Thursday, November 29, 2012

Drama Review: I’m Sorry, I Love You (2004)



Grade: A-

Category
Revenge melodrama

What it’s about
While seeking vengeance against the birth mother he believes abandoned him for frivolous reasons, a tortured young man falls in love with his half-brother’s best friend.

First impression
Part standard-issue Kdrama love triangle and part angsty makjang fest, this drama is a strange, miserable beast. Clearly influenced by the terrible-people-doing-terrible-things genre of shows like What Happened in Bali, by episode 2 I’m Sorry is already hinting about a tragic ending to come. Once a character is shown quoting from Romeo and Juliet’s death scene, all hope is pretty clearly lost.

Final verdict
Looking on the darker side of life seems to be the speciality of screenwriter Lee Kyung Hee. From gigolos to high school dropouts, from kids with AIDS to murderers and the people who take the blame for them, her dramas are the perfect antidote to the candy-coated unreality of most Korean television. If you can handle the tragedy of it all, you’re in good hands with her: every character is nuanced and sensitively drawn, and every awful turn is balanced with a moment of grace and beauty.

I’m Sorry, I Love You is an especially rare bird: It’s not every day you come across a Kdrama romantic lead best described as mean, rude, and dirty. But in spite of his awful behavior, this flawed, supremely damaged antihero still comes off a sympathetic figure. Twice abandoned as a child, once by his birth mother and once by his adoptive family in Australia, Cha Moo Hyuk views the world through a jaded, amoral mask. But beneath that mask, he’s a sad, lost little boy who loves fiercely and longs for fairness and a sense of belonging. And when Moo Hyuk’s life begins to intertwine with his birth family’s, all his worst intentions disappear one by one.

A bleak, viscerally gripping story of missed opportunities and seemingly impossible redemptions, the actual events that take place in I’m Sorry are largely beside the point. It’s the characters and their interactions that make it worth watching. A lesser show would have turned them into one-note, mustache-twirling villains, but instead, they’re almost all worthy of pity: the desperate mother who all but ruins her son with her love; the spoiled, self-obsessed boy who eventually stands up as a man; the girl who comes to realize the difference between a crush and real love, only to lose everything in the end.

If I could travel back in time and alter the course of this drama, I would have stepped in at about episode 10. That’s the point where it started to suffer from back-and-forth-itis, focusing on the will-they-or-won’t-they romance between the leads rather than confronting the big, awful secrets and lies inherent in its plot. By the self-consciously tragic finale, some of the most serious issues the show had to offer were utterly unexplored. (Another time-machine worthy change? Convincing the director that disguising oneself as a 1970s porn star is no way to win a woman’s heart.)

But in spite of its rough patches, I’m Sorry, I Love You (note the significant comma placement) is a moving character study about finding ways to see behind people’s masks, and learning to love what you find there.

Random thoughts
Episode 1. Gesh, buddy. Even I’d be a better assassin than you—at least I know when you’re trying to kill someone, you should should at them, not the nearby wine bottles. Get it together, would you?

Episode 2. Ye gods, is this show all about value. Halfway through episode 2 and we already have two cases of traumatic head injury resulting in brain damage? Even for Kdrama, that’s got to be some kind of a record. Lee Kyung Hee, its screenwriter, sure gets a lot of mileage out of that old saw.

Episode 4. You know, nothing ruins a nice homoerotic shower scene like probable brotherhood.

Episode 9. Nice Guy was an enjoyable watch, but never quite grabbed me emotionally. This show, on the other hand, has me pinned in a half-nelson of feels. I can’t believe how wrapped up I am in these (largely unlikable) characters, especially because I’ve been able to see the site of this particular train wreck for about six episodes now. No more melodrama for me for a while, or I'm going to need anti-depressants.

Episode 12. This episode gave me an idea for one of Donnapie’s Asian drama memes: That awkward Asian drama moment when a couple is so great together that you’re rooting for them to get married (or at least have lots of hot sex) . . . even though they're almost certainly brother and sister. That's awkward, all right. 

Watch it

You might also like
Screenwriter Lee Kyung Hee’s other dark melodramas, including Nice Guy, Will It Snow at Christmas?, and A Love to Kill

The excruciating tragedy of What Happened in Bali, which also happens to star I’m Sorry lead So Ji-sub (in a much less compelling role, though—he mostly walked around looking like he had an epic case of constipation).

22 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if I should call this one of my favorites, because I'm not masochist enough, but I really do like it. Mostly because I watched it when I was young and impressionable to all things Korean drama.

    I've only watched two Lee Kyung-hee works (this and Nice Guy) but I'm impressed with the way she writes her characters. They're complex and full of wounds which is always nice (?) The ending to this was so sad it sucks but it was more acceptable than say What Happened in Bali which is horrifying. I do agree with this being more emotionally grabbing. Maybe because I wasn't frustrated half of the time.

    I guess one downside is the overall lack in the fashion/hair department. But that's the era's fault. Orange pink sunglasses are no bueno.

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    1. It's kind of amazing how much opinions about dramas change with more exposure. I watched every single episode of Boys over Flowers with my heart in my throat, back when I was first getting into Korean drama. Nowadays I can't even make it through the first scene without getting a headache from rolling my eyes so much.

      Lee Kyung Hee's work might be flawed, but it sure is interesting. I agree that this ending was better than the What Happened in Bali...that was like the O Henry of suck. IAILY's ending didn't feel particularly earned, but at least someone made it out alive. In a lot of ways, the two years that the drama skipped would have been the most interesting--did she discover that he was her brother? Did her mom realize her dad cheated on her? Did his mom even realize that he was her son? That was a lot of meaty material that got totally skipped.

