Tens of dramas are made in one year. Mostly, you get a few good ones among the sea of mediocre and forgettable dramas. If you’re lucky, you get a couple you can call your favourite that year. Once in a while, though, you hit a jackpot. Okay, so maybe, you don’t get a million dollars, but you get a drama that’s one in a million.
On the outset, Can You Hear My Heart sounded like just like a good ol’ melodrama crap. Tae Hyunsook is a woman in mourning. Her father just died. Her son fell from the second floor and lost his hearing forever. At the funeral, she found out that her own husband was the one who killed her father. Not only that, her husband had a kid with another woman, a woman he was still seeing, and a woman she personally knew. Way to hit her right in the gut. So Tae Hyunsook started calculating her own vengeance. Instead of shunning, she took in her husband’s unknown illegitimate child as her own, raised him, and made him successful. In short, she was building her weapon. A weapon she was going to eventually use against her husband.
On the other hand, Little Misook finally got herself a family when her deaf mother married Bong Younggyu, the resident idiot in the neighbourhood. She got heself an older brother, a father, and a grandmother. But one day, a fire broke at the factory in the area and her mother died, trapped inside the factory, at the order of Choi Jinchul, Tae Hyunsook’s husband and our general Wicked Witch. Little Misook’s oppa, Bong Maroo ran away from the family he had long despised, and never to be seen. 16 years later, she saw him again, only he was now a sharp knife, Tae Hyunsook’s weapon.
I went into this drama, literally knowing zero about the story. It’s all about the superficialities. I’ve liked Hwang Jungeum in the past but I couldn’t stomach Giant. I briefly saw Kim Jaewon when I was in Korea and thought he was hot. Together, in my head, I thought they would make a cute couple. That was what piqued my interest. Then I saw the following lineup: Go Junhee, Jung Boseok, and one of my favourite senior actors, Yoon Yeojung. Consequently, even if the drama ended up awful, I just had to at least saw a couple of episodes. It was a slow start for me, but pretty soon, I couldn’t stop watching.
What is so winning about Can You Hear My Heart is that despite all the possible makjang elements thrown in, it is one of the most heart-warming dramas I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I caught myself just smiling fondly while watching. It’s the smile you get to keep when you feel genuinely happy for someone. They are all fictional characters, manmade, but it doesn’t make me care any less about them than I would, say, my friends.
No drama can escape the portrayals of rich characters. Chaebols are a dime a dozen in the drama landscape. Every drama hero is apparently the son/grandchild of the owner of a huge corporation. Can You Hear My Heart employs this chaebol trope as well. Yet also, it flips itself upside down.
A person with a bajillion of equity may not sleep better as a person living in cramped rented house. What makes a person happy is their own head, their own heart. No matter how poor or how rich you are, it is your heart that either sets you up for endless road of unhappiness or to learn to forgive and move on. The unconditional love of family, the joy of living modestly, the luxury of simplicity, are being contrasted with greed for money, hateful revenge, and constantly living in a state of worry.
Can You Hear My Heart is blessed with great actors that work with great materials. The writing is exquisite and each execution is perfectly carried out. As a viewer, we hold all the secrets. Most of the cliff-hangers are not four our benefit. We know what everyone is up to, in this drama, so the surprise is NOT for us, it’s for the characters. It is to this drama’s credit that whenever another secret was being unearthed, viewers stayed transfixed.
At first I wasn’t sure how Hwang Jungeum’s inherent cutesy would work with Kim Saeron’s inner toughness. And Hwang did struggle in the beginning, unsure of how to put her foot in and overcompensating. But she managed to find a firm ground, combining her own aegyo into Bong Woori, yet projecting her character’s quiet strength as the protector of her family.
Kim Jaewon made up for his negligible acting by rooting himself in one of the best hero characters ever. Cha Dongjoo, despite being instilled with so much hate by his mother, never lost sight of what is real. Never mind that his step father killed his grandfather and indirectly caused his deafness, he always treated him with respect and acknowledgment. When he was being stepped on, he stood up for himself and climbed out of all obstacles, using his bright head and general kindness. In short, Dongjoo stays classy.
I don’t even need to say much about Jung Boseok’s Bong Younggyu, the idiot and Yoon Yeojung’s the cursing Grandma. I had so much tears for them, I was sobbing like nobody’s business. So far, they are this year’s best acting duo, hands down. Their characters are the source of light, of love, and Jung and Yoon were just rocking it. Another one who’s acting her ass off is Lee Hyeyoung as Tae Hyunsook. She’s a force of her own. Tae Hyunsook is a whirling tornado, furious, but waiting to be curbed. Lee is intense with an amazing screen presence. She’s graceful but vindictive, overly protective of her own son yet shrewdly manipulative of another’s. Whenever I see her on screen, I was constantly mesmerized by her fierceness.
And then there’s Namgoon Min. I’ve talked a bit about him in my other post. Among other things, Can You Hear My Heart serves to recollect Bong Maroo/Jang Joonha’s journey to find inner peace. He was a volcano that was dormant for a long time. He was good, but there was always this little badness in him. The explosion, when it finally happened, was venomous. As a role, this was SUCH a juicy role to play. In the hands of a very experienced actor, this role would have come off too…deft. In the hands of a newbie, this would have failed spectacularly. Namgoong is someone in between. He can portray vulnerability and anguish with half experience and half rawness. He’s got such an affecting voice and great, expressive eyes. I’m definitely looking forward to his future projects.
49 Days was like an inch off from greatness. The ending left a lukewarm impression, despite the mostly strong run. Can You Hear My Heart took time to completely warm up, but the steam continued till the very last minute. I haven’t had such a satisfactory ending since Return of Iljimae a long time ago. It wrapped up the past and hinted to the future, but it was short and sweet and so in the moment. It didn’t end with just two main characters riding to the sunset. It stayed true to what it’s about, family.
Last, but not least, Can You Hear My Heart, I just wanted to say this: