Showing posts with label Thirty-Nine (Kdrama) 4.2 || 4. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thirty-Nine (Kdrama) 4.2 || 4. Show all posts

03 April 2022

K Drama Review: Thirty-Nine (2022) 4.2 || 4

Like most K drama fans, Oppa and I were thrilled when we heard the news that Jeon Mi Do (Hospital Playlist and Hospital Playlist 2) and Son Ye Jin (Something in the Rain, Crash Landing on You, and The Last Princess) were going to be together in a drama. I was even more excited when I read that it was going to be about friends who were almost in their 40s. While the show/story did not really live up up to my expectations, it was fortunate that the actresses were great so they somehow managed to make up for the show's shortcomings. 


Thirty-Nine is about the story of three long-time friends - Cha Mi Jo (Son Ye Jin), Jeong Chan Young (Jeon Mi Do), and Jang Joo Hee (Kim Ji Hyun of Hometown Cha Cha Cha and Prison Playbook) - who were having the time of their lives at the age of 39. Their worlds turn upside down however, when Chan Young was diagnosed to be terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. The story takes us through how the three friends try to make the most out of their time left with Chan Young and how they work hard to make her the happiest terminally ill person in the world. 

Son Ye Jin as Cha Mi Jo

We definitely missed watching Son Ye Jin. And while she has aged a bit, she is still as beautiful as ever (and still deserving of that spot in Oppa's list). And more importantly, she's still probably one of the best Korean actresses for Oppa and I. 

I loved how this drama showcased Ye Jin's versatility as an actress. As the dermatologist Cha Mi Jo who was left by her mother in an orphanage and was adopted by another family later on, Ye Jin was able to show us that she can be cute, bratty, a nag, angry, a snob, crazy, dramatic, funny, and a loving and caring friend, sister, daughter, and girlfriend. And she did each and every one of these really, really well.

But as expected, Ye Jin really shined the brightest in her dramatic scenes. She was phenomenal in that breakdown scene when she discovered that Chan Young was ill. She was angry at Chan Young's partner, Jin Seok (Lee Moo Saeng of One Spring NightThe Silent Sea, and Prison Playbook), and his wife (Song Min Ji of Hospital Playlist and Reply 1994), yet she was also in despair and feeling helpless. Ye Jin showed such wide range all in one episode. 

As Chan Young's closest friend (and as a doctor), I loved how Mi Jo tried to convince Chan Young to get treatment and how she respected the latter's decision not to. I liked Mi Jo's initial attempt at being positive despite the circumstances and her goal to make Chan Young the happiest terminally ill person in the world. 

I loved Mi Jo's adoptive family and how they supported her all the way. Dad (Park Ji Il of The Man Standing Next) used his retirement money to open a clinic for Mi Jo. Mom (Lee Kan Hee of So I Married the Anti-FanMs. Hammurabi, and Fight for My Way) was always patient with Mi Jo especially when she first joined their family and she refused to speak. And of course, her sister (Kang Mal Geum of The Silent Sea and Squid Game), who even if she always annoyed Mi Jo obviously loved her so much. I loved how her family was supportive of her love life and how they were there for her when Chan Young was ill. Mi Jo was fortunate to have been adopted by a very loving family. 

Later on, however, I admit that my feelings for Mi Jo cooled down. I couldn't understand why she had to bear everyone's burden. You'd think she was the one dying judging by how miserable she felt and looked most of the time. 

I also didn't get why she got angry at her boyfriend, Kim Seon Woo (Yeon Woo Jin of My Love from the Star), for not wanting to have dinner with her family. She knew Seon Woo's dad was an ass so she should have considered that he was probably embarrassed of introducing his dad to Mi Jo's family. Because of these side stories, I sometimes felt that Mi Jo thought that everything was about her all the time. 

I was not familiar with Yeon Woo Jin and while it was not love at first sight for me, Seon Woo grew on me with his patience with and sincerity towards Mi Jo. And how he was a very loving and protective big brother to his adopted sister (Ahn So Hee of Train to Busan and Summer Vacation).

Going back to Mi Jo, I was definitely proud of how she stood up against her exploitative and opportunistic biological mother (Seo Ji Young). I'm usually forgiving when it comes to stuff like these but I felt that the  biological mom really deserved the ending she got. 

Overall, Ye Jin still delivered despite the story's limitations. It was also a sentimental drama for me since this was Ye Jin's last drama as an unmarried woman. And the finale even aired on her wedding night. *sigh* I just hope Ye Jin would continue making dramas after her marriage. 

Jeon Mi Do as Jeong Chan Young

It was refreshing to see Mi Do without her white coat. Oppa said that she's really a good actress because he easily dissociated her from her Hospital Playlist character. 

