My Liberation Notes (2022) Episode 9-10
We humans are a strange lot. We claim family as the most important thing in our lives and yet we spend years honing our skills to gain mastery over our jobs or some passion project but make so little effort with our nearest and dearest. The Yeom family is a case in point and the Mary Poppins analogy that I’ve been using elsewhere has been rather apt given recent developments in the show. This is a family that doesn’t do a lot of talking to each other. When they do, they talk at each other or talk past each other. These are voices in search of an audience… Words in search of a listening ear. Whether they know it or not, the Yeom family are in need of a miracle… and certainly a saviour. The word “worship” comes up between Mi-jeong and the mysterious cross-wearing Mr Gu. It’s deliberately provocative although there’s some resistance to what exactly that entails. “Worship” of course is a loaded term that has religious implications. Mi-jeong is not particularly religious but she uses that word to invoke her desire for wholehearted devotion.
It is easy to blame the family patriarch for the state of things. He sets the tone and it’s a sombre one. The family dances around him like they’re treading painfully on glass and egg shells. It’s a routine they’ve long become accustomed to. He’s there in body but it feels like his spirit might have left him for an unknown location a long time ago. He works, eats and goes to sleep like clockwork and so his progeny do the same without the same commitment to stoicism.
There’s a sign that catches Mi-jeong’s eye on her daily commute when the subway passes by a certain building. "Something good will happen to you today” Apparently it gives her some measure of comfort like the horoscope section of a popular magazine. What Mi-jeong might not know and what Mr Gu discovers later is that in smaller print under the sign is a Biblical reference from the gospel of Mark chapter 6 and verse 50. “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” This quote comes from an incident in the gospels when the disciples of Jesus are witnesses to him performing a miracle — walking on water during the night in the middle of the lake. Not too surprisingly they are terrified by that sight. In their terror they think they’ve seen a ghost so he makes that proclamation to comfort them as they quake in their sandals.
The needed miracle in Sanpo apparently comes in the form of the soju-sozzled Gu whose past is unveiled like pieces of a puzzle inviting us to put it all together ourselves with some measure of trepidation. The long jump signals the start of something amazing waiting in the wings. While he might be something of an unlikely messenger of God, he too is in need of a miracle himself as he becomes a slave to slow poisoning by alcohol. Providentially the Yeoms are a lifeline. He and Yeom senior get on like a house on fire by working together and speaking only when necessary which almost never. Chang-hee on the other hand wants a bromance with Gu even though the latter makes almost no effort at cultivation. Soon not only is Mi-jeon a regular at his place, Chang-hee too and he’s boyishly delighted to find out that Gu owns a bidet and keys to a Rolls Royce. This revelation changes his entire attitude to work and a troublesome colleague. So he bides his time for the opportune moment to ask about the Rolls Royce. When eventually he comes face to face with the luxury car for the first time in all its sleek splendour, he falls to his knees and worships at its fender.
Love is in the air in Sanpo and of course in Seoul. The siblings are navigating old-new territory. Mi-jeong and Gu are getting better acquainted via some starts and stops. Gi-jeong has fallen for Cho Tae-hun, the single dad living with two sisters. Chang-hee has fallen madly for the Rolls Royce and perhaps now he can impress willing women who jump at the chance of taking a spin in that “look at me, look at me” beast of a vehicle.
Before Episode 10, it occurred to me that Gi-jeong could find herself in the middle of a love triangle with her boss Park Jin-u and her friend’s brother Cho Tae-hun. It is possible that Park Jin-u might end up falling for her after sharing so many deep and meaningful sessions but then it is equally possible that he might not either. This is a man who really is trying to postpone ageing by romancing pretty young things at the office, flitting from one to another like a holiday. Clearly the man’s in love with love itself because it’s his fountain of youth. A lifelong commitment will demand that he forego his elixir of youth and do a complete turn around in his attitudes about women. Certainly as long as he finds women willing to go along with his approach to dating relationships, the bubble might never pop for him. As a supportive comrade-in-arms he is terrific but who knows if he will ever be able to break the pattern of being serial dater.
It’s safe to say at this point that Tae-hun is the frontrunner as I think he has always been from Day 1. Gi-jeong likes him and he seems to reciprocate despite the obstacles that his own family poses in that regard. It was premature of her to assume that he had rejected her outright after her big confession when the poor man was caught off guard and hesitated to give an immediate answer. While she retreated into sheer embarrassment, he penned a series of thoughtful text messages demonstrating himself to be the kind and considerate person that we knew him to be already. This relationship could be good for the both of them if they can survive hostilities on the family front. Moreover, their dynamic has all the elements of a classic romance trope of terrible first impressions while being topical about contemporary occupations with love and marriage. A divorcee with a child was low on Gi-jeong’s list of eligible men and yet fate has a sense of humour it seems. When they first met, she blathered on loudly in a BBQ restaurant about her distaste for single fathers while sitting cluelessly next to one. To add injury to insult, a lipstick falls out of her bag and rolls under the table next to his shoe. An awkward moment indeed. On the other hand, he seems good-natured enough to put it all behind him. Apparently he doesn’t hold it against her although that can’t be said about the rest of his family.
The cinematography is off the charts excellent, lighting, colour, angle. For example when the Blue Ute drives up to the amazing architectural yellow building that is I think Mr Gu's club. The plot is interesting, exploring existential issues that effect us all, coupled with our own personal lot -financial, emotional, cultural. My Liberation Notes is so well written allowing the actors to do their thing to the best of their ability. The plot is never plodding, hackneyed or predictable. MLN is receiving so much love, it's obviously what many people are seeking to watch. Much of the script and action is ambiguous and open to interpretation, which is challenging viewers thinking.
It's a joy to watch.