Most Korean dramas feature some amount of fantasy, but Thank You (2007) is completely different. Its gritty realism is like a breath of fresh air from all the more typical rom coms, flower boy shows, whodunits and revenge dramas that abound in the K-drama world; all the characters are extremely real and touching, like people you would meet in your daily life. The majority of the characters are more like social misfits than the cosmopolitan, sophisticated people one sees in other dramas. They are loners, sometimes clumsy, often well-meaning people who make mistakes, but ultimately are sympathetic and genuine as diamonds!
I completely fell in love with this special drama! Written by the same screenwriter as one of my top favorite Korean dramas I'm Sorry, I Love You, brilliant screenwriter Kyung Hee Lee, and featuring an excellent cast, including a child actress (Seo Shin Ae) who knocks it clear out of the ballpark and wins your heart completely with her totally natural performance, how could Thank You possibly misfire? It doesn't, and is thoroughly engrossing. I saw some of the same brilliant flavor of I'm Sorry, I Love You in the ambiance of this story: salt of the earth people who make you laugh one minute, while breaking your heart the next minute. Thank You might even teach you something deep about yourself. Like Scent Of A Woman, the virus one character carries in remission (HIV) does not define her life but rather empowers her and the ones she loves and who love her. How inspiring!
At the beginning of our story we are introduced to a taciturn doctor / surgeon named Ki Seo Min (handsome Jang Hyuk from Chuno), who used to be kind to people but whose patience has lately been shattered due to the discovery of his beloved fiance Eun Hee Kim (lovely Sung Eun Kim) being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Eun Hee is a family doctor and stoically accepts her prognosis. Ki Seo operates on her anyway, but finds the cancer is too widespread to save her, sews her back up, and when she recovers sufficiently he plans to take her to Hawaii where the weather is warmer and she can rest, but she suddenly leaves him at the airport and takes a taxi to the harbor. He hastily follows her in his own taxi and watches as she stops by a toy stand and buys a big stuffed teddy bear and then boards a boat to Blue Island.
He approaches her on the boat and she quietly tells him that she bought it to give to a little girl she wants to visit on the island -- a little girl whom she inadvertently gave a blood transfusion to which was tainted with the HIV virus. Filled with guilt, she plans on delivering the bear to the little girl before she dies and begging her and her family to forgive her. Her surgeon lover becomes angry with her. "It wasn't your fault!" he cries, but she insists she is responsible. Then by coincidence (or possibly divine intervention?) Eun Hee meets up with the very little girl she was planning to see on the island, Bom (Spring) Lee, who is crossing over from the mainland with her pretty single mother named Young Shin Lee (the outstandingly warm and spirited Gong Hyo Jin from It's Okay That's Love, Producer, Snowman, Ruler Of Your Own World, Sang Doo, Let's Go To School, The Greatest Question, Master's Sun and Pasta) and her senile grandfather "Mr. Lee" (character actor Goo Shin, who also played the "uncle" in I'm Sorry, I Love You). When Eun Hee realizes this is the same little girl she gave the bad transfusion to she gives the big stuffed teddy bear to the child and, suddenly stricken, dies on the boat, leaning against the child.
Ki Seo takes her body home and goes to Eun Hee's Buddhist funeral but sits outside the gates, since he calls himself a Christian, and is really in no mood to dwell on the Afterlife. Then comes an interesting little conversation with a boy monk who walks up to him and tries to give him spiritual words of comfort. I was amazed at this scene - rarely do we ever see a deep conversation on religious philosophies in any Western film or drama today; it's just not politically correct; people are often very defensive when it comes to discussing where their spirit and soul goes when they die. However the Koreans don't care about such religious prejudices, they just throw it out there whether their audience will have their feathers ruffled or not. Terrific! Applause for scriptwriters' bravery!
Doctor Ki Seo's life is changed forever. He loses any compassion he ever had as a doctor and after losing his temper at the cheating husband of a dying patient, slugging him, he resigns from his hospital, bitter, disgruntled, resentful of life. He takes a job as a chauffeur and as part of that job finds himself on Blue Island where the little girl with HIV lives with her family.
After seeing "Mr. Lee" the grandfather carrying the same big stuffed teddy bear down the street he follows him to his home and then collapses into the arms of the little girl's mother, passing out, after Grandpa insists he eat something laced with his dementia drugs. Young Shin runs to get the local doctor but then ends up at an accident site where a man is in critical condition after a tractor rolled over him. Meanwhile Ki Seo comes to, takes the teddy bear and leaves the house, with little Bom following him, calling him a thief for taking her bear. Ki Seo comes upon the accident site and heroically saves the man's life, which earns him the awe and respect of the common folk in town.
