My Liberation Notes: Episodes 1-2
The newest slice-of-life offering from JTBC, My Liberation Notes, is an introspective, slow affair that centers on the struggles of a trio of siblings. They’re all lonely, a little lost, and stuck in a cycle of monotony that threatens to overwhelm them. But at least one sibling has had enough and makes a bold suggestion in hopes of changing her situation – or maybe herself.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
Given that this drama is by the writer of My Ahjussi, I’m not going to lie, I had high expectations. And it seems my faith in writer Park Hae-young wasn’t misplaced. Here we have the story of three siblings struggling day by day, feeling stuck and like their lives are meaningless. None of them are where they want to be in life and don’t know what to do about it.
The siblings all work in Seoul, but they live with their parents in Sanpo which is quite a hike from the city. Both the commute and the isolation take a toll on each of our siblings, and it’s clear from the start that they’re all exhausted both mentally and physically.
The drama makes the drudgery of their days visceral and stifling. You can feel the frustration and resignation, especially from youngest YEOM MI-JUNG (Kim Ji-won) who serves as our narrator. She’s quiet and keeps her head down, holding everything in and just trying to get through each day, which feels like a job in itself to her.
Mi-jung particularly suffers at work where she’s seen as standoff-ish and “bland.” Her ostracism seems to mainly be for having the nerve to want to leave work at the end of the day rather than happily participating in the social clubs and forced get-to-know-each-other events that “aren’t mandatory.” They’re so “voluntary” that the few employees who didn’t join any clubs are called into the coordinator’s office for a consultation like they’re in school.
Middle child YEOM CHANG-HEE (Lee Min-ki), on the other hand, is loud and passionate. He hates that nothing ever happens in their little town and wants the excitement of the city. Unlike Mi-jung, he makes it known how much he hates living so far from Seoul and not having anything to his name, like a car. It’s hard to date long-distance, and he ends up breaking up with his girlfriend in part due to the strain. And also because she might be seeing someone else behind his back.
Then, we have the oldest YEOM KI-JUNG (Lee El). Honestly, I have the hardest time connecting to her out of the bunch. Ki-jung comes across as petty, the type to blame everyone else for her own insecurities. She’s desperate to find love but her own impossibly high standards get in her way. I can feel for her loneliness and anger, but her behavior doesn’t endear her to me.
She’s the type to talk before thinking, like when she gets herself in trouble for loudly going on about how horrible the notion of dating a man with a teenage kid is only to find a single dad and his teenage daughter at the next table. To make matters worse, he turns out to be Mi-jung’s colleague and fellow abstainer from social clubs JO TAE-HOON (Lee Ki-woo).
After their exhausting weeks, the siblings spend the weekends working in the fields with their parents at home. It’s there we meet the mysterious GU (Son Seok-gu), a man who embodies the word stoic like nobody’s business. He works for the family in the fields and barely ever says a word. In fact, he never even gave them his first name – he just goes by his surname Gu.
The only thing he does other than work is drink. Every night, he downs soju alone outside his house. Ki-jung warns her parents to be cautious since they know nothing about him, but mom KWAK HYE-SOOK (Lee Kyung-sung) insists he’s harmless.
YEOM JE-HO (Cheon Ho-jin), the siblings’ father, is rather stoic himself and leaves most of the talking to his wife. He does appear to have a temper, though, which Chang-hee is adept at bringing out.
Money is a particular pressure point for the family. While all the kids have seemingly stable jobs, they aren’t high-earning positions, so they watch their spending carefully. If they need to take a taxi from Seoul, the siblings wait for each other to make sure they can split the cab fare. Otherwise, they go to work via the train and bus.
Surprisingly, it turns out that Mi-jung is the one in the most financial trouble, although she keeps that a secret. She seems to have cosigned a loan to help a maybe-boyfriend out … then he bailed and went back to his ex. He’s unreachable, and now Mi-jung is left responsible for his thousands in debt.
Mi-jung doesn’t want her family to know she’s getting letters about defaulting on loan payments, so she asks Gu to intercept the letter for her. He lives next door, and he agrees to keep the bank letter at his place. She even changes her address to his at the bank to keep her family from seeing any loan letters.
Gu and Mi-jung seem to have a (mostly silent) sort of understanding – both are people of few words and don’t expect much out of life. Maybe that’s why, when Mi-jung reaches a breaking point, she approaches Gu with an odd proposal.
Does he want something else to do other than drink? “Worship me,” she offers. Huh, that’s not something you hear every day. It manages to wrangle an expression out of him, at least.
Mi-jung admits that she’s never felt whole and has only dated jerks. She doesn’t want to be loved – she wants to be worshipped. She poses it as a win-win. Gu needs something to do, and she needs to feel worthwhile. He looks like he’s considering it, or is at least intrigued, but we’ll have to wait until next week to hear his response because that’s where we leave off Episode 2.
I have no idea whether Gu will go for Mi-jung’s odd plan, but now I’m curious where things are going to go. It’s clear they’re both desperate at this point. I’m not sure placing your worth in someone else’s affection is the healthiest idea, but on the bright side, I am glad that Mi-jung is taking initiative with something. She’s so resigned and apathetic usually, and this feels like a last-ditch effort to change her trajectory. Let’s just hope Ki-jung’s suspicion that Gu could be some dangerous criminal in hiding isn’t right.