My thoughts after finishing the first twelve episodes…
Take a look at the following people:
~ A 60-year-old man who deserts his family for a woman who’s the same age as his eldest daughter.
~ A mother who takes whatever life throws at her like a wimp, who appears slow and even dim-witted.
~ A 35-year-old divorcee and fishmonger who does not know the meaning of tact, who is blunt, loudmouthed and overbearing.
~ A deceased son who died doing what he was good at: getting into brawls.
~ A 27-year-old venture capitalist who despises her father for breaking up their family yet herself falls for a married man.
~ The youngest son who comes out of prison and immediately goes back to touting for a livelihood, who is a mama’s boy, who throws tantrums more frequently than the youngest character in the drama.
~ A professor who has brains but no money.
~ A middle-aged couple who has sex only when there’s a full moon.
~ A senile old lady.
~ A 29-year-old man who has wealth and position, but also a man-crazy mother and a wife who hates him, who can’t sleep at night because of a crime he committed years ago.
What is there to like about these people?
But something strange and marvellous happens as I watch More Beautiful Than A Flower. Like roots of a sapling burrowing slowly and unseen into the soil, so this motley group of characters takes root in my heart unawares to me. Without realizing it until several episodes have passed, I begin to care for them; I care deeply what happens to each of them.
I hate that old man for being a scumbag but then I see how he is with his young mistress, so tender with her and so despairing when she falls ill yet again. The wife that he abandoned… I want to yell at her for being such a doormat. Then I see how she fights with the women who called her daughter names… and I realize there’s immense strength and self-control beneath her placid and seemingly weak demeanor.
The mama’s boy who is all mouth and limbs… how I love his character! I love how fiercely he protects his mom, and how silly he is in his possessiveness over her. I love his two older sisters and how the three siblings squabble constantly and yet are so united in one thing: their love for their mother.
The professor who falls in love with the older of the two sisters… he made me laugh and cry. I love how shy and sweet he is with her and how he can see all the contradictions in her: “You are lovely but also scary sometimes. You are quiet. You are loud…” And she, 35 years old and a divorcee to boot, to know that she is loved despite all her faults… finally she can dream again, be happy again. Yet what price that happiness? Should she fight for their love knowing she’s hated so vehemently by his family?
Even as I write now, tears sting my eyes unexpectedly. It happened again and again as I was watching the drama. Out of the blue a lump rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes. Sometimes it wasn’t even a sad scene. It could just be the son teasing the mother. Or the whole family sitting down for a meal. And little things made me smile and giggle. The old lady who is now like a child because of her dementia… the way she mixed people up and addressed them by the wrong names. She was clueless one moment and so wise the next.
I thought a lot about family – the family that I was watching on screen and my own family. When was the last time we came together for a meal? Two years ago? Three? It was near-impossible since we were all scattered in different countries. Could we make it happen if we tried? Last night, at around 1 a.m., I picked up the phone and called my sister. It was afternoon where she was and the phone rang and rang. I left a message on the answering machine: “It’s me. I just wanted to say ‘Hi.’ I’ll call again.”
Twelve episodes down and 18 to go. I’m in no hurry. I remember when I was reading “A Suitable Boy” (by Vikram Seth). The book is almost 1500 pages long. Knowing I had so many, many pages to go before reaching the last page gave me a silly sense of happiness. It’s the same with More Beautiful Than A Flower.
I love the writing. I’m awed by the acting. Go Doo-shim as the longsuffering mother, Joo-hyun as the father you want to hate but can’t… Bae Jong-ok in her best role (for me so far) as their loudmouthed eldest daughter with all her insecurities… what amazing acting from them and the rest of the cast.
I’m especially blown away by Joo-hyun’s turn as the hated father of this dysfunctional family. I last saw him in Solitude/Godok and previously in HWRL, Hotelier. etc. Physically he looks the same yet physically he doesn’t. That voice, that sneer, that walk… even his eyes have a coldness that I’ve never seen before. And there’s Park Sang-myun as the professor. I’ve never seen a male character cry that way. Crying because of a broken heart… we have seen it done to death in K-dramas. But without theatrics, with few words, with just tears rolling down his face and hands clumsily wiping them away like a child, he made me feel his hurt, pain and bewilderment as if they were my own.