Once again, "Man Who Dies to Live" surprises me by...completing giving up on its current premise. Ho-rim is too terrified by his wife's entirely justified reaction to her husband being kissed by another woman to consider keeping the charade up any further. This sets off a chain reaction that destroys all existing subplots- although to be fair it was by mutual decision, since the other Ji-yeong had also gotten uncomfortable and Count Said Faid Ali himself was tired of pretending like he didn't know about the whole farce.
Count Said Faid Ali really is a fascinating character in his insanity. The man is smart enough to provoke major plot movement at a moment's notice, yet supercilious enough to just let other characters dangle around for his amusement until he's sufficiently bored. And true to form, when Count Said Faid Ali is mad, he is truly completely insane. But it's an oddly restrained insanity, since he's able to act only just barely sane enough to keep anyone from calling the cops.
Choi Min-soo brings a lot of natural control the role, and the way Kang Ye-won is able to mimic that in Korean housewife is quite impressive. The two are imminently believable as separated father and daughter. They're righteously vengeful when necessary, yet surprisingly emotionally tender on the rare moment when their guard is down. In this way, "Man Who Dies to Live" is legitimately one of the better examinations of passion I have ever seen.
That might be a tad of an upsell, given how the main purpose of this passion is to present crowd-pleasing scenes of vengeance. The sheer craziness of the car ride and it aftermath is pure screwball slapstick, yet we also get moments like the big dramatic slap, which is elegant and refined social justice. Even the big emotional moments are artfully handled, with Ji-yeong's grief being all too easy to identify.
The depth of Ji-yeong's character, more than anything else, is what puts most of the rest of the cast to shame. They think they have all these satisfyingly complex reasons to be jerks to people, but Ji-yeong is just trying to live life on her own terms. Ji-yeong's happiness is not dependent on making other people miserable for ill-defined long term goals. That, too, is a strong commonality between Ji-yeong and her father that empowers their bond, even as they struggle against their own crankiness.
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, Shin Sung-rok, Lee So-yeon, Cho Tae-kwan, Kim Byung-ok, Hwang Seung-eon and Bae Hae-sun.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 13-14"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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