For now, Se-hee and Ji-ho's life is mostly pleasant and domestic. In more dramatic news, it turns out that Won-seok's suggestion of breaking up with Ho-rang was not, as had been previously implied, simply the natural result of their communication breakdown being revealed in full focus by their watching an obscure art house play. That was definitely a part of it, but Won-seok had also discovered Ho-rang's horrible secret.
Pay special note to which part of Ho-rang's secret offends Won-seok. The problem is less that Ho-rang was flirting with another man in a romantic context, but more that they were openly talking about getting married. In Korean culture, it's not unusual for people to talk so forwardly. The problem for Won-seok is, this confession of motive on Ho-rang's part implies that she was looking for anyone- and that her pushing the marriage issue on Won-seok right now is mainly a matter of convenience.
Elsewhere, we find out why it is that Soo-ji hates talking about her mother. This too, at first misleading glance, sounds like a cultural criticism. She hates about Korean people talk so forwardly on subjects like family. But the sharper Soo-ji gets with Song-goo, the more obvious it is that Soo-ji's entire life philosophy is rooted in her non-traditional family background. There's the implication here that even Ji-ho and Ho-rang don't know that much about Soo-ji's family. That's pretty harsh.
It's also suitably ironic because everything we see of Soo-ji's mother indicates that she's as much of a traditionalist as anyone else. It's just bad circumstance that has forced her to raise Soo-ji the way she did. Soo-ji's whole notion of shame is derived from what she thinks society should think of her, and who knows, Soo-ji may well be completely right about that. But this is why it's touching for Song-goo to keep engaging Soo-ji as a person, even when he finds her personality to be mildly frightening.
This is all very effectively subtle social criticism, with its implication that even when society does limit us, ultimately, the real barriers are in our own minds. Consider how Ji-ho quit drama writing because of sexism, and immediately assumed it would be impossible to return to that field. But why? Ji-ho is overqualified to be a waitress. It's why no one wanted to hire her. Won-seok is right about one thing, even if it was cruel to say it in that context- there are other possible partners.
Review by William Schwartz
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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.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 13"
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