[Review] Make A Woman Cry

With 40 episodes, “Make A Woman Cry” is about Jung Duk In (Kim Jung Eun), a woman who, after her son got hit by a car and died, left her job as a cop and owns now a small restaurant across the street from the high school her son would have attended. She makes it her duty to take care and protect the students like a mother and a cop would. In the first episodes, she deals with bullying students and yes, it was hard not to make the comparison with “Angry Mom”, but the similarity stops there. The drama tells her journey to find happiness as she gets involved with Kang Jin Woo (Song Chang Ui), a gentle teacher, and his chaebol family.

Let me start by saying I enjoyed this drama. Although I haven’t watched many weekend dramas, I can say this one dealt with themes I’m always interested in such as girl/woman power, marriage, how to build a step-family. Of course, the tone and twists were quite dramatic sometimes, the directing was basic (I was SO done with all these filler scenes where A goes see B, they stare at each other for 20 seconds, then A asks to go somewhere to talk, cut to a discussion in a park or a coffee shop), but the overall pace of the plot was dynamic enough to keep me hooked until the end.

The first half of the drama is centered around Duk In and Jin Woo who are both scared to fall in love again and to be happy. She bears the guilt of not protecting her son. He bears the guilt of his wife’s suicide and is lost on how to reconnect with his rebellious son Yoon Seo (Han Jong Young) who blames him for the death of his mom. At some point, though, happiness is a choice and it takes courage to say “no, I will not be miserable any longer”. Jin Woo sees Duk In as the beautiful woman she is inside, hidden behind her ahjumma looks and fake grumpiness. He wants her to see it too and convinces her they can be happy together. They’re like two clumsy but daring teenagers who are willing to overcome the obstacles coming their way.

The first obstacle is her husband Hwang Kyung Chul (In Kyo Jin). He is the worst. And I really mean the worst. Growing up without knowing who her parents were, Duk In had rushed into marrying him when she was 20. If the daughter-in-law is supposed to serve every family member, she was lucky to find a mother, two sweet brothers and a little sister for whom she was more than willing to dedicate her life to. This is probably what helped her to put up with the mental and verbal abuse she suffered from Kyung Chul who despises her for not being sophisticated and rich, unlike his young mistress Kang Jin Hee (Han Yi Seo), a heiress who happens to be Jin Woo’s little sister. I’m against violence, but that moment when Duk Jin punches him after he insulted her one more time while harrassing her to sign the divorce papers…

That’s when she finally frees herself from any sense of duty she had felt toward the Hwang family and that had kept her tied down. She had been the breadwinner until now since Kyung Chul didn’t help out that much, although the family had made sacrifices for him to go to college and get a good job. Here she says (not literally) “eff this loveless marriage” and “eff you Kyung Chul”. And I guess In Kyo Jin was busy with another project or the writer really wanted Kyung Chul to redeem himself, but let’s say he sees the light a little bit after the mid-mark and he fades into the background.

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The second obstacle is the war in the Kang family. After Jin Han, the eldest son, passed away 25 years ago in an “accident”, Jin Myung (Oh Dae Kyu), the second son, stepped up to help the patriarch Tae Hwan (Lee Soon Jae) to run the family business: golf equipment. However, Na Eun Soo (Ha Hee Ran), Jin Han’s girlfriend, was already pregnant when he died. Although they weren’t married, she moved in with the Kang family, holding her status as the mother of Hyun Seo (Park Sung Hyun), the first grandson who should inherit the company. Choi Hong Ran (Lee Tae Ran), Jin Myung’s wife, also wants her son Min Seo (Shin Ji Woon) to run the company. The thing is, Hyun Seo has poor health and Min Seo only cares about his golf career. Still, both mothers are enemies until they become allies to stop Jin Woo from marrying Duk Jin who could have given birth to another potential heir. The hate between Hong Ran and Eun Soo goes even deeper, though. We find out that behind the fragile and innocent image Eun Soo presented to her “in-laws”, her intentions back in college weren’t all pure. It turns out she had chosen money too when she had chosen Jin Han over Jin Myung who seems to have never stopped loving her all these years. Her decision 25 years ago still haunts her which probably explains why she sees nurse Hyo Jung (Lee Da In) as a gold-digger and does everything to keep Hyun Seo away from her. It would have been nice if Hyo Jung and Hyun Seo had more scenes together in which they actually have a discussion since you know, she starts dating him because her ex-boyfriend Kyung Tae (Ji Il Joo), Kyung Chul’s little brother, forced her to in hope to get rid of her and spend Hyun Seo’s money. Although Hyo Jung plays along for the sake of Hyun Seo who is madly in love, she eventually falls for him and puts up with Eun Soo‘s scary ways.

While Hong Ran was mostly here as the comic relief with her teasing bluntness and her failing plans, Eun Soo is probably the most complex, manipulative character of the drama. It is never made clear if she was ever in love with Jin Myung or if she would have chosen him if he had confessed back then. Maybe it doesn’t matter. The past is the past, you just deal with the consequences of your choices, but what to do when you realize that you might have a second chance to get what you had been longing for for 25 years?

The last and biggest obstacle for Duk Jin and Jin Woo was their sons who had a bullied-bully relationship. There’s not much to say without spoiling you, except that it takes a lot for Jin Woo to move past the guilt and even more for Duk In to forgive… For me, the relationship between Jin Woo and Yoon Seo was the most frustrating aspect of the drama. Maybe Han Jong Young had a busy schedule and couldn’t appear in many episodes, but it was like he wasn’t even in Jin Woo‘s life 80% of the time. I mean, Jin Woo talked about their father-son relationship once in a while, but it wasn’t shown that much. Jin Woo really portrays the passive father while Duk In is the active mother, which, if I were an expert, I would say seems to be the pattern of representation in K-dramas???

Side note: Song Chang Ui still has youthful features, so I’m still struggling with the idea that he’s at an age when he can play the father of a teenager.

I won’t say more about the plot and subplots like Duk In‘s birth family, the Kang family becoming one again (very k-dramatic tropes). However, I will remember two things about this drama. First of all, the characters were open-minded about children out of wedlock, divorce, marrying despite coming from different backgrounds, and second marriage. I mean, some characters might have expressed judgemental views, but the drama was not judgemental. Most of K-dramas don’t deal with these themes as if they weren’t current issues in Korean society. Of course, the ideal that “first love is the most beautiful love of all and is the only love to live for” has its charm (although I find that scary), but I’m more interested now in stories where people can still fall in love in their 30’s and 40’s and start a new life with their kids. “Make A Woman Cry” gave me that.

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The second thing I will remember is Duk Jin. Kim Jung Eun sums up very well in her “Allure” interview what makes her character different from the usual lead girl. Duk In isn’t a merry, overly optmistic Candy girl who can’t take care of herself. She isn’t a victim of her fate either and doesn’t feel sorry for herself. Although she has low self-esteem issues when it comes to men and relationships, she holds her ground in any other circumstance. Of course, she can kick ass, which makes her awesome, but what makes her a strong woman for me is her ability to forgive and, if she doesn’t go as far as loving even those who hurt her the most, she doesn’t hate them either… This is something that not everyone can do.

Cliché ending is cliché, but that wedding dress rocked my world.

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