Her House


Reviewed by: Lin

September 19, 2003

Rating: four-point-five

Main Cast:

Cha In-pyo as Jang Tae-ju
Kim Nam-joo as Kim Young-wook
Kim Hyun-joo as Park Young-chae
Lee Suh-jin as Lee Joon-hee


Synopsis:

Jang Tae-ju (Cha In-pyo) and Kim Young-wook (Kim Nam-ju) are secretly in love, much to the dismay of their families. Tae-ju is a construction supervisor from a poor family and Young-wook is an interior renovator from a well-to-do family. Very much in love, they manage to garner the support of their families with respect to their marriage plans. However, harsh reality soon intrudes into the lives of the newly-weds when complicated family matters burden their blissful marriage.

The rift takes a mend when Young-wook discovers she is pregnant and brings much joy to Tae-ju and their family. As fate may decree, their happiness is short-lived when Young-wook loses the baby. Tae-ju is deeply affected by the miscarriage and unwittingly blames Young-wook’s career-mindedness for the loss of their child. Their marriage suffers a heavier beating when Tae-ju suspects Young-wook of having an affair with her co-worker, Nam-hyuk and Young-wook realises that Tae-ju’s best friend, Chae-yeon is secretly in love with him. The misunderstanding snowballs and a divorce seems inevitable…..

In the midst, a second line of romance develops between Young-wook’s cousin, Park Young-chae (Kim Hyun-Joo) and a mechanic, Lee Joon-hee (Lee Suh-jin). Joon-hee’s illegitimacy and impoverished state alarms Yong-chae’s materialistic mother and she sets out to hinder their relationship. Young-chae is devastated by her mother’s scheme and settles into depression. Matters worsen when her father is faced with bankruptcy and the family is reduced to a penniless state. Just then, Joon-hee is reunited with his long-lost grandfather, a rich businessman. Young-chae’s mother regrets her decision to break up her daughter’s relationship with Joon-hee and tries to mend the relationship. However, Young-chae is unable to face Joon-hee….

Just as the two couples are facing the hardships of their relationships, death arrives in Tae-ju’s family and Tae-ju discovers the truth of his birthright. At the same moment, Young-wook’s father discloses that he is terminally ill, spiralling the family into a state of despair…..


Review:

The furore of Korean dramas is attributed to the beautiful cast, melodic soundtracks, intriguing plots and heart-breaking romances. Along comes a 50-episode family drama and one might consider it stale, or even boring and decide to give it a miss. However, Her House has ventured to prove that a family drama has the ability to hold its ground among the usual Korean fare and captivate the audience.


My impression of Cha In-pyo and Kim Nam-joo has been cemented in A Wish Upon the Star and Model, respectively. Hence, it was with much disbelief when I knew that Cha and Kim were the main couple cast in Her House. Would the combination work, I wonder? And amazingly, it did.

The cool and engaging Cha In-pyo has been reduced to a family-oriented male chauvinist, brimming with filial piety who never raises his voice towards his family members but has no qualms about spitting biting remarks at his wife, played by Kim Nam-joo. He transists between a considerate lover and a jealous husband with such aplomb, the viewer is torn between loving and hating him; the urge to bruise his jealous smirk intensifies when he accuses his wife of infidelity, yet compassion arises when he demonstrates his love, albeit silently and only to the knowledge of the audience.

Kim Nam-joo wows and woos with her personification of the career-minded Kim Young-wook, a modern woman bound by her love for freedom yet restrained by the traditions of her culture and obligations to live up to her family’s expectations. One expects her to be the unreasonable daughter-in-law who is unable to mingle with her husband’s family but she demonstrates her magnanimity to the family, much to the surprise of the audience. Of course, there are instances where she does not forget her willfulness and is quick to reflect her displeasure, such as when she is forced to move in with Tae-ju’s family. Kim Nam-joo’s acting is a far jump from her 1997 drama Model, where her confused character led the audience in an aimless direction and to a large degree of confusion with her unconvincing portrayal. Hence, it is a great pleasure to witness her progress in Her House.

Together, Cha In-pyo and Kim Nam-joo smoulder with a screen chemistry that is evident in a married couple and rare between first-time co-stars. They highlight, with much success, the tumultuous emotions which is part and parcel of married life, endorsing the age-old adage that polar opposites attract and how true love will surmount the woes of marriage.

Taking a break from the whirlwind relationships of married couples and budding lovers, some other interesting diversions take form when the camera focuses on a disapproved marriage between a divorced mother and Young-wook’s uncle, the evident passion between Young-wook’s parents, the ignorance and naivety of a newly-wed bride (Tae-ju’s sister, Tae-hee) and how the family copes with senility, amongst others.

As illustrated, this drama is an excellent insight to the Korean culture and the family way of life, the importance of filial piety, a caste system that is invisible to the outside world, the traditions of good family teachings and the conservatism that is apparent even in the 21st century.


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