15 January 2014

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Can We Love? Yes, We Can (A Review of Episodes 1 & 2)

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on January 15, 2014
Trust jtbc to deliver another real-life, real-adult-people, real-good drama, and one that is even subbed very quickly (that, unfortunately, didn't happen with Your Neighbor's Wife, its predecessor drama I really wanted to see last year). Of course, I'm talking about Can We Love! Or Could We Love. Or 우리가 사랑할 수 있을까 (Wooriga Saranghal Soo Iteulka).
At this moment in time, I've seen two episodes and I'm all in. I doubt I will have the time to properly SqueeCap this one, but let me at least do a brief summary/review of what we've got so far.

What is it about

In short, Can We Love is about three women, besties for life, who are about to turn 40. We see them at the very beginning of episode 1 when they are nineteen, full of expectations, brimming with bubbly confidence and on the top of the world; at the age of twenty-six, a bit more settled, but still full of hopes and expectations for their future and then, at the age of 39, when reality has caught up with their dreams and life has turned out quite differently than expected for all of them. 
Yoon Jung-wan (Eugene) is divorced, living with her mother, and struggling to find a job as a script writer; Kim Sun-mi (the wonderful Kim Yoo-mi, my girl crush from Heartless City!) is still unmarried and a very successful interior decorator, a so-called "gold miss", but struggling with the loudly ticking biological clock; Kwon Ji-hyun (Choi Jung-yoon, whom I don't know) is a perfect housewife, happily married into a rich family (with a seemingly saint-like husband). But we all know how much marrying the rich sucks, right? If you don't know watch Goddess of Marriage. And indeed, there's a dragon mother-in-law, a "secret" love in her past and a very unhappy, rebellious daughter.
 
And then, of course, there's the men. Oh, they're particularly nice specimen! There is Oh Kyung-soo (Uhm Tae-woong! Oh yeah), a snarky, slightly vain, but very successful film director (Palme d'Or at Cannes!), who pretends to be a player, but probably isn't. We hear that he is quite rich. And he has a VERY sensitive side, but we haven't really seen it yet. Working with him is his cousin Ahn Do-young (Ohhhhhh, one of my first almost KDrama loves Kim Sung-soo, who lost against Rain in Full House), the CEO of a film company. He seems like an honest, up-right man. He is divorced and works like crazy, not thinking about any other women but his one-true-love. Which happens to be Ji-hyun. There is Jung-wan's ex-husband Han Joo-mo (Shim Hyung-tak), a friendly, harmless type who is about to get re-married to a rich kid (who also happens to be Director Ahn's sister) and who might, just might, not be entirely over his first wife. Oh, and we have Choi Yoon-seok (Park Min-woo, whom I swear was just a kid a few months ago, but now?!), with a noona-crush deluxe on Sun-mi. Man, is he cute ... 
This set-up, of course, is not overly original (though I have never seen so many genuinely NICE men in one drama). But I myself have not yet seen a Korean drama explore this difficult age in the life of a woman with such unpretentious honesty. Mind you, I have nothing against beautiful and emotionally-damaged chaebol sons and their transformation into good human beings and all that, but I do sometimes crave for a glimpse of a different Korea, one that I know must be there as well, one in which women talk about their periods and cry their hearts out because of unfulfilled dreams, one in which there are good things and bad things, happening to us at the same time, in which a successful career doesn't necessarily mean happiness, at least not all the time, but one in which our pride would have us pretend to be extremely happy even though we're absolutely not. Oh, and one in which there are many divorced people. Cause yeah: that's real life.

The Characters / The Cast

Oh man, there's a LOT of people in this drama. Frankly, the first episode in particular gets quite confusing, and the dialogue is fast and complex. I found myself trying to speed-read the subs and to grasp all the connections between the characters while not missing their facial expressions at the same time. They indeed dump ALL the characters on us right away: mothers, fathers, mother-in-laws, husbands, ex-husbands, new wives, kids, sisters, cousins, etc. etc. etc. Ouf. Still, all these characters are introduced in ways that make connecting to them (or disliking them intently) easy and natural; the story flows naturally around and through them and even though it's a lot of information, it still all falls in place.