It turns out that the very man who had made Young Shin pregnant out of wedlock with little Bom eight years earlier is Ki Seo's new employer, a real estate businessman named Suk Hyun Choi (VERY tall actor Shin Sung Rok, who played the evil villain Jae Kyung in My Love From Another Star). He seems like he wants to make amends to Young Shin for his past neglect of her and his child. Little Bom doesn't even know who her father is; Young Shin, out of her own resentment against the father (he had been intimate with her after a bet with his buddies), deliberately didn't tell her. Bom calls Suk Hyun an "uncle". Both men begin to fall in love with Young Shin, and an inevitable rivalry develops between the two men.
Whom will Young Shin allow into her heart? The father of her child, or the lost sheep doctor Ki Seo? And what will happen when Young Shin discovers that it was the deceased fiance of Ki Seo who was the very person who caused her daughter to get the HIV virus?
Many of the quaintest and sweetest scenes come from the actress who plays little Bom and the actor who plays the senile grandfather "Mr. Lee". Mr. Lee has an odd habit of eating too many Choco-pies (which is probably why he keeps pooping in his pants, for chocolate is a laxative!), and of running away and playing his accordion on the streets of the village to earn money, which embarrasses Young Shin, causing her to have to drop everything and run after him multiple times. Everyone who watches Thank You raves about veteran actor Goo Shin's brilliant, touching performance as "Mr. Lee".
Actor Goo Shin as "Mr. Lee" gives an outstanding
performance as a gentleman with dementia
Some of the most profoundly moving scenes come after the village learns that little Bom has the HIV virus. She is ostracized by the village's mothers, who tell their children not to play with her. Bom looks up HIV on the internet and decides to run away so that her mother and grandfather won't get her disease, which causes both Ki Seo and Suk Hyun to have a confrontation about what is best for the child and her mother. Ki Seo and the resident doctor in town (played by fine character actor Ryu Seung Soo from Winter Sonata, Lie To Me, and Empire Of Gold) try to educate the poor villagers on the nature of HIV and AIDS, but the lessons are not easily learned.
Probably the most annoying scenes come from the fat, ugly mother of Suk Hyun (whom "Mr. Lee" hilariously calls Mrs. Buddha!) appropriately named Kook-ja (actress Ba Ja Kang), who refuses to accept that little Bom is her granddaughter, even though they happen to have a dark beauty mark in the exact same spot on their faces. The woman is loud and fractious and always feels she is in the right and everyone else is wrong. It is the beauty of Korean drama writing that by the end of this show we still see this woman as annoying, yet gain more sympathy for her after she begins to accept Bom as her blood relative, and begins showing her love and kindness for the first time, even defending her from bullies on the playground.
Watch this hidden gem, Thank You. Viki.com has it for you to watch free with English subtitles burned into the print. I also own it on legal DVD, and it's a treasured keepsake. You won't regret watching this gem, I promise! It's a beautiful love story that has no equal, teaching us that tolerance and forgiveness are holy things. I should also mention the soundtrack (OST - Original Soundtrack) is GORGEOUS, particularly the haunting guitar, piano and theremin love song. Highly recommended, if you can find it! After looking awhile I had luck to find one used CD on Amazon UK and snapped it up - they are totally gone on Amazon US.
This is a not to be missed Korean drama that will touch your heart deeply, with unforgettable characters and story. Enjoy ... and be changed!
Buy Thank You on DVD at Amazon.com
Additional Review for Thank You
Written by Richard, Ireland
~~~~~~~Thank You is the best Korean drama I have yet seen. The male leads (Jang Hyuk and Shin Sung Rok) are completely successful in creating two flawed but redeemable characters. In fact lead actor Jang Hyuk portrays the most psychologically complex male lead I have yet seen. There were a few very minor lapses in the script. After all, both men fall asleep in their cars and wind up missing important events? Surely there could have been a less plot-forced method.
The Nurse (Hong Yeo Jin) at the medical center does not have an enviable role. She is constantly panicking and wringing her hands. How did she ever wind up a nurse? But she does have a powerful moment when she faces the mob. Dr. Oh (Ryu Seung Soo) learns and grows as the drama develops.
Gong Hyo Jin is wonderful. We see a well developed character who is gentle, loving and strong but who still has human weaknesses and nearly buckles under the pressures of the community and the shock of learning the truth that the man she loves finally reveals.
The little girl (Seo Shin Ae)? Well, she steals the show in just about every scene she appears. Her grandmother (Kang Bo Ra) slowly moves from denial to an acceptance of the child's relationship to her to a final decision to love her even though she must, for the time, conceal that relationship -- a sacrifice mirrored by her son.
Finally, the senile Grandfather (Goo Shin) adds a mixture of pathos and humor. His role also involves very significant plot developments and his final actions create a remarkable catharsis.
The ensemble acting was superb and the music very effective. This is a drama that stirs the heart, and lifts the spirit, while not neglecting to show the darkness within us.
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