While Ye Jin was able to show her wide range as an actress in this drama, I believe that Mi Do was given the toughest role in the show. She had to appear chill all the time yet her eyes and her face tell you that she was also anxious about her disease. She had to act in pain and as a dying person. The emotions required of Chan Young were very difficult and I loved how Mi Do navigated through all of them really well. 

I admit that I was initially judgmental of Chan Young's affair with Jin Seok. After watching Lee Moo Saeng in One Spring Night, I wondered if he really had to play the role of an asshole husband all the time. But as I got to know more about their story, I understood where they were coming from. I even felt sorry for them. I loved Jin Seok's breakdown scene when he found out Chan Young was sick. It was so heartfelt. (And may I just say that I hated Jin Seok's wife for revealing her husband's relationship with Chan Young to the latter's parents. No matter how bad her relationship was with her husband, it was not her place to tell them.). 

In the end, I loved Chan Young and Jin Seok's chemistry. And I am hoping that Hospital Playlist 3 rumors are true because I definitely need to see more of Mi Do. 

Kim Ji Hyun as Jang Joo Hee

It was our first time to watch Kim Ji Hyun in a starring role. And while it was apparent that she was the least priority among the three main leads, I believe Ji Hyun made the most out of her exposure. Of course, I often wished that she would be given equal exposure as the other two and she won't be made to appear as a mere third wheel to them. 

As a friend, I loved how loyal Joo Hee was in a quiet way. She was not as clingy and grandiose as Mi Jo. But I knew she loved her friends. I super loved how she shredded the lottery ticket she won because she wanted to pass on her luck to Chan Young. That was so selfless of her. 

Another reason why I wanted more screen time for Joo Hee was because her story seemed the happiest and most normal among the three leads. I was really rooting for her and her guy (Lee Tae Hwan), who was the best looking among the three boyfriends. 

I hope to see both Ji Hyun and Tae Hwan in more dramas in the future. Despite their limited air time, I still found them very endearing. 

The Gang

One of the things I loved about the show was how the main leads were all really 39 years old when the drama was shot. It gives you that more relatable feeling because you know they're really at that stage in their lives. 

I loved the three girls' chemistry. They all clicked really well and were perfect for their roles. They really looked like they were long-time friends. Although I admit that the story behind how they first met and how they became close does not seem that realistic. They lived in different places and they went to different schools at a time when mobile phones and social media were not yet widespread. I'm not sure how they were able to sustain their friendship that long. 

Although there were three of them, it was apparent that Chan Young and Mi Jo had a special bond. It was bittersweet to hear Chan Young say that while she was sad about leaving everyone, she was saddest about leaving Mi Jo because she misses her already even before she's gone. 

The best thing about the girls was how strong their bond was. I loved how they took turns taking care of Joo Hee's mom (Nam Gi Ae of Now, We are Breaking Up, Jirisan, Encounter, Suits, and Descendants of the Sun) when the latter was sick, how they helped Chan Young get through her illness, and how they were always there to cheer each other on.  

I admit that the "friendship" branding that the show tried to sell made me expect that all three friends would get the same level of exposure. In the end, however, it felt like this was Son Ye Jin's show and she was given two friends to back her up. 

Execution - The Okay Stuff

The show started quite slow but things picked up eventually. I enjoyed how it covered real-life issues that adults struggle to deal with. 

Like affairs. I liked how the show gave us a different perspective about these things. Personally, I still believe in ending things clearly first before going into a new relationship. It's fair for everyone that you do things that way. But this drama showed us that things are not always that clear cut. And it was somehow understandable why Chan Young could not let Jin Seok go, no matter how hard she tried. She's smart but unfortunately, the brain cannot always impose on the heart. 

And adoption. I liked how the drama showed us that adoptive families are different. Some are great like Mi Jo's. While some are not like Seon Woo's. And that adoption might not be for everyone. (Although I found it heartbreaking that an adoptive family could return the adopted child to the orphanage (the kid might find this traumatic), I also find it quite comforting that the adopted child won't be forced to stay with a family that's not a good fit for him or her.). Personally, I hoped that the drama also showed that adoptive families won't always be as rich as Mi Jo and Seon Woo's families. I get that adoption is an expensive process but people might get the wrong idea about adoption and undermine the tedious process that comes with it. 

Death was a touchy topic for me. But I'm glad that the show revealed who was going to die right away. I'm not a fan of shows that make you anxious and keep you guessing about huge stuff until the end. 

I liked the perspectives that the show gave us about saying goodbye, both from the point of view of the dying person and those that will be left behind. I lost my father to pancreatic cancer 5 months ago and I admit that the show triggered me in a way but it was also therapeutic to a certain extent. It was thought-provoking for me to see how Chan Young felt - her fear of not knowing what will happen after she dies, her worries about the people she will leave behind, how she'll miss them, how she made her own funeral list (I loved her lone criterion - people she would gladly eat a meal with), and how she left reminders to make sure that the people she loved were well taken care of (like the birthday gifts for her parents and getting them medical check ups and meeting up with Jin Seok). Those were good stuff. 

