You’re going to have to gear up emotionally in order to watch My Mister (aka My Ahjussi). It’s hours of gut wrenching depression, one of those shows that makes you feel hopeless for the whole of humanity, UNTIL just a few minutes before the ending, an ending that cheers you on, encouraging a tiny shred of optimism to take seed in your heart.
The Park brothers (Sang-Hoon, Dong-Hoon, and Ki-Hoon) struggle emotionally just to get by from day to day. Life has dished out a large amount of trials for those men, trials which have served to knock them down, making them feel as if it is impossible to get back up again. When Lee Ji-Ah obtains a temporary job at the structural engineering company Saman EC, Manager Park Dong-Hoon can’t help but take the pitiful young woman under his wing. Will he be able to give her the help she so desperately needs or will this turn out to be a case of “misery loves company.”
Structural engineer, Park Dong-Hoon was on the engineering team at Saman EC for “a dozen or so years” before he was forced to transfer to the Safety Inspection Team. His university junior is the CEO of the company and although it bothers Dong-Hoon, he acts like it’s not a problem. He is the second of three sons and is very close to his siblings and widowed mother. He’s been married for 20 years and has a son in grade school who is studying alone in the United States. Song-Hoon is a hardworking man with a kind and sympathetic heart.
Life has not only knocked Lee Ji-Ah down but it has stepped on her as well. She was born into a pitiful family and pretty much grew up on the streets. She is deeply in debt to a loan shark who often beats her when she can’t come up with a payment. She lives with her deaf and mute grandmother who is dependent on Ji-An for literally everything. Ji-An works as a temp at Saman EC during the day and as a dishwasher at a restaurant at night, bringing home food from the plates she scrapes off to give to her beloved grandmother. She keeps to herself, hardly speaks above a whisper, and never smiles.
The oldest of the Park brothers is Sang-Hoon. Because of enormous debt, he and his wife separated and he is back living with his mother. He buys into a business with his youngest brother and begins cleaning apartment stairwells for a living. He hates himself because he’s not the wise, affluent, big brother with high social status that he so desperately wants to be.
Park Ki-Hoon is a has-been movie director who lives with his mother and oldest brother. He gave up directing and was jobless for quite some time before taking over a friend’s cleaning business with Sang-Hoon. At first, he finds cleaning disgusting but comes to enjoy the honest, hard work.
Dong-Hoon’s wife is Attorney Kang Yoon-Hee. Although she doesn’t hate her husband she no longer feels content in her marriage and secretly seeks happiness and validation in the arms of another man.
The CEO of Saman EC is sleazy, selfish Do Joon-Young. He went to the same university as Dong-Hoon, and was even in the same club, but is two years his junior. He enjoys the fact that he is above Dong-Hoon at work and was even responsible for him being transferred to the Safety Inspection Team. His goal is to get rid of anyone who may stand in his way of being re-elected CEO.
Jung-Hee is the owner of a small bar in town and lives alone in the tiny room over the bar. She has spent the last 30 years single, weeping over a man who left her in order to become a monk. Jung-Hee states, “I’m willing to give all the love I have, without hesitation, but there’s nobody who wants it.”
Choi Yoo-Ra became a washed-up actress before her career even had a chance to get off the ground, being told her poor acting was the reason the movie she was in stopped production. She spends every night getting plastered and throwing up in the stairwell just outside her apartment.
Although Lee Gwang-Il grew up in the shadow of his loan shark father, he was a kind young teenager. However, when his father was murdered he turned his pain into wrath and took over his dad’s business, becoming a cruel and heartless man.
Monk Gyeomduk has hidden away in a monastery in the mountains for the past 30 years feeling guilt over choosing to become a monk against his family’s wishes, and breaking the heart of the woman he loved.
At a time in life when Byeon Yo-Soon should be enjoying her children taking care of her, she is still taking care of two of her adult sons. They not only live with her but she cooks for them, does their laundry, and even helps out at their cleaning business every now and then, washing out mops and hanging them out to dry.
Poor, old Bong-Ae is deaf and mute, can’t stand or walk, has to use adult disposable underwear, eats scraps from the meals of strangers, and stays alone all day just laying on the floor of Ji-An’s dilapidated room.
You can go to my My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week and Pasta reviews to learn more about actor Lee Sun-Kyun (who plays Park Dong-Hoon), and information on actress IU (whose character is Lee Ji-An) can be obtained by clicking on my Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Producer reviews.
There are only two other Kdramas that I recall being as depressing as My Mister and that’s In-Soon is Pretty and Secret. No one in this show is happy, absolutely no one. Their lives are pitiful and we feel badly for almost every character. At one point Ji-An says she doesn’t want to be reincarnated due to the fact that she already feels 30,000 years old because of all the difficulties she’s been through in just her short 21 years on earth. Dong-Hoon feels utterly alone in life stating, “None of the people I’d thought of as pillars are actually holding me up.”
I had a difficult time giving a wife who has chosen to have an affair any sympathy until I head her say exactly what a friend of mine had said who finally walked away (without having an affair) from a sad 21 year marriage. Did I agree with Kang Yoon-Hee’s choice? Absolutely not, but I could understand her.
