Right away another secret is exposed- Hye-soo is sick. While Hye-soo is not sick in such a way as to be an impediment to Mi-ran's surgery, the hospital scene and the trip home gives Ji-hoon an excellent chance to be sensitive and caring in a way we haven't really seen yet- to Hye-soo. Bit by bit he's seeing her less as a financial instrument and more as a person who deserves to be treated with decency and respect, if only because Hye-soo is all alone. She needs somebody.
There is, of course, the usual irony in that Ji-hoon has his own family, which are always less than helpful. Seong-gok moves against Ji-hoon here, and while his actions are justified, it's telling and obvious why Ji-hoon didn't just come to his dad with the problem in the first place. Ji-hoon has in many ways built a sort of suicide pact. While many characters could stop Ji-hoon's plan, for them to try would destroy Ji-hoon's reputation and quite possibly the family's as well.
It's impressive how "Marriage Contract" is able to make Ji-hoon seem sympathetic when his personality was, initially at least, quite bad, and his motivation is quite literally to buy a poor woman's organs. What makes Ji-hoon charming is how he really can make an effort. His actions are often clumsy and borderline frightening, yet there's real sincerity that shows off Ji-hoon's best traits. As it turns out, I was wrong about being wrong. Ji-hoon is a chef, it's just that he's never had anyone to cook for until now.
There's a real excellent worksmanlike to "Marriage Contract" as an overall production. The somewhat ridiculous clichés that initially stood out in the project are really just an excuse for excellent character interactions between personalities that are normally rather stiff and unwilling to risk new challenges. With Ji-hoon and Hye-soo, they've been burned so often that they're hesitant to take risks until a medical crisis leaves them with no choice.
But don't think of "Marriage Contract" as being a dour melodama either. Light humor is appropriately light. There's not much in the way of provoked laughter, yet everything about the direction, right down to the musical cues, indicates that life exists on a continuum. Not everything has to be serious drama or epic romantic gestures. Many of the best scenes in "Marriage Contract" are awkward conversations where that's OK, because there's nothing shameful about being an awkward person. If little Eun-seong is happy, isn't that alone a worthy goal?
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Marriage Contract" Episode 7"
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