[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 21-22
By William Schwartz | Published on
The kidnapping storyline resolved so abruptly there's not actually all that much for "Man Who Dies to Live" to do when it comes to producing a serious climax. Count Said Faid Ali spends a lot of time just hanging out at his daughter's house, being eccentric as always, his presence being tolerated mostly just so that Ji-yeong can get some work done. The comedy is just more of the usual. It's fortunate that "Man Who Dies to Live" is so short, since we're just about at the limit when it comes to twists on Count Said Faid Ali acting like a psycho.
His being empathetic is always a nice change of pace, mainly because it's hard to tell what apparent random event is the impetus for the change in behavior. Here, for example, Count Said Faid Ali has a surprisingly touching moment with the other Ji-yeong, whose participation in the story has become of dubious importance since her role was revealed to be largely irrelevant. Apparently, Count Said Faid Ali really gets people who were left behind.
It's just, he has to actually see the person being left behind in order to process the significance. That general daffiness is among Count Said Faid Ali's more consistent character traits. He has obviously fond memories about Ji-yeong's mother, yet apparently never stopped to consider until receiving the letters that Ji-yeong's mother had stronger feelings toward him than what was just implied by nostalgia. Which makes sense when we consider that, as far as Count Said Faid Ali knew, these letters did not exist.
But still, he's learning. Count Said Faid Ali is refreshingly and, at times, literally down to earth as he cannot impress his daughter with material creature comforts. I continue to find it amusing how, in contrast to her husband, who dreamt of money yet couldn't think of anything specific he actually wanted, Ji-yeong quickly came up with a fairly modest list of stuff Count Said Faid Ali could buy for her and this stuff is mostly just in the form of opportunity rather than physical possessions.
Because that's what having a family is supposed to be about. It's the mutual comfort. That's why, with either Ji-yeong, Count Said Faid Ali comes off as far more natural reacting to whatever it is they want to do right that moment then making a concerted effort toward forced family time. It's this soft sentiment that has always really grabbed me with "Man Who Dies to Live", and I wish more dramas would try it.
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, Jasper Cho, 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. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.