03 February 2021

K Drama Review: My Mister/My Ahjussi (2018)

I am so proud to announce that we've finally watched an IU/Lee Ji Eun drama. IU has always intrigued us. I often hear her name mentioned in dramas as one of Korea's "it" girls. We also liked how down to earth she was when we saw her on House on Wheels. She's so intriguing that she already made it to Oppa's list even before we watched any of her dramas. 

After watching Hospital Playlist, which we absolutely loved, we knew we had to watch something that would come close to the high standard that Hospital Playlist set. It had to be a critically-acclaimed drama, otherwise, we might just end up disappointed. We've heard great things about My Mister. And our IU drama debut was long overdue. So this was the logical choice. And we were definitely right. :)

While Oppa and I loved My Mister, I would have to warn you that it might not be for everyone. The pace and the dialogue are quite slow so that might turn off some people. I am not really a huge fan of slow/understated dramas but I'm glad I gave this one a chance. The story's really great and the actors are so good that you'd barely notice the slow pace. So, don't give up on it right away. Try out a few episodes and I'm quite sure you'll end up hooked like me. 

Plot

My Mister is about the story of office colleagues, Park Dong Hoon (Lee Sun Kyun whom we loved in Coffee Prince and Parasite and who's part of my Oppa List) and Lee Ji An (IU). Dong Hoon is a general manager while Ji An is a temp helping out Dong Hoon's team. By some twist of fate, Ji An finds out that the company's CEO Do Joon Young (Kim Young Min of Crash Landing on You) was having an affair with Dong Hoon's wife (Lee Ji Ah as Kang Yoon Hee). Ji An, who desperately needs money to pay off her mom's debt, volunteers to help Joon Young terminate Dong Hoon from the company. However, as she eavesdrops on Dong Hoon through a wiretap device she set up on his phone, Ji An realizes how alike they actually are. Dong Hoon has been nothing but good to Ji An too. The story takes us through how Dong Hoon and Ji An's lives get entangled and how they strive to survive their sad and crazy lives. 

Similar to Hospital Playlist, I can't really find anything wrong with this drama. So allow me to list down all of the things I loved about it. 

Lee Ji Eun as Ji An


We already know that Lee Sun Kyun is a great actor so it was no longer a surprise that he delivered another solid performance in this show. The biggest revelation here would have to be IU. 

I totally loved her indifferent/restrained acting. As a K Pop star, I was expecting that she'd all be cutesy. But she blew me away with the depth she gave her character. I am not usually fond of dark, scheming characters like Ji An but IU had the perfect balance of darkness and desperation that you cannot help but root for her in the end. 

Initially, I found it difficult to fully empathize with Ji An. She had all these underhanded schemes like tapping Dong Hoon's phone and spiking the drink of the managing director. But I could not hate her  totally either because it was evident that she was a victim of a series of unfortunate circumstances. She had to pay off the debt of her mom who ran away. She killed the bully loan shark out of self defense. And now she has to care for and support her grandmother Lee Bong Ae (Son Sook of Suits) all by herself. She had no family or real friends to lean on. 

Despite her shortcomings, I fell in love with Ji An because of her silent but very fierce loyalty to Dong Hoon. She bravely confronted Dong Hoon's wife and told her that Dong Hoon knew about her affair. But despite her hatred for Dong Hoon's wife, Ji An did not hesitate to go to her for help when she wanted to protect Dong Hoon from Joon Young. 

Ji An was willing to take responsibility for Joon Young's crime just because she refused to divulge what she knew because doing so would reveal the affair of Dong Hoon's wife and she knew that would hurt Dong Hoon the most. 

I loved how convincing her acting was when she threw herself at Dong Hoon to show the investigator tailing them that there was nothing going on between the two of them. 

One of IU's shining moments in the show would probably be her interview for Dong Hoon's promotion. I loved the several layers of acting she showed us there. She liked him and while she said it aloud, I felt her restraint because she did not want to get him into trouble. But I saw how strongly she felt about his character. She said it with so much conviction that Dong Hoon was a very good person who treated her like a human being and made her feel welcome and that he pushed her to believe that she was capable of doing good things too and how the company made her happy. 

I also felt the sting when she told Dong Hoon's wife that the sweetest thing she's ever heard Dong Hoon say to his wife was if she needed anything. In contrast, the wife was yelling at Dong Hoon when he asked her that question and she even told him that he did not know what she really needed.   

