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  • Writer's pictureAtomicRakshasi

My Liberation Notes: Escaping Mundanity by Doing Dumb Things


Three siblings are stuck in time without the will to leave their parent's house because they don’t have the courage and the finances to be out on their own. The son made the extravagant decision of buying a second-hand car that went defunct, so his parents confiscate his salary every month. The eldest daughter has an immature streak. A chronic motormouth, she exposes her love life where strangers a foot away can hear her most intimate desires. The silent one and the youngest, Mi-Jeong, could be the most mature, but we find out that she has made a foolish mistake: falling in love with a guy who screws her over and leaves her in debt. Her work life isn’t great and her boss is particularly annoying.

They have all overstayed their welcome at their parent’s house, none of them able to prove their ability at adulting, wedged into a “my house, my rules” situation, with a father who does not speak unless it is to berate them and a mother who is a drudge to a particularly ungrateful, entitled and unappreciative family. She works all day to bring together the family at mealtimes at a table beautifully laid with wholesome, painstakingly made Korean food. Meal times are a great integrator, however brief, but her kids are too busy whinging about their lives to notice. Later in the series, we find out that she was the thread that held the family together.

I was most invested in the relationship between Mi-Jeong and Mr Gu, a stranger who works for the father in his cabinet business and spends the rest of his time drinking. Mr Gu is trying to run towards a boring provincial country life while the three siblings are trying to get away from it, and we find out that his past was just a little bit too exciting. The family cares for him to a surprising degree, considering his aloofness. He partakes of their food with the silence of a guest who is interested in nothing more than the morsels on the table.

Silence is a significant theme. The father is silent and unreachable, Mi Jeong is silent because she’s always been an introvert, and Mr Gu is silent because he has secrets to hide.

Mi-Jeong’s introspective nature hides a clockwork of constantly moving thoughts very few of which ever come to the surface, filtered through a very fine mesh so that when she chooses to speak aloud, her proposal of ‘I want you to worship me’ comes as bit of a shock.

It’s not just the mundanity of her life but also the humdrum and superficially happy people she’s surrounded by, so she goes towards the first person who seems to be hiding a dark secret. Mr Gu begins to worship her as per her request and begins a long and agonisingly slow courtship with no particular goal in sight. This is not a series that hands you the whole hog, so I wait, sifting through piles of dialogue, navel-gazing, prosaic sentiments and sporadic bursts of manic desperation from the bumbling adult kids. The 'Liberation Diary' doesn't seem significant except that it reads into everyone's desire to escape the mundanity of their lives, specifically, the people in the club who benefit from writing down their feelings and frustration (and some of them who just can't) and make real change in their lives. The club was Mi Jeong's idea, forced into existence because it was formed out of the need to avoid all other clubs in the graphic design company she works for. Think of it as a journaling club, except you're sharing with people who don't really know you and aren't really your friends.

So why am I waiting eagerly for Netflix to hand me just two episodes every week?

Mr Gu doesn’t seem capable of commitment, although he might convince himself that he did it to protect Mi Jeong towards the end. Mi Jeong manages to forgive her ex, who finally agrees to repay her debt. They all seem to grow up a little. Mi Jeong’s brother seems to have taken the biggest step by setting aside dreams of extravagant spending and the perfect girlfriend and psychs himself into the discipline required to repay his debts. The significant turn in his attitude might have something to do with Mr Gu lending him his fancy car and having the fantasy of an easy life partly realized. It dawns on him that life is short and that he doesn’t really like getting drunk and smashed. Witnessing the passing away of an old friend chips away at the last of his illusions.

Mi-Jeong’s sister, the motor mouth, settles for the divorcee who seems to like her in spite of her infantile antics. She likes him enough to put up with his jealous sister and his daughter’s disapproval, and honestly, the guy is a total catch: handsome, polite, and he also stands up for her. Can’t fault that.

Park Hae-young’s central female characters tend to be expressionless but manage to convey the riot of thoughts underneath. Like Lee Ji-an in My Mister, Mi Jeong is hiding her troublesome past behind the stone-cold layer, the skin stretched across a youthful face which is a picture of Korean beauty. I’m rooting for Mi Jeong and Mr Gu, they’re MFEO, however, Park is not going to give us much besides miles of dialogue, which are a little verbose considering the main characters or mostly silent. The dating is more of an old-fashioned courtship: a lot of dining out, meaningful looks and no extravagant gestures. Their existential walks through the silent darkness of Sanpo Village make me think that I’m never going to see any action, but Park has mercy on us and rewards us with one fade-out kiss. When Mr Gu goes back to his old life, it’s to protect Mi-Jeong, but she’s mad as hell and channels that rage onto the co-worker who had been having an affair with the boss, the same boss who had been singling her out and sabotaging her. She’s a classic office weirdo who reaches supernova, breaks away, and then does her own thing. In a way, the very absence of Mr Gu, the balm to her soul’s anguish, helps Mi-Jeong find her own way.

Mr Gu can’t take the politics and violence of his old profession anymore and runs back to Sanpo Village, but the siblings’ lives have changed drastically after their mother’s death. When he finally finds Mi-Jeong, she’s gotten over her resentment and mellowed a bit. She does not jump his bones immediately as we had all hoped, but the promise of it lingers with a happy-for-now ending.


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