Two thumbs up for director Kim Won-Seok. The man is so talented, proving his skills with five best directing awards. It’s not just the script/story that is depressing. The director put his creative spin on things, adding extra gloom and doom to the drama. So much of the show is nonverbal, meaning a lot of time goes by without anyone saying a thing. I really disliked that but can see how it served two purposes – first: it aids in the loneliness the characters are experiencing, and second: it gives the audience time to reflect on our own feelings. Each of the 16 episodes is around an hour and 20 minutes long. I wouldn’t be surprised if the dialogue was a normal hour and those extra minutes were due to the no talking stuff. But that’s not the only thing that helps to make the story heavy. Quite a bit is filmed at night or in low lighting and the clothing is pretty dark as well, adding to the over all feeling of hopelessness and despair. The director also uses a split screen approach every now and then, showing the division in a relationship and how although people may have others in their life they are really still alone. Also, the director chose to make the scene a bit blurry, choppy, and in slow motion when the characters are intoxicated. Instead of chancing some bad drunk acting he lets us know the characters are woozy by allowing us to observe life the way a drunk person may see it. It almost made me feel a bit inebriated myself. Clever indeed.
Despite its gloomy feel, My Mister was a critical and commercial success topping the cable TV viewership ratings time and time again. It is the 13th highest rated show in Korean cable TV history, ending its run with a 7.352% AGB Nielsen Rating.
Why did I press forward with this gloomy drama and not turn it off? Well, I did. After the first dreary episode I didn’t go on to the next but turned on Something in the Rain instead. That show’s much lighter feel kept me going until I had finished the whole thing. After I had written its review it was time for me to begin another show. Do I go back to depressing My Mister or find something else? Because I absolutely adore Lee Sun-Kyun I gritted my teeth and began episode two hoping it would get a little brighter as it went on. Nope, it didn’t. But this time I decided to keep going and episode two turned into three and three turned into four. Then, before I knew it I was involved in the lives of these fictional characters like they were part of my own family and I wasn’t about to turn my back on them twice. I guess I learned a little perseverance from watching the characters’ determination to cling to hope. The ending wasn’t exactly what I wanted but the writer allows each individual audience member the opportunity to extend it into how we, personally, want it to conclude and I was content to do just that.
Here’s two interesting bits of information about My Mister –
1. Because of her role as Ji-An, who has a deaf grandmother, IU kindly donated 50 million won (around $47,000) to the Korea Association of the Deaf.
2. Many viewers were disturbed with the scene where the loan shark beats up Ji-An so reports were sent to the Korea Communications Standards Commission who replied to the concerns with, “We have received many reports about My Ahjussi… If deemed problematic, then we will take action according to the rules.”
I only caught two minor “oops.” The first is when Park Dong-Hoon is walking while it’s snowing. We see him with (obviously fake) snow in his hair and then a close-up of him looking down shows his black hair flake-less. The other is when CEO Do Joon-Young gets a bad enough cut on his forehead that he has to have stitches. Just a little while later it’s not only healed but there’s not even a scar. Definitely not real life, folks.
I think of My Mister’s soundtrack as “combination” music. I came up with that particular description so, hopefully I’ll be able to explain what I mean by it. For example…
Sondia sings what I consider to be the theme song, Adult, which is a beautiful mix of pretty yet sad. An Ordinary Day, performed by Jung Seung-Hwan (the runner up of SBS’s K-pop Star Season 4), blends pitiful with comforting. The song Dear Moon, sung by Kim Je-Hwi, fuses restful with melancholy. We get yearning merged with pain from One Million Roses, made complete through the talented voice of Ko Woo-Rim. There’s a Rainbow, sung by Vincent Blue, gives off a thoughtful, painful sound. And Kwak Jin-Eon softly sings My Image Reflected In My Heart, a yearning and lonely song.
The backgrounds and settings in this drama are lower middle-class and lower class with a little bit of destitute mixed in. Jung-Hee’s bar, although small, dark, and humble, is the spot where people find support and camaraderie. Dong-Hoon and Yoon-Hee’s apartment is definitely nice but the fact that it is so emotionally empty there makes it seem much bigger than it really is. Ji-An’s shelter from the storm is barely held together by all the rust, dirt, and mold there. It’s tiny, dark, cold, and located in the worst part of town.
Have you ever heard the story of the boy who awakens one morning to find his backyard filled with poop? He excitedly runs outside and begins happily digging through the wretched smelling mound. When his mother asks him what he’s doing he cheerfully replies, “There’s just got to be a pony in here somewhere!” Well, My Mister is a lot like that pony story. It’s 15 and a half episodes of pure depression that ends with hope and human kindness. I’m crossing my fingers you’ll give it a try. And to all of us who are just barely getting through each day… “Fighting!”
“All human beings have some sort of power within them. May you hang in there until you find comfort for yourselves!” – Taken from My Mister
Lee Sun-Kyun’s truely amazing acting
Lee Sun-Kyun and IU’s chemistry
Dong-Hoon and Ji-An’s chemistry
Characters you care about
A “you choose” ending
Ending sparks hope for humanity
Encourages family and friendship
Too much non-dialogue for my liking
Feeling of hopelessness