And IU moved me in that scene where she broke down because Dong Hoon already knew that she killed someone. Yes, she usually didn't care about what other people think. But because it was Dong Hoon, it mattered a whole lot to her. 

And I loved how Dong Hoon's pains were Ji An's too. Like in that scene when she told her grandmother that Dong Hoon was doing well but she was crying because she just overheard Dong Hoon and his wife's confrontation about the latter's affair. 

Throughout the show, I loved how Ji An kept me guessing if she liked Dong Hoon romantically. It was clear that she loved and cared for him but I was not so sure about the kind of love she felt towards him. I will never forget that heartbreaking phone call she made to Dong Hoon after she ran away. She told him she liked him because it was the first time that someone was good to her more than four times. And that they were alike. And I equally loved Dong Hoon's little way of telling her that he cared - he told her to call him when his grandma dies. So much love and sadness in that short conversation. 

Another one of my favorite Ji An moments was that scene where her grandma dies. Ji An keeps things to herself but I absolutely felt her pain at that moment, knowing that she'll be all alone in this world now. And talking to deceased grandma while still using sign language was just very heartbreaking. 

In the end, after everything that she went through, I was just very happy to see Ji An getting a fresh start and finally finding her well-deserved peace. 

Lee Sun Kyun as Park Dong Hee

Although we already know that Sun Kyun is a great actor, it was still amazing to see him give life to another wonderful character. I loved his easy going character in Coffee Prince. I was intrigued by the quite dark character he had in Parasite. And now I love him even more after seeing him do a great job in handling the intricacies of Dong Hoon's character. 

The perplexing thing about Dong Hoon is how he seems to live a very sad life. On the surface, it would seem that he really had no reason to be sad. He had a good family and he had a nice job. But deep within, he carries the burden of his family - supporting his mom and his siblings and making his wife happy. 

Despite his misfortunes, however, Dong Hoon chooses to remain positive. While Ji An appears to be full of bitterness, Dong Hoon does not seem to have any of that. He still opts to find good in everyone and he does his best to be a good person to everyone else. 

He was especially nice to underdogs like Ji An. I will never forget how he carried Ji An's grandmother through those steep stairs when the old woman wanted to see the moon. 

Sun Kyun has this naturally pitiful face that you can't help but empathize with him. It was heartbreaking to look at him after he found out that his wife had an affair. The days that followed were even more painful. He knew that his wife was in pain because Joon Young broke up with her but he feigned ignorance. He still cared for her by going home early and buying her porridge. 

The things Ji An did for Dong Hoon might seem "grander." But Dong Hoon had his own style of showing that he cared. I loved how he confronted/beat up Ji An's loan shark and how he offered to pay for Ji An's debt because he did not want anyone bothering her anymore. And while it was painful to see Dong Hoon hurt after fighting with the loan shark, I loved how he said that the cells in his body were awakened. He was not just physically shaken - he probably found a new drive/motivation to live better. 

Dong Hoon went through a lot throughout the 16 episodes. But he held himself together really well. Even after finding out that Ji An bugged his phone and that she was Joon Young's informant, he still chose to understand her. He was still concerned about her. But when things were finally sorted out - Ji An off to Busan for a new work and his wife going overseas to be with their son and to study - Dong Hoon finally let it all out in that heartbreaking scene when he was home alone. I've been wanting to give him a hug throughout the show but this was one moment when I really wished there was someone there beside him to console him and tell him everything will be alright. 

I loved that Dong Hoon was able to break free from his old company and the ghosts that haunted him there. He opened his own firm and he was able to take his loyal team members with him (including Kim Min Seok who was Good Boy's secretary in Start-Up). 

And I just realized after watching this show that one other reason why I love Sun Kyun is because he has this really great baritone voice that led Ji An to find him in that coffee shop during the finale. 

Dong Hoon and Ji An

Despite the very slight romantic hints, I didn't really watch the show because of any romantic angle. I watched it and I loved it because I loved the kind of relationship that Dong Hoon and Ji An had - whatever kind of relationship you may want to call that. 

I believe they were kindred spirits. It was sad how they both lived parallel sad lives on different levels. Dong Hoon said it best - it was sad that someone like Ji An gets him because it means that that person is sad as well and that she's going through what he went/is going through. 

Dong Hoon was like Ji An's reminder that money won't necessarily make her happy and solve her woes.  While Ji An was Dong Hoon's reminder that sadness does not always come with old age. Even someone as young as Ji An could already be jaded. 

