K-Drama Review: ‘Hi Bye, Mama!’ Shows How To Deal with Sadness Warmly

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Jeon Gyeong Ju

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Credit: tvN

“The return of the dead” is impossible in the real world, but it’s very common in movies and television dramas. That’s why the synopsis of Hi Bye, Mama! at first made me think there’s nothing new. However, the “special” direction, which is implied in the “common” story about a dead person who returns to life, has made me fall in love with this drama.

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Credit: tvN

Hi Bye, Mama! tells the story of Cha Yuri (Kim Tae Hee), who died in an accident, appearing in front of her husband Jo Kang Hwa (Lee Kyu Hyung) and her young daughter who’ve started their new lives after overcoming the pain of her death. The existing works featuring living souls as the main characters usually rush to handle the important things that haven’t been solved in this world. In these stories, the dead go back to this world and resolve their unfinished businesses with the touching endings.

Focusing on these common plots, Hi Bye, Mama! also shows how precious our daily lives are. It calmly portrays ordinary behaviors such as having a meal, going camping, or watching TV with family. It reminds us that we are happy even at the trivial moments, not such big events or anniversaries, when we are together with our beloved ones.

The drama also depicts people living through their sorrow in a calm manner. Most of the characters around Cha Yuri don’t fall into too much grief because it’s been five years since her death. They overcame the pain in their own time and returned to their daily lives. Nevertheless, they sometimes express their sadness that hasn’t fully healed when facing the remaining traces of Yuri. These emotions are represented by Yuri’s mother, who pretends to be strong in front of her family but sobs alone, and Kang Hwa, who intentionally comes home late on his daughter’s birthday because that day has a same date with Yuri’s deathday. It moves the viewers’ hearts by minimizing the sad clichés and naturally describing the sadness hidden behind the smiles of its characters.

The delicate touch on emotions stands out all the more in the composition of the drama. Hi Bye, Mama! utilizes the intros and the epilogues. The intro scenes show the past of the four main characters, Yuri, Kang Hwa, Hyun Jung and Geun Sang. Using cross-cuts, they portray both the joy everyone felt when Yuri was alive and their sorrow since her death due to the accident. In addition, the ASMR-level narrations read the main story of each episode and convey the fond feelings to the audience. On the other hand, the epilogue scenes give a brief glimpse of what it failed to explain in detail in each episode. Most of them just end with laughs, while drawing the viewers’ sympathy by suggesting that these scenes are also the precious moments of life. I already expected that I would tear up since most of the stories of Hi Bye, Mama! develop from the point of view of the ghosts who’re concerned about the bereaved. However, I’ve been even more touched by the delicate and thoughtful way how the drama deals with the tearful narratives.

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Credit: tvN

The sentiments and the emotions in the drama are better than expected, but some comic parts of the erstwhile episodes featuring Cha Yuri’s fellow ghosts don’t look very smooth. Hi Bye, Mama! has two plots. one of them, a real main story of the drama, is about resurrection of Cha Yuri who meets her husband, daughter and friends again. Another plot, the part that fulfills the wishes of ghosts, is a sub-story that put flesh on the bones of the drama.

The Episodes that fulfill the wishes of ghosts are used as the turning points that give the viewers minor funs and even lead to the unexpected stories. The main story slows down so often, however, as the sub-story is to be finished. Besides that, most of the ghost characters act in very exaggerated ways to ruin the mood of the play occasionally. It’s also regrettable that the drama doesn’t have a high batting average when it openly overdoes the comedies using these characters.

Still, there are times when the sub-stories stand out. Most of the ghosts’ wishes are related to their bereaved ones. The drama skillfully depicts the mutual fondness between the ghosts and their families with emotions and tears. For example, a mother ghost in one episode is eager to make a warm meal for her lonely son. In another episode, a father ghost only keeps his eyes on his daughter who is about to get married. That’s why I want to keep watching the drama even though its sub-plot looks a little bit unattractive. If the production team reduces the number of unnatural comedies and focuses more on the narrative, the rest of the sub-story will be exciting as much as the main one.

After passing its turning point, Hi Bye, Mama! is heading towards the finish line. Cha Yuri is contemplating whether to return to her own life before she died or leave for the other world while wishing her family happiness. Whatever Cha Yuri chooses, the importance of life and family presented by Hi Bye, Mama! is likely to remain warm even after the end of the drama. Well, I have to prepare for a handkerchief before the next episode.

Verdict: It’s a shame that it’s too full of the comic sub-stories, but It’s glad for the drama to make me feel impressed plainly (7/10)

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