[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Marriage Contract" Episode 8
By William Schwartz | Published on
Now that Seong-gook has a good idea of what Ii-hoon is doing, the older man feels that it's necessary to create order and force Ji-hoon to make proper personal sacrifices for the greater good. This, of course, is complete nonsense, but Ji-hoon lacks the force of will necessary to really fight about this point. After all, provided it's possible that Ji-hoon can have everything he wants, isn't that close enough to happiness?
Seong-gook's ideas regarding happiness are strangely mechanical, and frequently completely disregard the actual emotions of the people involved. Observe how Seong-gook continues to see Hye-soo as a simple pawn of the greater scheme, rather than a woman who's clearly motivated by more than just the promise of a paycheck. Seong-gook has trouble seeing that people can have complex motivations. As Ji-hoon points out, even if he did like Hye-soo as a woman, Seong-gook wouldn't believe him anyway.
It's sad watching Ji-hoon struggle with his feelings, because it's harder for him to hold back the more he's bullied into being a wretched jerk. By agreeing to Seong-gook's terms Ji-hoon is betraying Jeong-hoon. While they don't have an especially close relationship, at the same time, Ji-hoon doesn't like picking fights for no reason. It's noteworthy how he does finally manage to fight here for Hye-soo's sake, mainly out of the feeling that she doesn't deserve to be wrapped up in this mess.
All of this is farly typical melodrama. Yet as melodrama, "Marriage Contract" is quite well done precisely because there aren't any especially unusual bells or whistles attached. There's no convoluted logic. For Ji-hoon, he's simply being forced by his father to do things he does not want to do out of obligation and fear. There's no tangible reason for Ji-hoon to feel cowed by his father except for the social order, yet that alone is a pretty powerful motivator.
The overall love story Ji-hoon is moving into with Hye-soo feels like it's going to be a repudiation of these unhealthy ideals. Ji-hoon is increasingly being made to feel more shame and discomfort, and this is motivating him to admit that there are huge problems with his social relationships that can't be solved by cynical manipulation via the art of the deal. Logic isn't good enough- there has to be a compelling reason. Like with Joo-yeon. Her getting a romantic subplot just because is lacking. Better motivation is needed.
Review by William Schwartz
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.