Mother – Korean Drama – Review

Mother - Korean Drama - Poster

A Child is no one’s property, not even the mother’s… Click To Tweet

Synopsis

Hye Na, the young girl, is abused by her mother Ja Young. Although she is not okay, she tells other people she is alright. However, Soo Jin, a temporary teacher at Hye Na’s elementary school, becomes aware of her situation and impulsive decision to kidnap and become her mother.


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Native/Alternate titles: 마더; Madeo; Call Me Mother
Year: 2018
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Genre: Drama
Director: Kim Cheol-Kyu
Writer: Jung Seo-Kyoung; Rina Yagami (manga), Yuko Matsuda (Japanese drama)
Cast: Lee Bo Young, Heo Yool, Lee Hye Young, Ko Sung Hee, Lee Jae Yoon, Kim Young Jae, Son Seok Koo, Jo Han Chul, Jeon Hye Jin, Ko Bo Gyeol, Lee Jung Yeol


‘Mother’ Korean Drama – Review

Both Poornima and I love the original Japanese version of ‘Mother’. It is one the first Japanese dramas that I saw. If I remember correctly it was my third Japanese drama after ‘Bloody Monday’ and ‘The Queen’s Classroom’. It has been around 6 years since I have seen the original ‘Mother’ (around 2012 I think). So my memory of the Japanese version is vague. I cannot remember the details of it at all; the only thing I remember is how I felt while watching it. So I will not be comparing both versions with each other. I may compare a few things but rest assure that my love for the original version will not influence my opinion on the Korean remake.

If you are interested in the Japanese version, please read Poornima’s review of ‘Mother’.

About the story

The original ‘Mother’ is close to my heart because it is one of the first Japanese dramas I watched and it had such huge emotional impact on me at that time. Thanks to this drama and ‘The Queen’s Classroom’, I became even more attracted to the Japanese way of making dramas. Because of this I get excited every time I hear about Korean adaptions of Japanese dramas. First, it was ‘The Queen’s Classroom’. In my opinion, it was quite underwhelming compared to the original one. It was not bad by any means but there were a few things that bugged me and overall it was not quite there. Somewhere around the middle, I could not bear it anymore and I dropped it.

Because of this, I had lowered my expectations when I heard about the Korean adaptation of ‘Mother’. I was excited nonetheless. And it did not disappoint me. Long story short, the Korean ‘Mother’ is good! Not quite there in terms of emotional impact but it is definitely quite good.


The beginning was quite awesome…in a disturbing manner. I was gravely disturbed during first two episodes. All the child abuse and human trafficking were hard for me to handle. I am usually fine with almost all kind of disturbing stuff but here it angered me quite a lot more than I usually get. Maybe I was not in the mood for the seriousness of this story. I should have known better as the Japanese version also shows the dark side of child abuse. So in this regard, thumbs up to the Korean version. Do not worry if you cannot handle such heavy stuff. Everything gets milder after the first couple of episodes. Nothing is too disturbing after the 2nd episode.

However, after the first two episodes, the story becomes a bit boring. The story moves forward nonetheless but it does not have anything that holds my interest for very long. Although, this fact changes after episode 9 (if I remember correctly). The story picks up eventually and the best episodes of the drama are from episodes 12 to 14.

Soo Jin’s mothers

This drama is focused on motherhood, not just the central characters of an abused child and the woman who kidnapped her and became her mother, but many more mothers. There are a lot of mothers and daughters in this drama…A LOT! Just Kang/Nam Soo Jin (the kidnapper) alone has got three mothers in various forms! Hye Na/Yoon Bok (abused child) has got two (actually more!) mothers and a lot of moments between Soo Jin’s siblings and their mother. On top of that, there is a brief introduction to the child abuser guy’s mother as well.

Reasons to watch

Hye Na (later ‘Yoon Bok’) is an adorable little girl who has matured quite early for her age. She has suffered a lot because of her mom’s boyfriend and her mom but because she loves her mother, she suffers all the abuse in silence and tries to live with a happy disposition. She puts on a façade of a happy child in order to protect her mom. She is mentally very strong and vulnerable at the same time. The child actress did a fabulous job portraying a character with such a complex array of emotions.

“I didn’t cry. At times like that, you should think of something you like. Then you might stop crying.” – Hye Na Click To Tweet

Ja Young (Hye Na’s mother) is another complex character. At times it felt like that she cares about her child but she is powerless because of her situation (which was not that bad from my shallow outer observations), while other times it felt like she does not care about the child at all and instead she is obsessed with her boyfriend and she would do anything her boyfriend asks her to do in order to keep him happy.


