Hee-tae still doesn't want to deal with life. It was perhaps inevitable, given all the stalling he's been doing, that another personal crisis would come up. And as expected there really aren't any good answers here. In contrast to the way he's been talking down to Il-ri lately, Hee-tae's unwillingness to talk about his mother's illness really is just a matter of there not being any good way to have this conversation.
It's bittersweet timing really, given the way Hee-tae has apparently been coming around to the idea that maybe Il-ri is right, and that he shouldn't be locking her out of his life. What's awkward about the situation is that any such overtures on his part now would have the appearance of being a compromise designed for the sake of helping his mom, not a genuine admittance on Hee-tae's part that Il-ri warrants forgiveness.
And there's Joon, always just in the background, being helpful. His character development has been particularly interesting. Joon has ceased expecting or wanting anything in return for his small acts of kindess, and he's also stopped making any efforts at being a peacemaker. Joon's perfectly fine just letting Hee-tae and Il-ri work out their own problems, and if they need him, he'll do whatever they want. The emotional ground, though, on Hee-tae's end especially, is quite fraught. Even if Joon is willing to help regarding Hee-tae's mother, this isn't a man Hee-tae really ever wants to see again.
It's the little moments that really give a strong, sad impact here. A brief flashback on Joon's part shows us why, in Hee-tae's situation particularly, the younger man is willing to be helpful without question. Likewise, note how Il-ri reacts whenever Hee-tae's mother asks something, and how the woman is genuinely concerned about her soon-to-be-ex-in-law's well-being. Il-ri is very empathetic- a fact that to date, only Hee-soo has really truly understood. So it's no wonder Hee-soo is in such a dour mood as well.
For all this general moroseness, it's actually quite plausible that a happy ending could be wrung out of this. The main obstacle to this is Hee-tae's feeling of absolute betrayal, something which we really can't hold against him. It's almost an imaginative fantasy at this point. Wouldn't it be nice if Joon could just be the helpful, understanding neighbor? The guy everyone could talk to about family matters, since he's a good listener and not inclined to take sides? I rather doubt that's where we'll end up, but it's nice to dream.
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 email@example.com.
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