I loved Dong Hoon and Ji An but definitely not in a romantic sort of way. I loved how they looked out for each other and how they pulled each other up and pushed each other to strive harder, to survive. I really loved that moment when Ji An texted Dong Hoon good luck on his promotion interview and Dong Hoon was thanking her aloud, without knowing that Ji An could actually hear him through the phone bug. 

And how Dong Hoon never left Ji An's side when her grandmother died. 

I really loved that conversation between the two on how they were actually helping each other - Dong Hoon said Ji An probably came into their neighborhood to save him when he was on the verge of death and Ji An said she started to live when she met Dong Hoon. They're soulmates undoubtedly. 

I super loved that hug they shared the night before Ji An left for Busan. We loved it so much that Oppa loves re-enacting it everyday. :D I liked how secure they were in their relationship - they were never clingy. They did not actively contact each other after Ji An moved. But you knew that their love would always be there. That was very evident in how genuinely happy they looked when they saw each other again in Seoul and when they shared that handshake. 

I loved the kind of love that Ji An and Dong Hoon had. It might not have been romantic (and that was really refreshing after seeing romantic love in almost all of the K dramas we've watched) but it was so, so pure - they were full of concern for each other without expecting anything in return, even for Ji An who might have appeared to have a one-sided love for Dong Hoon. I loved how they acknowledged that the best gift they can give each other was for both of them to be genuinely happy. That way, they can repay each other for all the good things they've done for each other. It must be really nice to have someone genuinely care for you the way Ji An and Dong Hoon cared for each other. As Ji An's grandmother said, that kind of relationship is truly precious. :) 

Dong Hoon's Family


Another bright spot in the show was Dong Hoon's family. I loved how Dong Hoon's brothers were often irresponsible but when it came to their mother Byun Yo Soon (Go Doo Shim of High Society), they all wanted to show a brave front so as not to further add to her woes. That scene where she witnessed her son being berated/belittled by a client was truly heartbreaking. And I loved how mom's eyes sparkled with too much happiness from Dong Hoon's promotion. 

I loved Dong Hoon's very natural and realistic love-hate relationship with his brothers. They often argued. They were always bickering. According to Dong Hoon, if you grow up with brothers, you start fighting the moment you learn how to hold a spoon. But their bond was so strong. They always got each other's backs. 

I loved how Dong Hoon threatened the client who humiliated Sang Hoon (Park Ho San of Prison Playbook). He told him that when you humiliate someone in front of his family, you're fair game. 

And I loved how his brothers were going crazy after Dong Hoon fought with the loan shark. And when they found out that Dong Hoon's wife cheated on him. I felt Sang Hoon's pain. He was burdened because he felt that Dong Hoon and his wife had to support the family because he was unable to do so. 

And I loved how they helped Ji An when her grandmother died because they knew that Dong Hoon cared for her. 

Among all of the characters, it was probably Sang Hoon's character development that I loved the most. He started out stealing money gifts during his daughter's wedding. However, at the end of the show, he spent his life savings to give Ji An's grandmother a respectable wake. It was both sad and funny that his obsession with his own mom's wake led him to do probably the best deed in his life and how that would hopefully help him refocus and get back with his wife. 

The other brother, Gi Hoon (Song Sae Byeok), was mostly angry and bitter because of his failed career as a director. He pretends to be happy running his cleaning business with his brother and he says he's not bothered by it at all. He even broke up with his actress girlfriend Choi Yoo Ra (Kwon Na Ra) because he felt that she was embarrassed to be dating a cleaner. I loved how watching one of Yoo Ra's movies helped Gi Hoon overcome his fear of doing movies again. If Yoo Ra was bold enough to overcome her acting trauma (that he caused) then he should be brave enough to do the same. 

Lee Ji Ah as Kang Yoon Hee


While cheating is totally unacceptable and despicable, I could not fully hate Yoon Hee. Despite having an affair, I knew that she still loved Dong Hoon. She was lonely and loneliness can push people to do crazy things (but of course, that's still not an excuse). All I'm saying is that I sort of get where she's coming from. It must have been very stifling for her to be in a place with deeply rooted relationships with a husband who probably did not exert enough effort to help her acclimatize to the situation. She probably tried but it was very obvious in that scene at Jung Hee's (Oh Na Ra) bar to celebrate Dong Hoon's promotion that she really did not fit in. 

I would have to admit that seeing how guilty she felt after realizing that Dong Hoon knew about her affair made me quite happy. I knew it hurt her and while it was probably nowhere near the level of pain that Dong Hoon felt, I felt some sort of vindication for Dong Hoon. 