Jung-wan (Eugene)

Let's start with Jung-wan, which is the main female lead, and the people around her. Jung-wan is an upright, loyal and honest person, with a big heart. She is a bit on the shy and naive side and it's also possible that she is a bit dull. I don't mean that in an overly negative way - she is just so bogged down with life, there isn't much else to her than struggling for money, making ends meet, simply living without any visions or dreams. I like her, but at the same time, I hope there is much more to her than this (part of my "issue" with her might have to do with Eugene's acting). And I also hope she gets a make-over. Have I mentioned how much I hate the hair? Not yet.   
She is an overall positive person (though with a terrible ahjumma haircut, had to mention it again), but her life is difficult after her divorce. We do not yet know why she wanted the divorce, but we know she was very unhappy in her marriage with Han Joon-mo, so I guess her life was difficult before the divorce as well. She lives with her mother (Kim Hye-ok, who can be so deliciously creepy if she wants to, but definitely isn't in this role) and her kid, Tae-geuk.

Her mother is eternally and loudly suffering from a lot of things (but mainly her back), wishes to have a hair salon again, and tries to get her daughter back together with her ex-husband, who isn't entirely gone from her life, because they share custody of their kid (who, by the way, is much too serious for a kid his age and is far too attentive of his mother's troubles). Jung-wan is a writer, but not really successful; that is why she works part-time in a supermarket, a fact she is trying to hide from her family and friends. When things seem at their darkest, she meets Ahn Do-young, who likes her writing, and gets a chance to work on a skript with Oh Kyung-soo, even though their first encounters range from awkward to outright embarrassing.
 
And then, boom, things get even darker when her mother is cheated out of all their money AND their house by a loan scam. They (temporarily?) move in with Sun-mi, but Jung-wan's mother has also contacted her (ex) son-in-law about their dire situation. The ex-husband seems like a very nice kind of person, but also the kind of man who lets his life be dictated by others. His new bride, who is spoilt and loud, but also rather insecure, has given him what he always wanted: his professorship. It is possible that his and Jung-wan's marriage didn't work out because both of them were not really getting anywhere in their lives, probably both keeping each other down. Happens. Even to people who love each other. I foresee complications of the heart due to the fact that their relationship isn't entirely void of feelings for each other, and ex-husband is quite ready to help out his ex-wife and her family whenever he can. Also, both the Oh and Ahn boy are potential love interests for Jung-wan. Seeing how hung up with his old love Ahn is, I guess it's going to be Oh.

Sun-mi (Kim Yoo-mi)

Where is Baksa Adeul, Jin-sook? He would certainly stand up for you in your difficult times! Ah, Kim Yoo-mi, I love her ... and she rocks her role here. Of course. Sun-mi has it all, success, money, boys in the sack. But she doesn't have a family of her own (and also doesn't seem to have any siblings, and no connection to father-mother, at least not so far) and everybody around her is constantly rubbing that in her face. Tick-tock, tick-tock, you have to get married NOW or it will be too late.
 
Sun-mi is a very confident woman, bordering on arrogant, but her husbandlessnes and childlessness seems to be a real wound she is carrying around. At the beginning of Can We Love she is sleeping with the PD of her house renovating show, and I guess she is hoping for more, but he is just one of those dicks that exploit women for their own benefit. She renovates his place for free, and once she's done, he is done with her. She overhears him talking to a friend about the "old hag" at the swimming pool and that is a tremendous blow to her, wounding her very deeply where it already hurts the most. Goddamn, and then he even replaces her with another interior decorator for the show.