I also liked how the show touched on career issues that people at 39 face. There's that fear of being too old to change careers and going out of your comfort zone. Most of the time, people are forced to stick to their sad and boring jobs even if they're unhappy. Thanks to Joo Hee and Hyun Joon, we know that it's still possible even if it can be challenging. 

The Not so Okay Stuff

First thing, I'm just curious about the relationship between K dramas and pancreatic cancer. I might be overreacting here but that storyline (plus the three friends story) is just so similar to Now, We are Breaking Up. 

There were some things that did not make sense to me. Like why the doctor had to tell Mi Jo first about Chan Young's illness. Yes, Mi Jo was a doctor (and probably the doctor's friend). But she was obviously not Chan Young's guardian. Chan Young appeared to be of sound mind. I believe that the doctor-patient privilege should have prevented the doctor from going to Mi Jo first before talking to his patient. And it was not fair to dump on Mi Jo the burden of telling Chan Young about her illness. 

I was also not so sure about how Chan Young was still able to do a lot of things after her diagnosis. She seemed okay for a long time and I'm concerned that it might give false hopes to people with pancreatic cancer. I'm afraid that the show might glamorize the illness - that you still have time, strength, and energy to shoot a movie, renovate your parents' restaurant, or hold a farewell party with your friends. Time is not on your side with pancreatic cancer and you have to start preparing yourself and the people around you the moment you get a diagnosis. I believe most people probably don't get to leave their homes or the hospital after their diagnosis. 

I liked how Mi Jo and Joo Hee were conveniently free to take care of Chan Young. Mi Jo was about to leave for the US for a sabbatical leave while Joo Hee resigned from her job. However, the truth is not everyone has the luxury of time and money to do that. Unfortunately, life still goes on for most people and they still need to make a living, alongside taking care of their sick friends or family. People might feel guilty that they can't take care of their sick loved ones the way Mi Jo and Joo Hee were able to do it for Chan Young. 

And while it was nice that the dying character was revealed right away, it became a bit problematic because the show had the tendency to be repetitive on the storyline of how difficult it is to say goodbye. Sure, the drama tried to inject some variations but they mostly remained the same. Oppa said that it mostly involved Chan Young complaining about how people were fussing over and it made it appear that the show was not progressing at the right pace. 

If you're not a fan of heavy drama stuff, then this show might not be for you. There are too many unhappy moments that the bits of happy stuff they insert cannot compensate for the general heaviness the show brings. And it didn't the help that the supposed funny scenes (like Mi Jo and dad arguing about who should clean the bathroom or Mi Jo's dad singing in the middle of having lunch with Seon Woo) felt contrived most of the time. Oppa would often ask me, "That was supposed to be funny, right?"

I was also not a fan of the irresponsible parent storylines - Mi Jo's exploitative mom, Seon Woo's judgmental and selfish dad, and Jin Seok's wife who was cold towards her son. I believe one should have been enough. 

I also didn't like how everyone was giving Chan Young a hard time when she preparing for her death. She bought a crypt, she wrote a funeral list, she even visited a funeral hall to probably envision how things will be for her. Instead of getting angry at her, they should have probably been proud of how strong she was and how she has accepted her fate. 

And while they probably meant well, I didn't really like how they turned Chan Young's funeral list into a brunch list without Chan Young's consent. Sure, that point might be moot because Chan Young seemed happy with it. But people might get the idea that it's cute to do things that way. Unfortunately, people don't all react in similar ways. Some people might not be good with goodbyes and you might be putting them in a tight spot if you do that. Things might be more difficult for them. 


The ending was okay. Although I was quite perplexed with how the show seemed to imply that Seon Woo's dad now accepted his adopted daughter and Mi Jo. He was meeting Mi Jo's family and he would love to attend his daughter's piano recital. Where did that come from? It was not established why he changed all of a sudden. 

But apart from that, the ending was generally okay in the sense that it showed us that life went on for those Chan Young left behind. Yes, they never stopped thinking about or missing her. And while there were days when they seemed to forget like when they're busy living their lives, truth is, not a day goes by that they don't remember her. And they just miss her more on some days. I loved how Chan Young was thoughtful to leave a gift for Mi Jo that she would only receive when she's having a hard time. 

While the show might not be for everyone, it's still worth watching if only for the main leads. And it might be worth your while too if you're struggling with the death of a loved one. The story might be a bit rough but it somehow manages to get its message across most of the time so you might still find it useful or helpful. 

Oppa says...4.2.

Noona says...4.