24 February 2015

ITS OKAY, DADDYS GIRL

KOREAN DRAMA REVIEW: IT'S OKAY, DADDY'S GIRL




This drama is pretty low key with a bit of a family vibe, but somehow it's sucked me in anyhow.

These kind of ensemble casts can be really interesting because the plots can be a little more unexpected than your normal "she's the lead actress, he's her male lead and that one is the second male lead" obviousness. There's nothing wrong with any of that of course and I love a good obvious love triangle, but a family ensemble is a little bit more unpredictable and so can be quite interesting.

This drama begins with one family and their daddy, a nice man who always wants to help everyone,  but therefore ends up taking the world onto his own shoulders. His family genuinely love him, but also maybe don't all appreciate him properly, most treating him like a wallet for their own needs and wants.





The beginning:
Case in point the youngest daughter, Chae-Ryung, (played by the ever beautiful Moon Chae Won). She comes home from studying design in America only to tell her dad she doesn't love him unless he buys her the latest handbag.
Of course she isn't serious, and below that spoilt exterior is a young girl who really does love her daddy a whole lot, but like the rest of the family it seems she needs to learn some life lessons. Which they all do.
Drastically.


Chae-Ryung is out clubbing with her friends, one of whom is a very sneaky, slimy, rich and possibly quite psychotic boy who is in love with her, and he decides to pay some gangster mate to hassle her on the street so he can swoop in and save the day.
The young gent he hires to harass Chae-Ryung though does almost too good a job, dragging her off the street and pushing her against a wall, until daddy comes to the rescue before the slimy lover boy ever can.

But daddy gets hit badly in the process and manages to cause the young gangster gent (Duk Ki) to take a dive into a wall.  Everyone is all good though and the police arrive, and despite the scare and daddy's fury over the way his daughter was treated, the older man lets Duk Ki off with a stern yet oddly touching speech, a speech in fact that leaves Duk Ki in tears, not so much in shame (though I'm sure that's in there too) but more so at the realisation that his own father has never loved him in the same way that Chae-Ryung is loved by this daddy.
And it hurts him badly.

And that's something I really enjoy about this drama.
It is unexpected, making an important character out of someone you thought was inconsequential, giving life to somebody who would normally just make a guest appearance, in this case, Duk Ki. In those few moments they gave focus to a character normally brushed under the rug and I found that really interesting.
I mean, this drama is by no means flashy or exciting,  but there is emotion and heart there, an aspect of these weird creaky family melo dramas that I do really like.



But after this, everything goes wrong.
The boy, Duk Ki, dies and we are introduced to his family,  two touchingly sweet brothers (Wook Ki  and Hyuk-Ki, the eldest played by the smokin hot and lovely Choi Jin Hyuk) and his evil caricature parents who, luckily for me don't stick around long. These parents run off as soon as they receive compensation money from daddy's family, the police ruling the old man responsible for Duk Ki's accidental death.
The two sweet Hyungs are left destitute and devastated (though with Duk Ki's claim of being hit by a car and a mysterious handbag filled with money, both believe there is more to the story of their brother's death and don't believe daddy is the culprit), and daddy himself collapses into a coma when the police come to cart him off and so ends up in hospital instead of prison.


The same hospital in fact whose heir is currently attempting to woo daddy's eldest daughter, Ae-Ryung, a lovely and fragile girl with her own closet full of problems. Now this silly heir guy is set to inherit the hospital if only he can prove to his disapproving dad that he isn't a useless good for nothing playboy (light bulb! Arranged marriage! ) and so Ae-Ryung becomes his, and his mother's,  perfect solution.

I kind of loved this because when you first meet this heir guy, Jin-gu, you really don't expect him to become a recurring character.  I thought he would be in and out, and yet slowly we are introduced to him and despite his ridiculous playboy nature, the boy is actually rather charming in an offbeat exuberant and silly kind of way.
Though not an overly fantastic match for quiet serious Ae-Ryung.
Or is he?


Poor Ae-Ryung has the weight of her family on her shoulders and they all push her into this crazy arranged marriage (think hospital bills and crazy huge unpaid loans) and so off she goes with this random guy to live in his house.

Jin-gu's main purpose in marriage is to have his credit cards returned so he can hang out at sleazy bars with his silly pals and ogle hot ladies. And that is clearly his intention, yet somehow he just sort of never quite gets around to it, rather enjoying being a perfect son and caring son-in-law with a beautiful respectable wife by his side.
And still Jin-gu is somehow sincere in his actions, always saying the right thing even though you know he isn't some perfect upright son, somehow he still manages to be charming and genuine, a boy with a huge heart, he just hasn't quite figured out what to use it for yet.

