My Ahjussi (My Mister)

My Ahjussi (My Mister) is a tvN drama from 2018 starring Lee Sun kyun and IU that received both critical acclaim and commercial success. You can now see it on Netflix. The drama is a heart-warming story about a young woman and three middle-aged brothers struggling with life’s typical hardships. It offers 16 episodes filled with relatable situations and life lessons that we can all learn from.

The Story:

Park Dong Hoon (Lee Sun Kyun from Parasite) is a well paid building engineer around forty years of age, married to pretty lawyer Yoon Hee (Lee Ji Ah from Beethoven Virus). They have one young son whom they sent to America to school to learn English, and he is younger than ten years old (I didn’t understand that for beans!). Usually when a couple is married and in love and have a baby they want to raise it themselves, not send it half-way around the world to school! This, together with the fact that there is never any physical relationship depicted between husband and wife, not even one hug, makes one doubt that any love really exists between this married couple. We soon find out why. Dong Hoon’s wife is secretly having an affair with a senior executive at the construction company where Dong Hoon works, an executive who has always been jealous of Dong Hoon’s professional capabilities and talents. Yoon Hee tells her lover that she wants to divorce Dong Hoon and marry the executive, who is named Do Joon Young (Kim Young Min, also from Beethoven Virus), but it’s obvious to the astute audience members that this adulterous bum has no interest in ever marrying her. He’s just using her to get back at Dong Hoon for earning more respect at work than he has attained.

Dong Hoon is a member of a close knit family who all lives in the same city neighborhood, including two brothers and his aging mother Byeon Yo Soon (Ko Doo Shim from Dear My Friends and The Snow Queen) who still live together. The oldest brother, Sang Hoon (Park Ho San) is chronically unemployed and separated from his long-suffering wife Ae Ryun (Jung Young Joo). Gi Hoon (Song Sae Byeok) is the youngest brother who also has trouble finding work after he blew a chance to become a movie director. Dong Hoon hires a temp in his office named Lee Ji An (IU from Dream High ) who lives in financial and emotional distress daily, owing loan sharks a lot of money. She supports her disabled deaf and mute grandmother Bon Ae (Son Sook) who is unable to move by herself so Ji An often has to steal a grocery cart temporarily from a convenience store to wheel her around in it when she wants to go outside. Ji An is continuously harassed by a loan shark named Gwang Il (Chang Ki Yong) who obviously also has the hots for her. He regularly shows up at her apartment door and beats her up because she won’t give in to him sexually.

Despite everything going on Dong Hoon still cares about Ji An, and even assists her in getting her grandmother in a senior living situation that is government run so she doesn’t have to worry about her ailing grandmother’s physical needs anymore. Granny isn’t quite sure what is going on with Ji An and Dong Hoon but to her he is an angel. Ji An falls even more deeply in love with him, yet still seems to be carrying out her plan to destroy him at work! Talk about a troubled girl. All this time I kept hoping she would end up acting like a double agent and destroy the wicked Joon Young instead.

These two brothers decide to start a cleaning company to make money and at first they are embarrassed by their work but then they begin to succeed at it and feel more comfortable admitting what they do for a living. If you have to clean for a living at least do it well! Gi Hoon has had unresolved feelings for a young lady who used to be an actress he directed years ago, named Yoo Ra (Nara), and they meet up again when she is still struggling as an actress and it’s obvious an attraction is still there between them. He rebuffs her at first but you just know that won’t last long she’s far too pretty!

As we near the end of the story there are lots of surprises in store for the audience. Those who are hoping for Dong Hoon to finally wake up and realize how dead his marriage is, how it’s been empty for years, how he really loves Ji An instead of his wife, are going to be disappointed. In so many ways the lead male character Dong Hoon is admirable, but in many other ways he seems totally clueless about life and love and his own feelings. Often I just wanted to shake him out of his daze, so that he would start making good choices about his life, work, marriage, and feelings for Ji An. There was even a scene near the end where he just breaks down at home all alone and doesn’t even seem to understand why he is crying in the first place.

In Conclusion:

We have many Korean dramas that don’t hesitate to show physical relationships in “Noona Romances” (Older Women, Younger Men stories), so why does it suddenly matter when the male lead character is a decade or more older than the female character? In real life there are millions of December-May romances, so why not in television dramas?

This show is like its titular protagonist; both start out quiet, gloomy and unassuming, but over the course of 16 episodes, both reveal themselves to be beautiful, moving heroes who show us the power of kindness, and grace of humanity. Good writing, on point directing, and outstanding performances from the cast all come together to make My Mister an absorbing watch that feels organic, real, and raw. The OST, which is delicate, thoughtful, and ethereal in turn, is meticulously crafted and applied, and effectively lifts the watch to another level. Dark and beautiful. And at the same time, warm and beautiful. A must-see.

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