I sometimes live in drama land for stretches at a time. When I emerge from a drama haze, I find that another holiday has passed or I’ve missed yet another birthday. I’m unsentimental by nature (as poor Mr. Koala bemoans day and night), and forgetful by overuse of my brain. So it astonished me to realize that I am in fact aware of the next holiday coming up, Father’s Day. I’ve also bought a present already for my dad and for poor beleaguered Mr. Koala on behalf of the babies. I pats myself on the back, yes I do.
The title of my post is from a 1994 HK movie about a character who travels back in time to meet his father as a young man in order to learn to love, understand and appreciate him. It’s so easy to take the ones we love for granted, especially if they live far away from us. But time waits for no one, and as each day passes we grow older and the time we have together decreases little by little. I’m by no means urging everyone to speed dial your loved ones, but merely taking a moment to recognize how often we overlook the people closest to us. Especially our loved ones from older generations – because we don’t relate to them as much, we have less to talk about.
I’ve recently started watching Goodbye Solo, and a character in that drama has stood out so much in a stellar ensemble that I can’t stop thinking about her. Na Moon Hee plays Mi Young, a grandmother who is mute and runs a small restaurant that brings all the other main characters together time and again for a meal, the one communal moment in each of their lives. I don’t yet know Grandma Mi Young’s back story, but I do know that the character makes both my heart ache and beat a little bit faster. I just want to lay on her lap like Kim Min Hee’s Mi Ri does, to have her pat me on the head the way she does to Chun Jung Myung’s Min Ho.
I never met one set of my grandparents, who died before I was born. The other set of grandparents passed when I was a young child, leaving vague foggy recollections that resemble nothing more than abstracts. But my parents are now grandparents, and they make me miss having my own granny or gramps around to coddle me and berate me. This longing, and a desire to spend as much time with my own parents as they enter the sunset of their lives, made me want to salute the K-drama characters of an older generation who linger on the periphery of every drama but sometimes (often) mean so much more than the young people standing front and center.
This list is by no means extensive, or all-inclusive. It’s merely a few characters who immediately come to my mind, probably because they never left my consciousness. They include grandparents and parents, secondary characters who seem to exist purely to complement the main leads, but may (did) end up making me care more about them.
5. Kang Nam Gil as Daddy Son Il Gun in Who Are You? – Amazing performance, wonderfully poignant character.
4. Mommo Beo Jin in Tamra the Island – The bedrock of an island, of a community, and of a family. Her strength and dignity was captivating to watch.
3. Grandpa Man Bok in Smile, You – That is a life lived with meaning, purpose and decency. It was heartwarming that he passed along all that he stood for to both his own family and the family of his beloved President.
2. Grandma Mi Young in Goodbye Solo (see first picture above) – Why she doesn’t want to talk is not important. Why she is so steady and cheerful breaks my heart.
1. The Grandmother in The Way Home/Jibeuro (2002) – Okay, I lied. I sneaked this one in here. It’s not a K-drama, it’s a K-movie. I watched this with my mom a few years ago, and watched it crying from about the fifteen minute mark onward. I kept crying, and crying. I’m still tearing as I write about it. The grandmother in this movie says nothing with words, and says an entire world of love with her actions. One of the most touching movies I have ever watched.
I’m a little bit wary of starting my Thank You watch, because I’ve heard there is a grandpa in that drama which might make me cry some more. But I welcome it, and look forward to it. These are performances that are based not on the actor or actress having beautiful looks, an amazing voice, or a sexy body. These are characters who feel alive and stay with us. They remind us of the people we love who are still in our lives, or have moved on but will stay in our hearts forever.
Can you tell me a secondary parental character in a drama (or movie) that you have loved and found unforgettable? I would love to put it on my to-watch list.