But Ae-Ryung herself is living through hell, her family breaking apart and she now feels intensely indebted to her in-laws, who eventually find out the truth about her father's criminal case, treating her coldly like a gold digger.
It is awful because she isn't that kind of girl and it hurts her so badly that they think it, especially her new father-in-law whom she respects.  His disappointment in her is so hard for her to bear, but she keeps trying her best, and her father-in-law sees it and is moved by her sadness, fragility, and resilience, and he also realises there is more to her father's case then there seems.

Also, father-in-law realises his son is changing too, because as soon as Jin-gu's family turn against Ae-Ryung, Jin-gu himself begins to stand up for her, getting all giddy and excited when she seems to genuinely want to stay by his side.


Meanwhile,  with Ae-Ryung safely married off, the rest of the family face torment after torment,  losing their money to loan sharks and shady 'get rich quick' schemes, and losing their house for a tiny cockroach infested box apartment. Mum and 'big hearted but rather useless' uncle both head to the country to try and get their money back, and it is time for Chae-Ryung to start waking up to her new situation. 

At the beginning you can tell that Chae-Ryung is a good hearted girl, but she is also such an utter spoiled brat it can also be hard to sympathise with her. She tells her sister to get married to Jin-gu even though the thought makes her sister cry, she throws an absolute tantrum about losing her house and goes and cries and whines to her bedridden absolutely devastatingly depressed daddy that she doesn't want to live poor, and even looks down on the dead young man's two really lovely brothers, who through all this are just trying to do their best for a family torn apart even though their own brother has just died.

She is so naive she just believes someone will help them by lending money and is so shameless about rudely asking the two Hyungs about helping her family. She needs a job and naively thinks she will be able to just walk into a top fashion house and become a designer even though she has no experience at all, and looks down on any part time jobs like she is better than that.

But you can't help but pity her.
The entire world as she has known it has broken apart and she has no life skills, no self sufficiency, no understanding of how real life works. But slowly, so so slowly, (and I liked this because why would she just realise how dumb she was being overnight? ) Chae-Ryung begins to change.


The real moment it happens is after ordering the sweet Hyungs to repay the compensation money, she follows them to their night job believing they are trying to skip out on her. What she finds instead is a slice of real life.
These two smart, kind young men are working their guts out scrubbing dishes at a restaurant and Chae-Ryung is really knocked back at the sight of them, suddenly for the first time in her entire life realising that other people don't have it as good as her.
I mean, she probably knew it already in some sort of vague way but she probably expected struggling poor people to somehow be beneath her, except obviously these two boys aren't worth less than her, they are good guys living through a tough situation.

Even then Chae-Ryung doesn't change overnight (again I really liked this), she still orders the older brother Hyuk-Ki (the beautiful Choi Jin-Hyuk) around, more expecting him to help her all the time instead of being grateful for what he is going out of his way to do.
A good example would be how she treats him when he comes to their new hovel home to help her move her dad's bed in preparation of his hospital release. She ends up yelling at him, and him at her, and there is this really tense, charged moment where you can tell how upset he is, not so much at how he treats her though because he can understand she has no real knowledge of her situation. He tells her that her naivety terrifies him. Because when he looks at her he can already see how much further she will fall, how much harder everything will be for her when she finally realises that life isn't going to magically go back to the way it was. This is it.

He obviously likes her, or worries about her, and for her part, Hyuk-Ki reminds Chae-Ryung of her dad, he is warm and kind and caring. And most important, he can be trusted. Unlike the old friends she used to hang with (Psycho boy for example whom she is beginning to realise is a horrible horrible dude).

And as Hyuk-Ki predicted, things do get worse.
Her daddy comes home to their new depressing home, finally understanding himself how far his family has fallen which only fills him with guilt. He needs help moving around and even pees himself when Chae-Ryung tries to help him to the bathroom. It is so humiliating for this man to be like this before his kids and the guilt he feels is overwhelming. He feels like, just by existing, he is destroying his children's lives. Which is the most awful, gut-crunching thing ever. It made me cry.


Desperate for money, Chae-Ryung begs other people, but gets a real wake up call when she is told flat out that it is her own problem and she should make her own money for her own family instead of expecting everyone else to always do everything for her.
It is embarrassing and horrible and Chae-Ryung immediately finds her friend to set her up with a hostess job at a sceevy nightclub.

As soon as Hyuk-Ki hears what she is doing he goes running to stop her, but Chae-Ryung herself makes the decision first that she can't do it when she hears her daddy's favourite karaoke song play. She rushes outside, crying on the sidewalk and realising how low she has fallen, how useless she has been all her life, always expecting everyone else to make her happy and look after her with no effort of her own. It is so sad and I feel such pity for her, because she has finally realised how awful she was.
Hyuk-Ki of course turns up and helps her home, the absolute sweetheart that he is.


