Meanwhile, the lack of societal approval prevents Young-ok (Han Ji-min) from telling anyone about her personal life, which includes a twin who has Down Syndrome. Orphaned at a young age and unwanted by extended family, Young-ok eventually moved Young-hee (portrayed by artist Jung Eun-hye, who has the genetic disorder in real life) into a care facility. She feels relief not having to care for her sister, but also is burdened with guilt because Young-hee tells her repeatedly she wants to live with her. Kudos to scriptwriter Noh Hee-kyung who created a fully developed character rather than a caricature. Young-hee longs for romance like the kind her sister has with Jeong-joon (Kim Woo-bin). She wants to be beautiful like her sister. She’s a talented artist capable of doing many things. And she’s very aware when she’s being mocked. When a mother begrudgingly scolds her young child for being rude to a disabled woman, Young-hee later tells the boy that he shouldn’t speak that way to any adult.

The most complicated storyline is one that is hinted at from the beginning – the fractured relationship between Dong-seok (Squid Game’s Front Man, Lee Byung-hun) and his estranged mother Ok-dong (Kim Hye-ja), a widowed haenyeo whose daughter died freediving. Ok-dong is gentle and doted on by the villagers, who can’t understand why Dong-seok wants nothing to do with her. He is the problem. He lacks respect. He should apologize to her. But as their backstory is revealed, it includes a history of poverty, child abuse, and most likely mental illness.

There is a poignant subplot centering on a pre-school child sent from Seoul to Jeju to stay with her grandmother while her father is hospitalized. A remarkable actress at just five years old, Ki So-you conveys all the right emotions as Eun-gi, who refuses to believe her father won’t recover. As her mother and grandmother prepare for death, the little girl prays for life. (In a clever bit of casting, Eun-gi’s grandmother and father are played by real life mother and son Go Doo-shim and Kim Jung-hwan, respectively.)

Our Blues is also notable for its soundtrack, which includes “With You” – the evocative collaboration between BTS member Jimin and Ha Sung-woon. Repeated throughout the series at exactly the right moments, the lyrics initially appeared to reflect on a complex love story between Dong-seok and Seon-a (Shin Min-a). But the first lines of the song were a clue about one of the most gut wrenching storylines to come. I held in my tears for most of the finale. But the juxtaposition of images of a grief-stricken son and Jimin’s voice gently singing “I wanna be with you/And I wanna stay with you/Just like the stars shining bright” opened the floodgates.

Unlike many K-dramas where the endings are lacking, the finale is satisfying. After all the suffering, there is a sense that everything would be OK. After all, “The living must keep living,” as one of the characters says.



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