And while there was really no clear closure on what happened between Yoon Hee and Dong Hoon, I believe it was implied that they got back together or that at least they're still okay with each other because there were family photos in Dong Hoon's new office. They probably just needed to be apart physically to help them move on from their horrible past. 

Ji An's Grandma

Although she had limited scenes and she was deaf mute so she did not really have speaking lines, I loved how Ji An's grandmother said so much without speaking. Her face and her eyes expressed so much. They were overflowing with love everytime she looked at Ji An. Ji An probably survived up to that point because she had to live for her grandmother.

I also loved that special relationship Dong Hoon had with grandma and how grandma appreciated all that he did for Ji An. And how she wrote that she can now be at peace because there was someone taking care of Ji An. 

Kwon Na Ra as Choi Yoo Ra


Yoo Ra started out as an annoying pretty face who always tailed Gi Hoon. She seemed so out of it everytime she brought up how happy she was that Gi Hoon was not doing well in life. But as I watched more of her, I felt the sadness that she tried so hard to hide behind her smiling and teasing face. 

I loved her odd relationship with Gi Hoon. He started out as her tormentor then her psychiatrist then her boyfriend. I loved that Notting Hill reference on how they'd see each other when she becomes famous. And while Gi Hoon felt that she was looking down on him because he was a cleaner, I knew Yoo Ra was really pushing him to go back to directing because she knew that he's good at it and that's what he loves doing. He's just afraid of failing.  

Jang Ki Yong as Lee Kwang Il

Jang Ki Yong was a very credible creepy, scary loan shark. And while he was really mean towards Ji An (beating her up, terrorizing her, etc.), you can feel that there's something good deep within him. Later on, we find out that when they were young, he actually helped Ji An whenever his dad beat her up. He was kind to her. And I loved how that manifested in the end when he was the one who saved Ji An by stealing the wire tapped recordings and giving it to Dong Hoon to help exonerate Ji An. The ending also hinted that Kwang Il was now running a decent lending business. 

Oh Nara as Jung Hee

I found Oh Na Ra really pretty. She does not look her age at all. Just like all of the numerous sad characters in this show, I was really impressed with how Jung Hee tried her best to put up a happy front for her friends. She masked her loneliness by being drunk all the time, pretending that she was having a good time. But it was soooo painful to watch her in that scene where she pretended to have her own home and how she was walking home with the guys only to end up going back to the bar in the end. 

I felt the pain that she's been carrying for the past 20 years when her boyfriend left her to be a monk. I'm just glad to see her get some sort of closure when Gyum Duk (Park Hae Joon) visited her during the finale. 

I hope that Ji An will keep her promise to see Jung Hee every New Year and Chuseok. As Jung Hee said, it's proof that she's lived a good life if there's someone to see her during those two occasions. 

Hugye

I love dramas that incorporate the setting into the story such that the place becomes a character of its own. Reply 1988 was greatly effective because of Ssangmundong. And My Mister did just that as well. 

I loved Hugye. I will always remember those streets that Dong Hee and Ji An walked through. And I will never forget that railroad crossing. It might have been stifling for an outsider like Yoon Hee but it can be equally comforting too for someone like Ji An. She even said that she wanted to be born there. Even Yoo Ra wanted to marry Gi Hoon because she loved his friends whom he found there. 

And I loved how kind the people of Hugye were, especially the morning soccer club gang (including the Record of Youth dads Park Soo Young and Seo Sang Won). I loved how they were all there for the wake of Ji An's grandmother. She was a stranger to them but because she was friends with one of their members, they treated her as one of their own. 

Kim Young Min as Do Joon Young


Among all of the characters, it was Joon Young that I really didn't warm up to. Yes, he was a villain and we're supposed to hate villains but my feelings towards him had nothing to do with that. I just had a hard time dissociating him from his pitiful character in Crash Landing on You. Hence, the evilness/smugness did not really work for me. I found him more insecure/scared than angry. And he was coming out as pathetic most of the time. 

I hated him even more when he told Ji An that Dong Hoon would only eat and drink with her if he liked her. I hated how presumptuous and assuming he was when in fact, Dong Hoon was just a kind soul who looked out for Ji An because he knew the tough life that she lived. 

It also didn't help that the only semblance of closure we got for Joon Young was seeing his office stuff packed away in a box. We didn't even see him walk through the office halls humiliated in front of the staff. For all the trouble he caused, I just felt that an implied punishment was not enough. 

