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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Marriage Contract" Episode 1

2016/03/05

Ji-hoon (played by Lee Seo-jin) is a handsome high-tier chef in his late thirties, and heir to a decent family fortune. While Ji-hoon is an eminently eligible bachelor he's not that interested in relationships because, well, Ji-hoon doesn't really want much in life except what he already has. What's more, Ji-hoon can be paranoid when it comes to that stuff. That is what ends igniting his to date antagonistic interactions with Hye-soo (played by UEE), a widowed young mother with financial troubles.

Hye-soo has so many problems in life it's a struggle for her just to keep an eye on her precocious daughter Eun-seong (played by Shin Rin-ah). Note that while Hye-soo is obviously offended by Ji-hoon's needlessly paranoid attitude, she has so many much more substantial problems that it's just not worth the energy to try and take a proud moral stand against the rich guy. By the end Hye-soo stumbles onto the plot precisely because she was trying to escape her own problems- not get wrapped up in Ji-hoon's.

Because Ji-hoon has grown up in relative comfort he has trouble empathizing with people. Even Ji-hoon's own mother Mi-ran (played by Lee Hwi-hyang) acts like it's material goods that matter, even though later scenes make it clear that her mental stability is less than great. Mi-ran has made a lot of enemies by cozying up to the rich and looking down on the poor. Ji-hoon discovers the negative consequences of this firsthand.

Director Kim Jin-min-I fills "Marriage Contract" with a sort of existential sadness that's at times heartbreaking. The cast is excellent. Ji-hoon and Hye-soo are both intelligent enough to realize they're in a disastrous situation, yet the actions of past loved ones have tied their hands in such a way that realistic solutions are nearly impossible. As ridiculous as the "Marriage Contract" cliché may be, I was genuinely relieved when it showed up because Ji-hoon is right. Better options simply aren't available.

There's real tenderness to the characters here. I want Ji-hoon to get a more positive outlook on life. I want Hye-soo to not have to live in fear. Is the story a bit melodramatic in that way? Obviously yes, but it's so easy to identify with these people, which is precisely what good melodrama is supposed to be about. I look at Mi-ran and I see a woman crushed by the fact that personal life choices have taken her to a place she doesn't want to be. That's fate at its cruelest, and I want to see Ji-hoon and Hye-soon do better.

Review by William Schwartz

"Marriage Contract" is directed by Kim Jin-min-I, written by Jeong Yoo-kyeong and features Lee Seo-jin, UEE, Kim Yong-gun, Park Jung-soo, Lee Hwi-hyang and Kim Young-pil.

 

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