The middle:
And then things begin to get better for Chae-Ryung. She gets a few part time jobs and despite the horror she is experiencing, I think for the first time in her life she feels like she is doing something worthwhile, and can be proud of herself. She works hard and tries her best and wins over everyone around her with this new attitude. And little by little, now that she has time to think and is no longer crying every single second, Hyuk-Ki begins to creep into her heart.

The romance between Chae-Ryung and Hyuk-Ki is so low key and lovely, the moments they share so small yet sweet, ringing so true of a young couple falling in love. I so much prefer this kind of romance in a drama to the big overly romantic gestures like rooms filled with roses or over the top public proposals.
These two spend these little quiet moments together and you can see the way Chae-Ryung begins to look at him differently, this good man who is always there whenever she is drowning, this gentle kind protective man who has also known hell and yet is still able to live well. (Also...my gosh, his face! His crinkley smile! Gah!). There are two lovely scenes between these two, so small and yet so affecting.

In one they ride the bus together and Chae-Ryung keeps looking over at him, as if seeing him for the first time. She shyly tells him he has the kind of face that looks better the longer you look at it, and Hyuk-Ki looks abashed but so, so, pleased. Then they just sit there, stealing glances at eachother, both shy, with Hyuk-Ki trying to fight his smiles.


The next scene I really liked is when Chae-Ryung is working hard at her jobs, staying up late and getting up early every day. She visits her daddy in his nursing home (a place no one wanted to send him, but it is too hard for the brother to look after him at home as he is not a trained nurse and is so worried of making his dad's health worse). When Chae-Ryung arrives in the dark of dawn, she opens the door to her daddy's room to find the two sweet Hyungs sleeping in there, keeping her dad company.
Next they all share breakfast together, Hyuk-Ki sporting an adorable bedhead and sleepy eyes, and Chae-Ryung can't stop staring at him, clearly finding him ridonkulously adorable.

Her daddy notices too, looking really pleased at the possibility of this romance. (Gah it is so good to see the daddy beginning to smile again, its been too long! His son also said some lovely things which made him smile, which was too lovely...oh my heart!).
After breakfast, Hyuk-Ki takes Chae-Ryung on the bus to work and when she falls asleep beside him with her head bobbing, he carefully moves her so she is leaning against his shoulder. She wakes up and sleepily looks up at him, then promptly settles back down against him and returns to sleeping. And the quiet look of happiness on Hyuk-Ki's face....aaah. So nice.
So romantic and so real.


Meanwhile, a few different bombshells are dropped. Firstly, Chae-Ryung's psycho friend Jong Seok is outed as a creepy stalker boy, and the hospital in-law's lawyer begins to circle in on Jong Seok's lawyer parents as somehow being involved in the daddy's manslaughter case, zeroing in on a possible cover up.
And also, poor Ae-Ryung is hit with the truth. Just as her heart is starting to open to her rather silly new husband, she hears that his younger sister (who hates her new sister-in-law) is actually Jin-gu's daughter from a teenage fling.
And also he has been married before.
Multiple times.

And, though this part is less true, she also hears he is still dating hot girls on the side right now.
Poor Ae-Ryung's heart just smashes. Everything is just so hard for her, she is so alone and fragile and somehow silly Jin-gu was actually helping her through it. She felt like someone was on her side, someone could understand her pain.
And now it is all broken up into pieces and there is nothing she can do. She will have to live forever in that cold awful house where no one likes her, not even her new husband (in her mind at least, because I think Jin-gu is beginning to like Ae-Ryung a hell of a lot, beyond just sympathy).

But she doesn't run away and refuse to ever talk to him again thus creating an Even Bigger Misunderstanding like a normal drama heroine would have, instead Ae-Ryung hears Jin-gu out, she listens to him as he explains in a heart felt confession that all those things are true (except for him cheating on her which isn't). His words are so sincere and he is so desperate to hold onto her that it is hard to ignore him.
Jin-gu was wild and young, and then after his big mistake was made he felt he had lost everyone's goodwill forever and thus it caused him to further act out, to become the exact good for nothing delinquent that everyone already believed he was.
Yet it seems Ae-Ryung has changed him, and it is so utterly nice because I believe him when he says this. I mean, Jin-gu is getting older, I can imagine he is getting bored with partying but there is no real out for him, he has no idea how to be better or make people think he is a good man, but just through having Ae-Ryung at his side and supporting her he has become a model husband, a perfect caring son-in-law, and even a son his parents can be proud of. Ae-Ryung freed Jin-gu to become someone he can be proud of.