Other Characters

There were some familiar faces here too. 

Seo Choon Dae (Lee Young Suk of Prison Playbook) was Ji An's reliable colleague and friend. I loved how he looked out for Ji An and how he led her back to Dong Hoon when she ran away. 

Mr. Yoon Sang Tae (Jung Jae Sung of Prison Playbook and Hospital Playlist) was probably the most annoying character.  

And we have our ever reliable old man, executive director Wang Young Geun (Jeon Kuk Hwan of Crash Landing on You, Hot Stove League, and Angry Mom) who was on Dong Hoon's side. 

And I also loved Chairman Jang (ShinGoo) because he was instrumental in giving Ji An a fresh start. 

Execution

When I first heard of this show, I initially thought it was on oppa romance. I also read a description that the characters will find comfort in each other. But after watching the first few episodes, I was concerned that I got the wrong impression of the show. I was not sure when and how the lead characters will find comfort in each other when Ji An was constantly plotting against Dong Hoon. 

As I mentioned earlier, this show has an understated/subdued tone pretty much like Lost in Translation, which I was not really fond of. It was quite a huge shift for me coming from the very happy Hospital Playlist. But the great thing about this show is that it never allows the story to be too understated that you'd get bored and give up on it. It will always have that hook that will bait you into staying. For the first episode for example, the hook for me there was when Ji An stole Dong Hoon's bribe money. It was so cleverly done - she used it to retrieve her promissory note from the loan shark then she threw it to save Dong Hoon. 

I loved how the drama/confrontation scenes in the show were still handled with restraint, consistent with its general theme. But the scenes were never lacking in emotions, in fact they were overflowing with them - without having to yell too much or to break things. 

I loved the treatment of Dong Hoon's confrontation scene with his wife regarding her affair. I felt their pain - Dong Hoon because she cheated on him and Yoon Hee because she was lonely and she struggled to break free from his family. It was so heartbreaking when she said that nobody knew how lonely Dong Hoon was making her. 

I also loved Gi Hoon and Yoo Ra's confrontation where Gi Hoon finally admitted why he bullied Yoo Ra in the past. He realized the movie will fail while he was filming it and he needed a scapegoat. I love the stereotypical portrayal (and callout?) of men always finding the weak women and breaking and victimizing them. 

I also loved Ji An's confrontation with Kwang Il. There was so much pain when he said that after seeing his dad beat up Ji An, he didn't know whether he should kill her or if he should kill himself. That was proof that he actually cared for her and I can imagine how torn he must have been - he was guilty for what his dad did to Ji An but he also felt guilty for his dad if he were to be nice to Ji An. 

Even the small scenes like Jung Hee and Gyum Duk's confrontation were handled really well. Their scene and lines were very short but you felt how Jung Hee has carried all the pain all these years and how Gyum Duk still cared for her. 

My most favorite confrontation scene would probably be Dong Hoon and Ji An's in Choon Dae's shed after Ji An ran away. It was bittersweet to hear Dong Hoon say that he promised to be happy so as not to further complicate Ji An's life, acknowledging that Ji An will never stop pushing for his happiness. And Ji An crying out that she just wants Dong Hoon to be happy. *sigh* And when Ji An asked Dong Hoon why he did not hate her despite the things she did, Dong Hoon simply replied that when you know someone, you don't really care about what they do anymore. 

I also loved that scene in front of Jung Hee's bar between Jung Hee and Ji An before the latter left the neighborhood. There were no words. But I felt how comforting it must have been for both of them to be there beside each other. 

This was another very satisfying ending for me. I loved how the show subtly closed the loop on everything. Closure does not necessarily mean a happy ending. It just means not leaving any story hanging. It was enough that Jung Hee and Gyum Duk faced each other and how that probably signals that they're accepting their fate. The same with Gi Hoon and Yoo Ra. They didn't get back together. But seeing Gi Hoon write a script again is indicative that there's hope for the two of them or at least for his career. 

I loved Gi Hoon's reference to the movie Nobody Knows. It's that realization that children are strong and humans have the ability to heal. If young Ji An survived after everything that she went through and she still managed to have some love left in her to care for Dong Hoon, then we should all be okay. Maybe not right away but we will all eventually get there. 

And we loved the theme song too...Grown Ups (or Adult) by Sondia. 


Oppa says...5, right up there with Breaking Bad. 

Noona says...it's a 5. :) 


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