Posted in Commentary, Drama Series

Oh My Geum-bi: on episode 11~16, final thoughts

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“You’re so ugly.”

can be the worst insult or the best compliment, depending on the context. This remark appears quite often throughout the series, yet it’s rather impossible to predict when it’s coming. What’s better is it never gets old, that whenever it’s uttered, it either brings smile to my face or tears to my eyes.

In the end, what i loved the most about this family drama is its heartfelt exchanges. The kind that came out of nowhere and gutted you in the heart, especially those coming out from Geum-bi’s mouth. I know that she’s wise beyond her age, but her words are at times too wise — can a ten-year-old really think of those?

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Nevertheless, she acts like an angel who touches the lives of people she encounters, one person at a time. Spending some time with her is enough to make each of them taps into their inner good, which in turn straightens their crooked paths. Her presence is like a blessing to her circle, but unfortunately her luck when it comes to health runs pretty thin. The rare hereditary disorder kicks in in her preteen years and develops fast despite the expensive medication she’s taking. The symptoms they say she’ll display later on appear early; the adverse reactions they say might occur, she gets ’em without fail. It happens every single time that nothing shocks me anymore, and after a while feels nothing but a contrived move to draw viewers’ tears — the trick i didn’t fall for.

That’s probably i felt rather disconnected from the emotions of the show in these episodes. Admittedly, this drama never really hooked me. There are times it bored me, and i continued watching just because, but the final third somehow dulled my senses. There are developments that i liked too, but they were taken away once i started to enjoy ’em:

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  1. I was warming up to Chi-soo as a character and then him as possibly Geum-bi’s bio-dad, and then he wasn’t. It wouldn’t be out of the blue if it were the case, though it would surely complicate the guardianship further and i wasn’t ready for another custody fight. However, that bio-dad turned out to be a complete stranger who couldn’t even acknowledge her existence was a bummer, not gonna lie.
  2. I was enjoying Geum-bi’s scenes with Joo-young more and more, and then Mom had to return her. I didn’t hate it since the reason was justified — she had debts (and the medical bills) to pay and her waitress job obviously couldn’t cover the expenses, the more since that lawyer eloped with the money and was untraceable — but i wish the entire family could be around her through it all.
  3. I probably liked the classmates’ turnaround the most; being nice is what they’re supposed to be since the beginning. Sil-la’s mom was as hateful as ever, but her concern regarding Geum-bi’s illness was actually valid. Geum-bi nearly dropping the chemical bottle almost gave me a heart attack (the school and teacher should’ve known better than let kids experiment with dangerous chemicals, though), and it was rather random for the meek teacher to gain a spine and stand up for Geum-bi, or for Sil-la to be all smiles to her, but i’ll let it pass because in the end the classmates were supportive of her. I totally awwed when they waited till she finished her math calculations, which had gotten slower, before shouting the answer together. Even then, she couldn’t stay around for much longer after that.

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The last leg of the drama is mainly spent on her worsening health. There’s no pattern to it; she can be talking to Hwi-chul and Kang-hee one moment and suddenly forgets about everyone the next. There’s no miracle cure to her disorder; the introduction of the eccentric doctor injects hope for a short time before things begin to spiral down. Nevertheless, i appreciate Show, or Hwi-chul, for treating Geum-bi like an adult — consulting her about the treatment she’s about to undergo and gaining her permission before going ahead with it.

She really is a tough girl. She faces her illness bravely i don’t recall her displaying vulnerability or self-pity. It’s always those around her who break down, though it’s unexpected for Kang-hee to be the stern parent and Hwi-chul the delicate one in looking after her. (I thought it would be the other way around.) Sometimes i wondered if Kang-hee was correct in pushing/forcing her to keep trying, and if it is wrong for Hwi-chul to ‘spoil’ her because i think it’s suggested that her failing memory and declining motor skills has little to do with will and efforts.

I guess what makes it more heartbreaking to watch Geum-bi’s decline is the fact that she was so bright and smart and independent before. This drama, however, made the effort to illustrate what happens inside her mind, showing that she’s well and intact, just trapped inside this deep forest guarded by the hooded black figure with clock hanging from its neck, from which she cannot escape. Thus, no matter what she’s become on the outside, she’s perfectly healthy on the inside.

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That doesn’t mean my heart didn’t break a little upon seeing her teenage version (played by an older actress) wheelchair-bound and unresponsive to outside stimuli. I was happy she made it to her 17th birthday, but can you call it a happy ending if she ended up in that state, with no breakthrough in sight? I wonder if there will ever be a cure, if she will ever recover, and how long she will have to wait.

But that comes next. What came first to mind was if Oh My Geum-bi would end the show without Heo Jung-eun. But of course i shouldn’t have worried. Of course it would be little Geum-bi sitting there with them, smiling.

For a family illness melodrama, Oh My Geum-bi isn’t too much of a tear-jerker. There are many moments that teared me up, but they didn’t make me bawl my eyes out like i did when watching Wonderful Life, for instance. The story turned quite depressing in the last few episodes, with discussion about death thrown in the mix, but i’d like to think of it as a story of hope and life, of redemption and second chances, of conditional love. With endearing Heo Jung-eun to engage you from start to finish. (This young girl outshone everybody else, bar none!)

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Rating: 3/5
Director: Kim Young-jo
Production: KBS2, 2016~17
Cast: Heo Jung-eun, Oh Ji-ho, Park Jin-hee, Lee Ji-hoon, Oh Yoon-ah, Kim Dae-jong, Kang Ji-woo, Park Min-soo
Genre: Family melodrama, K-drama (16 Episodes)

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