So you know that trope, that comes up in dramas where a character is searching for their lost parents/child, where they run into each other by accident and talk about family issues? Yet somehow, the conversation is always just vague enough that they don’t make the obvious connections? “Man Who Dies to Live”, to my great relief, does not fall into this bad writing trap. The other Ji-yeong quickly realizes she is not Count Said Faid Ali’s daughter, and the conflict continues from there.
The other Ji-yeong is not really a bad person, although it’s pretty clear at this point that she isn’t a good person either. All of the other Ji-yeong’s actions after learning the truth are clearly designed to act as a salve to her badly bruised ego. On the one end it’s easy to feel sorry for her, since the other Ji-yeong is in legitimate emotional anguish every time we see her alone. But on the flip side, starting up a scam based on a lie is the worst possible way to try and solve that problem.
This is especially true since Ho-rim has had time to reflect and realize this his own participation in the scam is wrong, and tries to stop it only to be dragged back in. Frustratingly, Ho-rim’s sense of a moral conscience is only a partial measure. Ho-rim continues to think the real problem in his marriage is money, when actually the issue is pretty clearly Ho-rim’s inability to pay sustained attention to his wife’s hopes and dreams.
I like how Ho-rim is a bad husband mostly because he’s an idiot. Ho-rim is hurting Ji-yeong not out of malice or forethought, but because he keeps picking bad priorities. Ho-rim is always on the edge of being irredeemable but never quite gets all the way there. I either want him to be punished with a divorce, or have to do something fantastically heroic and possibly life-threatening to make up for all his stupid behavior so far.
Lucky thing “Man Who Dies to Live” is a relatively short drama, since that zig-zagging can only go on for so long before it’s just jerking us around. It’s also fortunate that there are other legitimately interesting plot threads to occupy us in the meantime. I like how Count Said Faid Ali is already suspicious of the other Ji-yeong, although he’s very good at not letting anyone else catch on to that. Count Said Faid Ali’s generally eccentric attitude is a good cover for how the man’s smarter than he looks.
Review by William Schwartz
“Man Who Dies to Live” is directed by Ko Dong-seon, written by Kim Seon-hee and features Choi Min-soo, Kang Ye-won, Sin Seong-rok, Lee So-yeon, Jasper Cho, Kim Byeong-ok, Hwang Seung-eon and Bae Hae-sun.
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