Looking at Ja Young, I pondered why do people stay in the abusive relationship? I guess it could be because as humans, we are afraid to live alone. We seek company and want to have that one special person in our lives; by our side, so that while facing the unknown future one can feel strong and competent knowing that they are not alone at least. Every person has different priorities and needs in life. For some people money is the most important, while for some it is family, some give most priority to their career while some to their principles. What a person prioritizes in life, I feel, greatly depends on which circumstances a person grew up in. Everyone has their own tale to tell, their own set of experiences. Judging someone is easy but until you are in the same circumstances, you never know which choice you might make.

“Family is not about the blood, it is about the willingness to hold your hands when you need it the most.” Click To Tweet

‘Mother’ puts emphasis on this subject. Motherhood (or family) is not always about the birth (or blood). It is about the love. About the people who would do anything to you see you happy and will love you no matter what! Cha Young Shin (Soo Jin’s adoptive mother) is an embodiment of this notion. She became a true mother to Soo Jin. She always stood by Soo Jin. Never left her side, she got affected whenever Soo Jin was in pain; she did everything to make Soo Jin smile. Despite not being blood-related she did everything for Soo Jin like a real mother would. It is possible to find love from people who are not related to you at all, whether it is as a friend, a mentor, a guardian or an adoptive parent.

Even Soo Jin changes a lot under Hye Na’s care and parenting. She became stronger and opened up more. She didn’t have to fake being an adult anymore and became a child again. She understood that love does not equate to accepting abuse and indifference; she (Soo Jin) learned to be truly happy and to differentiate between the right and wrong kinds of comprises one needs to make in any relationship.

Another thing I loved about the drama is Ja Young’s abusive boyfriend’s background story. He is downright the most disgusting character I have come across in recent movies and TV shows I watched. However, I loved his backstory explaining why he ended up being like that (still no sympathy for him at all). Kudos to the writers for showing that part of the story.

The Drawbacks

Acting is generally pretty good but my only gripe with the cast is Lee Bo Young. Lee Bo Young has risen to fame after the popular 2013 fantasy drama ‘I Hear Your Voice’ and everyone seems to love her so this may be an unpopular opinion but I did not like Lee Bo Young’s portrayal of ‘Mother’. Here her portrayal of Kang Soo Jin feels very unnatural. Everything about her feels unnatural – from her facial expressions to her dialogue delivery. I know I am no Korean language expert but as a viewer of Korean drama for over a decade, I can safely say Lee Bo Young was not at her best in this drama.

I was introduced to her from the 2012 family drama ‘My Daughter Seo Young’. I LOVED her portrayal of a tough detached daughter. She was good in a serious role in ‘God’s Gift: 14 Days’. She can play these serious roles wonderfully. I also liked her portrayal of a haughty and sassy lawyer in ‘I Hear Your Voice’. So, she can also play such roles. She is not a bad actress. Yet, she seems like a misfit in this casting.

Verdict

Apart from Lee Bo Young, everyone else is great in their roles. While Heo Yool (the little girl/Hye Na/Yoon Bok) won my heart, both Go Sung Hee (Ja Young – birth mother) and Son Seok Koo (abusive partner of Ja Young) made me hate them with their brilliant performances! Rest of the cast is brilliant as well. I do not have even a tiny bit of complaint about their performances.

The production quality of the drama is top-notch. A few cinematic scenes were shot quite brilliantly. Almost felt like watching a well-made movie! On a fun note, it is also a quite well-made advertisement for Subway and Samsung! Although, not as extreme as other Korean dramas and ahhh how can I forget RIO?! Chinese TV viewers…you got what I mean by ‘RIO’, right?!

I think this is one of the few successful remakes of a Japanese drama by Korea which has not lost the essence of the story and brings something more to the table as well.

Have you seen ‘Mother’? What do you think about it? Is Soo Jin’s decision to kidnap justified? If you have also seen the Japanese version, which version is better in your opinion? If you have not seen it, are you keen to watch this?

About Mit

A proud introvert with a love for the big and small screen world. Have an obsession with the world of Asian Cinema. Welcome inside my Asian plagued mind.

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Brian
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Brian

I respectfully disagree with your review. Let’s start with Lee Bo Young. [Minor spoiler alert] Playing the part of a victim of child abuse who has chosen science as her refuge requires a good deal of subtlety. A woman who does this avoids emoting. People around them who are unaware of their background tend to be puzzled by their lack of affect and their tendency to avoid getting involved. Lee Bo Young plays a grown up victim of abuse very well. They even covered what can too often happen when a woman with that background is pushed past her limit.… Read more »

Wringer
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Wringer

I’ve watched Korean version first and Japanese version later and I genuinely believe Japanese version was multiple times superior to Korean version. I agree with you about Lee Bo Young. LBY chooses better roles for herself. She is alright but not great. LBY was one note throughout the drama and unfortunately lacked the nuances required for such role. I couldn’t feel the sense of urgency, confusion, naviety that the character required from her. Funnily she was speaking in warm motherly and friendly tone since the start while the character is supposed to be cold, distant, confused but still overwhelming with… Read more »