And for Ae-Ryung herself, just by returning to the house, and remaining by her husband's side after learning the truth, she has won over her in-laws, both of whom immediately respect her for her actions, and also I suspect realise that although she may have married Jin-gu for money, she isn't staying with him now because of it. They have something real.
Lovely!!!


The ending:
Everyone finally realises that psycho boy Jong Seok is insane and totally guilty and the whole crew work together to find evidence and witnesses for the trial.

But when Chae-Ryung is confronted by this hurtful truth about Jong Seok, she says the worst possible thing in front of Hyuk-Ki, she says she wishes it was all a dream and that none of it should have happened. None of it.
And of course even though we know what she really means, Hyuk-Ki's face just falls and immediately he has backed off, hurt by the idea that in that moment she would truly have taken it all back, and thus never met him.
And things slow down in the romance department, I think the death of Hyuk-Ki's brother and the twisted fates of everyone involved cloud their emotions with doubt and confusion. I imagine something like that would cause so much pain, especially in the lead up to the trail when it is so fresh on their minds, what it means that Hyuk-Ki's brother's last action was to harass Chae-Ryung and then be murdered by her stalker. It is a painful thing and so twisted, and the trial brings these pains up anew, opening wounds in everyone.

And of course for Hyuk-Ki and his brother the trial is basically a murder investigation for their brother, so both are filled with emotion as they hope so badly their hard work is not in vain, hope they can pin down the real culprit. Especially Hyuk-Ki being the eldest brother and therefore feeling responsible for his younger siblings. I can't imagine how awful and confusing this experience must be for him.


The trail was interesting for me, and I was filled with a huge sense of relief when daddy is finally cleared of all the charges, yet there is this sadness that Hyuk-Ki's brother's killer is not brought to justice.
I quite liked it in a lot of ways because it painted this picture that nothing is ever so black and white, justice is not free and easy just because it is deserved, and even though it is a bittersweet lesson, I felt it rung true.
I found the trial scenes very sad because Chae-Ryung and her family are so incredibly happy, finally their greatest wish has come true - their daddy is declared innocent - yet it is also so incredibly tragic for Hyuk-Ki because there is no justice at all for his family. He cries, happy for Chae-Ryung and her dad, but devastated for himself and his brothers.

With the trial finally finished, Chae-Ryung is offered the chance to make something of herself in China by her coffee shop job, and she decides to go.

I really hate the whole forced separation thing, I really do. I hate it because I think if you find someone to love it is a precious thing and what is the point of squandering two years of the time you could spend by your love's side. Of course I don't mean people shouldn't follow their dreams and do their own thing, but I just believe that usually people can do this together, growing and learning and changing together. And also, if you do leave your love for millions of years maybe a phone call would be nice? We live in a pretty modern era, it isn't hard to stay in touch!


So those grumpies aside, I guess I can kind of understand why Hyuk-Ki and Chae-Ryung parted for a million years, a lot of that would surely have to do with these strange unresolved issues after the trial, that Chae-Ryung got her happy ending but Hyuk-Ki is still fighting for his, that maybe he can't really let go and move on and be happy until he does.
And I guess Chae-Ryung can't stay there in that past with him and help him fight because for her it is over, for her she desperately needs to find her place in the world and grow strong and become happy and forget the horror they experienced.

So in that way I guess I can understand it. Chae-Ryung leaves to do something with herself she can be proud of, to get up on her own two feet and live her life, and Hyuk-Ki stays behind to study, but also to pursue closure for his own brother, which he gets when he becomes a prosecutor and the handbag turns up, sending Jong Seok right off to jail, crazy little sour psycho boy that he is.

And then it is happy reunion time!
The family still live in their modest home but daddy is up and about again, healthy and happy and his family have all pulled through.
And Chae-Ryung and Hyuk-Ki meet again on the street and he stares at her and hugs her and tells her he missed her. Sigh, so nice. (Though more kissing would be great!)

Thoughts:
Definitely a weird slow, low-budget, dramatic family tear-fest which somehow was nonetheless utterly addictive and lovely. It had heart, the daddy stuff made me go and hug my own dad so there were some life lessons there, and the romance was very grounded, quiet and real. Some characters were shouty and overly hysterical at times but somehow I just thoroughly enjoyed it anyway, it was beautiful and sweet and made me feel so much! The relationships the daddy had with his family were lovely and it often made me cry. But be warned it is not slick or clever! Just sweet and simple! :) Oh and the romance doesn't even begin for like a million episodes!

But still, my only wish is more kissing..... Where was Ae-Ryung and Jin-gu's first kiss? And Hyuk-Ki and Chae-Ryung? Boo! More kisses!










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