But there is sweet little puppy Yoon-seok. Oh my. He works at her company and they have "a past" ... of sorts. He is completely, utterly, and madly in love with her, but she cannot (yet?) accept his feelings. I do understand her well: he is so young (in his early to mid-twenties, it seems)! Yes, he also is very, very sweet, looking out for her, bringing her food, cooking for her, cleaning her apartment - but yeah, I understand why she is keeping him away from herself. Trying to, at least. If she is not into him (and it doesn't seem like she is, much), it would be cruel to lead him on. And if she were into him, like ... a lot, things would still be difficult for them, in the way things are always difficult for unconventional pairings, all over the world.  
I am very curious to see where this is going, especially since Director Oh and her also keep bumping into each other, i.e. at the beach, where he takes pictures of her and saves her from a rock. Never mind he then falls and dumps her into the water. There is an almost inaudible crackling when they go to a motel together to change ... only, he gets them seperate rooms and leaves almost immediately after without her.

As different as our real-world situations are, I can relate quite a lot to this character; maybe because I have a few friends who are just like her. Always busy, seemingly brusque - but with a heart of gold, and highly vulnerable. She takes in Jung-wan and her family without even blinking when they are in need (though she refuses to lend Jung-wan money earlier, because she knows what money does to people) and I am sure she is also the person to take in stray cats and dogs. Or lost puppies (hint, hint).

Kwon Ji-hyun (Choi Jung-yoon)

This, for me, is the most difficult of the female main characters to like. She is über-confident and very insensitive. She keeps the appearance of a perfect housewife, totally devoted to her husband (and their family), but that is really not her at all. There are little things she does when nobody is looking (like smoking secretly in the bathroom, waring a plastic cap so her hair will not smell), or going out with her friends as soon as her husband goes on a business trip. She also screams in frustration at the bathtub full of cabbage her mother-in-law wants her to turn into kimchi and she almost looses it when she is suddenly confronted with her past (Ahn). She is struggling to keep up the lie of a perfect life, but it is visibly difficult for her.
What I don't like about her is that she constantly lies - to herself and everybody around her. We don't know for certain yet, but she seems like the kind of woman that gave up happiness for money - and now pays the prize for it. She comes from a modest background. Her life isn't happy at all, she has a mean mother-in-law who puts her down all the time, she has a husband who may be devoted but is hardly ever there, and she has a teenage daughter, Sera, who returns from the US, bearing a huge grudge against her mother - and shows signs of a serious alcohol problem. The big trial coming her way is the choice between the family she now has (which equals unhappiness) and the man she truly loved/loves (which (maybe?) equals happiness). 

Ahn-Boy and Oh-Boy

Of course they're not boys - they're goddamn fine ahjussis. Yum. See, I do not mind Korean almost-men ... but I DO prefer Korean ahjussis. After two episodes, we do not know a lot about these two characters. But we do know that Ahn Do-young is very, very nice and not easily offended.
 
We also know he has a past with Ji-hyun (is the teenage daughter his, maybe?), one that they are trying to hide from her new family. But there is always unmyeong, and unmeyong wants it that they meet, after what seems a long time. Ji-hyun's saint of a husband Lee Gyu-shik (also unknown to me, Nam Sung-jin), (hm, no skeletons in his closet?!), invests in movies, so, unmyeong be thanked, he works with Ahn. When Do-young and Ji-hyun meet face to face unexpectedly, they keep up appearances, very well at that, but there are the little glances they steal at each other, that special kind of awareness between people who know each other much better than anybody is supposed to know. That scene was really, really well played. We do not see how the meeting affects him, but we see how it affects her: it completely shatters her confidence and turns her into a shaking mess. Hm.
Oh Kyung-soo remains the much bigger mystery up until now. He pretends to be someone he isn't, really: a womanizer. There are lots of stories about him and his affairs, but none of them seem to be true. He is witty and flirty, but he is also quite serious in almost everything he does. He has a sick mother (dementia/ Alzheimer?) but doesn't want to hear anything about her; it is Ahn that visits her instead of him. He is hurting and covering it up. He is probably not letting anybody and anything touch him, because keeping your distance is easier than getting emotionally involved. It's always epic when these kind of characters fall in love. 

Comments

This seems like a must-watch: The cast is superb, the directing swift and confident, and despite its seriousness, there is enough light-heartedness in this drama to make this a real feat for people like me who really don't like melos and makjang and crave for something different. Something that feels real. And something that has huge sushi posters in it. Cause .... sushi. And ... you know, incredibly nice and hot ahjussis.

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