      It was the fake mustache that really killed me--yeah, nobody would ever recognize him without it :b

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    2. Sorry we ruined BOF for you. :P It's all part of the growing experience though, right? I've been on a re-watching kick lately, though so far I'm only rewatching ones that are growing in appreciation, or else I'm a little more lax with my criticism (Heartstrings - though I was already terribly forgiving of that one on my first round)

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  2. This sounds interesting, but I wonder if I'll have the patience for the back and forth stuff. I guess it's always worth a try though. Maybe after I finish Smile, Dong Hae! (Which may be a while lol)

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    1. The next time you're in the mood for misery, this is the show for you ;) With Smile, Dong Hae being a comedy, I'm Sorry, I Love you might actually be a good follow up. If nothing else, they share a love for title punctuation.

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  3. This was the drama that introduced me to the World of kdrama,so even if melos r not my cup of tea,this one holds a special place in my heart. Birth-secrets,epic love triangle,meddling secondary characters,doomed love,all were fresh concept to me way back in 2005,so i remember marathoning it in 3 days.After that,there was no looking back n this was how my kdrama addiction started. :-) .And the song-"snow flower" is one of my all time fav drama osts.

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    1. I'm so ashamed of myself for it, but I really love melos. I blame watching too many movies on the Lifetime network during my formative years.

      You're an old hand at this drama stuff! In 2005 I'm pretty sure I didn't know Korea existed, let alone realize how great its television was.

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  4. this is not really a comment on MISA because I didn't see the drama (too melo for me). but I sorta wished you had a comment section for your random thoughts. about yoo-chun's scar, yep it's been there all along. I noticed it on DB screencaps of Miss Ripley, which I also didn't watch because it was too melo for me.

    FTLY made me crazy when I was following it. I happened to follow it at the same time as my friends, and we fangirled and spazzed together on our blogs. Fun times. Chen Xin Yi was so likeable. :)

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    1. Wow. My new TV really was worth every penny ;) It's actually making me feel better about the state of my skin: with my old television, every Kdrama actor looked utterly perfect. Now I can see Yoochun's scar and Lee Min Ho's giant pores. (Wait. Was I saying that was a good thing?)

      FTLY is too cute and cuddly not to love. I want Baby Ji to be mine. Or maybe Baron Chen.

      (I aslo wish commenting was possible in the random thoughts section, but Blogger just isn't up to the task. Or many others. ::eye roll::)

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  5. Two reasons why this drama is completely un(re)watchable for this viewer:

    Scene where the "hero" allows his adorable lady-love to be set upon and savagely beaten by a group of crazed skanks while she was clearly in mortal danger and signaling helplessly for him to come to her rescue, and the hugely disappointing ending where two lives end when only one's death was inevitable. In the real world, this self-sacrifice has claimed entirely too many victims among those left behind when weak-willed, much loved, people choose to "take the easy way out"... :(

    It gets a C-, for those reasons, from me!

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    1. You got it wrong, she was signaling him not to come to rescue her, she wanted him to be less violent.

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    2. Yeah, he wanted to help but she clearly ask him not to ask per hand signal. Because she already asked him to contain his violence early on after he run amok in the ajumma restaurant.

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  6. This is the first review I have read of this after just finishing last night.

    Your thoughts echo mine on so many points - only you composed them a lot better!

    I do have a question: Was I supposed to suspect they had the same Dad? Did I miss something?

    This: "disguising oneself as a 1970s porn star is no way to win a woman’s heart" LOL. What the heck was that supposed to be? A textbook example of attraction/repulsion? The stylist managed to make an attractive man give me the heebie jeebies.

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    1. This reply is slow but no, they don't have the same dad. Read my review here! ^^

      http://oh-my-tv.blogspot.sg/2014/10/sorry-i-love-you-2004-episode-1-10.html

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  7. I have a question-can you please explain how the frase "I'm sorry,I love you" is connected to the purpose of the drama?

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    1. I;m sorry I love you. Eventhough I only have few months to live. I'm sorry I love you, eventhough I know I'll only give you wound and scar. I'm sorry I love you.

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  8. Sorry,I meant phrase***

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  9. That is the healing phrase for love when something has broken in it. Fits the piece perfectly.

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  10. Can't believe you give this drama only an 'A-'. I watched it around 10 years ago(?) and thought it was heartbreakingly sad and depressing and a special drama that no other drama can replace no matter how much years has passed.

    The ability of Lee Kyung Hee writing a heartbreaking story to be more heartbroken is just beyond me. Like she could make its sad by how Eunchae took a picture of Moohyuk's whole face but she did it more heartbreaking by making Eunchae capture all his feature one by one -- eyes, lips, nose..

    And wait, where do you get the fact that they are brother and sister? :O They are not brother and sister lol. OMG it must ruin the drama for you. Eunchae's father only feeling guilty for sending away the twins and lied to the mother that they've died (my God I still remember the drama like it was yesterday :O) not because he cheated with Moohyuk's mother.

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    1. This is my top 3 favorite Korean drama! Read my review here! ^^

      http://oh-my-tv.blogspot.sg/2014/10/sorry-i-love-you-2004-episode-1-10.html

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  11. I just finished watching this series (MISA) a day ago and I have not yet been able to get it out of my head. I'm still obsessing over how cute So Ji Sub looks in this. And does anyone else think that the two leads definitely dont look 27 years old? Lim Su Jeong looks 15 maybe.

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  12. If you need your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you must watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Why your ex will NEVER get back...

    ReplyDelete