I was browsing through Kdramas on Viki.com and ran across one I had never heard of before entitled Marriage Contract. I read the synopsis and immediately thought of Super Daddy Yeol. I wasn’t really thrilled with that show so my first thought was to keep browsing for something that sounded better. However, I changed my mind and decided to watch it for the purpose of comparison. And you know what? Marriage Contract is much better.
One day Han Ji-Hoon, the illegitimate son of a rich businessman, discovers his mother will die if she doesn’t receive a liver transplant. She pleads for him to help her and he decides the best way to go about saving her life is for him to find someone willing to sell their liver. (Okay, if you’re thinking what I was I’m sure you’re saying, “Right, someone is going to be willing to die for money.” I don’t know how it all works but the donor is assured they will be fine. So maybe it’s just donating part of their liver? Anyway…) Ji-Hoon instructs his best friend, who is the manager of a restaurant his father owns, to find a suitable person, willing to undergo liver surgery for cash. Since that’s an illegal thing to do, Ji-Hoon says he will marry the woman (I guess it’s legal for a family member to donate an organ) and then divorce her after the surgery, sending her away with a load of money. Single mother Kang Hye-Soo overhears the conversation and offers to be his wife and the doner for his mother if he gives her enough money for her to take care of her seven year old daughter until she becomes an adult. Ji-Hoon is unaware of the fact that Hye-Soo has an inoperable brain tumor and just wants to provide for her daughter once she’s gone. The two finally agree on terms and enter into a contractual marriage. But in life, things don’t always go according to plan.
Han Ji-Hoon is the son of Han Seong-Gook, a wealthy, powerful businessman and his mistress. Ji-Hoon’s mother raised him on her own for 12 years but her depression became so severe she sent him to live with his rich father, step-mother and older half-brother. Even though he was the son of a mistress, he was treated well by them while still retaining a decent relationship with his biological mother. As an adult, he went to school in the U.S. although he would have rather been a musician. He now works at his father’s company and is the favored son. Interestingly enough, this nice guy has a reputation for being a love ’em and leave ’em playboy.
More than anything in the world, Kang Hye-Soo loves her daughter. She seems to have been happily married to a decent man who left her his tremendous debt when he died. Luckily, Hye-Soo has a friend she’s been close to since high school, Hwang Joo-Yeon, who is there to help with anything Hye-Soo and her daughter may need – babysitting, shelter, food, a listening ear and shoulder to cry on… Although she’s facing death, Hye-Soo is sweet and tries to be optimistic.
Darling Cha Eun-Sung is Hye-Soo’s daughter. Her father passed away before she was born so she’s never been able to call anyone “dad”. Although she’s only seven, she’s aware of how hard her mother works to take care of her. Eun-Sung loves her mother and is very protective of her.
This was my first time seeing Lee Seo-Jin (Han Ji-Hoon) act. Not only do I think his acting skills are finely tuned but, as I began reading about him, I became thoroughly impressed with him as a human being. For the past ten years he has been a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and was appointed its Good Will Ambassador for Korea, he founded the Let’s Tree Fund which sponsors activities that help reforestation, he helped in the relief efforts for the victims of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in 2011, and he publicly spoke out in opposition of forcing North Korean defectors back to their homeland. Cool dude with a huge heart! I love it when people use their celebrity status to do positive things!
Uee did a fine job playing the lead character in this drama (Kang Hye-Soo). In 2009 she debuted as a member of the girl group After School and was also cast in her first Kdrama that same year. As for education, she attended Sungkyunkwan University at the same time actor Joo Won was there, both of them studying acting. A little over a month ago her relationship with Lee Sang-Yoon became public. Lucky girl! (He’s the gorgeous, talented, guy from Angel Eyes, Twenty Again, and Liar Game.)
Just like her character (Cha Eun-Sung), Shin Rin-Ah is seven years old. She made her acting debut in 2014 and has already been in eight dramas and two feature films! She’s a wonderful little actress who, I’m guessing, will probably be around for a long time to come.
Now, as for comparing Marriage Contract with Super Daddy Yeol – both main female characters are going to die and both think it’s best not to tell anyone about it. My opinion is Mi-Rae (S.D.Y.) comes off as selfish and controlling whereas Hye-Soo (M.C.) is selfless. Mi-Rae chooses to not do anything to prolong her life in the beginning even though she has the financial means to do it. Hye-Soo really wants to begin treatment right away but has no money for it. I felt more sympathy for Hye-Soo than I did for Mi-Rae because Hye-Soo is a much more personable character. In my opinion, Marriage Contract‘s storyline, characters, acting, and soundtrack are a lot better than Super Daddy Yeol‘s.
The romance and chemistry between Ji-Hoon and Hye-Soo is definitely charming. I liked how their relationship grew naturally and not over night. There is a mutual respect between the two that progresses into a genuine love. I also enjoyed the way Marriage Contract ended. It seemed to be carefully thought out on the part of the writer. Bravo. One thing I didn’t enjoy was the crying. Yes, this is a sad story which lends itself to tears but we don’t need to see so much of them. There’s one scene where Hye-Soo cries for what seemed like a good two minutes (maybe more). Good acting on Uee’s part but overdone by the director. Too much of a good thing is still too much.
The soundtrack isn’t anything to “ohhhhh” about but there are some decent ballads. Hold On is my favorite song of the whole show and one that’s played often. Singer Jung Dong-Ha favors us with the song To You Again, allowing us to hear just why it is he’s a vocal major professor at Kyungpook National University.
There isn’t anything out of the ordinary about the scenery other than some ocean shots. Han Ji-Hoon’s biological mother goes back to her home town which happens to be on an island so there are some scenes filmed by the water. One very beautiful night shot stands out – moon shining between Ji-Hoon and Hye-Soo as they attempt to say goodbye, very romantic indeed.
Did I cry during this sad drama? No, but I had to fight back a lump in my throat. If you’re ready for a change from comedies, action shows, and romantic stories and don’t mind feeling a little melancholy give Marriage Contract a go. It’s not fantastic but it’s definitely good.
Darling seven year old Shin Rin-Ah
Slightly far-fetched plot
Too much crying