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[Review] Our Own Stories in ‘My Unfamiliar Family’

Edited by Yang Young Jun

Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: tvN

How much time do we spend with our family? If we think about it, it’s not that much. These days, when everyone is so busy with their own things that we barely sit around at the table to talk and eat together, the family became those we are closer to more than anyone else, but somewhat unfamiliar. tvN’s My Unfamiliar Family tells the story that can easily be seen around us, or perhaps, the story of our own families.

Standing in front of her family who gathered after a long time, Jin Sook, now in her 60s, declares that she will start a new chapter of her life after “graduating” her marriage. Except for the second daughter Eun Hee, who is always on her mother’s side, the first daughter Eun Soo and the youngest Ji Woo express their shock. Her husband, Sang Shik, storms out the house, yelling her to do how-ever she pleases. Jin Sook, who spent most of her life in the kitchen taking care of her family, bursts out her frustration, yelling, “What do you even know about me?” Like her words, how much did the family know about the life of the mother? No, did they show even the slightest bit of interest?

Credit: tvN

But Jin Sook’s grand plan is halted by an unexpected incident. Sang Shik gets involved in an accident when he lost his footing on the mountain and suffers a memory loss. After the accident, the awfully cold and oppressive 60-year-old Sang Shik is nowhere to be seen, and only sweet and fresh 20-years-old Sang Shik is present. So, Jin Sook decides to postpone her “graduation” till he regains his memory. However, Jin Sook’s decision and Sang Shik’s memory loss serve as an opportunity to bring out the unexpected event (?) within the family. All the secrets that have been hidden under the name of a family or that have been ignored begin to pour out uncontrollably.

The secrets that have been kept quiet are quite shocking. When it comes to topics such as the secret behind the birth, living in two houses (cheating), and the sexual identity of a spouse you have lived with for more than a decade, the drama is as provocative as daily soap operas. With the unexpected twist in every episode, some even started to call this drama, “The World of the Family.” But instead of using them as simple makjang codes, My Unfamiliar Family adds a bit of mystery elements and implement them as devices for the characters to reflect on the family they never knew. In the process, how the narration unfolds “my story” as “family’s story” is quite engaging.

Credit: tvN

How the drama deals with conflicts is also effective. Rather than viewing conflicts between the family that have festered over time as “right or wrong,” it draws the sympathy by describing them in each character’s perspective. Conflicts can spark from many different reasons, including different memories or stances regarding the same event (I love how the drama called this a selfish memory). And we all have experienced a relationship that soured over time while avoiding to face the problems that could have been solved with simple conversations, thinking that time will heal the pains.

Although the cases in My Unfamiliar Family may have been exaggerated for dramatic fun, how misunderstandings and conflicts are built up is exceptionally realistic. That’s why viewers, including myself, sympathize with and praise it, saying, “It delicately unravels the stories of various families,” or “These can happen in any family.”

Credit: tvN

Starting from 9th and 10th episodes, the family members of My Unfamiliar Family, especially Jin Sook, who has long suspected her husband’s affair, finally began to resolve the misunderstanding by learning the truth. However, festering wounds take a long time and effort to heal, and it is never as easy to recover fully as it used to be. Now, I wonder what choices these families, who have now faced the truth, will make, how they will heal the wounds they have caused on each other, and, above all, whether they will be reborn as a “harmonious family with love” like their family motto.

Verdict: About the “family” who are so close that we often forget who precious they are (7/10)

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