directing or writing or both, she comes across rather flat. It was the other romantic lead actor Lee Soo Kyung's character who showed greater complexity and an arc of change across nearly 50 episodes. Actor Shin Dong Mi's Kang See Hook was over the top, teetering between comedy and melodrama as she caricatured a mom obsessed with her child's success at school. 
What else can I say about a show jam-packed with plot, grief, mishap, misunderstanding, conflict, and more. I will say this -it doesn't end the way it appears it would, delivering the emotive scene K-drama is known for, but only after too long of a commitment.

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