A completely engrossing, unique, inspiring, and enchanting Korean drama, on the theme of holistic healing from mental illnesses, Fix You aka Soul Mechanic (2020) never bored me for one second, and I was totally fixated on it (pun intended) for all the weeks it ran. Outstanding performances from everyone in the cast, especially from the incredible leading lady Jung So Min (Bad Guy, Playful Kiss, Because This Is My First Life, The Sound Of Your Heart, Can We Get Married, D-Day, etc), and fantastic, intelligent writing on this difficult subject from screenwriter Lee Hyang Hee (who wrote the masterpiece The King's Face), helped to make Fix You an Essential K-Drama Masterpiece, not to be missed by dedicated fans of the genre. To be blunt, I think it will be your profound loss if you don't watch this one!
The positive, overall theme, of actually being able to heal various mental illnesses, instead of just living with them stoically as if they can never be cured, was a revelation to me. It does logically follow that if parts of the brain get sick they can be fixed, just like if other parts of the body get sick they can be fixed too! If you get a broken leg or arm you put it in a cast for awhile and it heals all by itself. That's the exquisite power of the human body to heal itself, especially with proper medical and therapeutic treatments. Why can't this natural healing approach apply to mental illnesses as well as to physical ones?
Radiant Tour du force Performance
From Jung So Min
And if you have a doctor who knows what he (or she) is doing then you can heal even faster and more remarkably. Such was the case with several doctors Jung So Min's character consulted for her mental illness, especially the dynamic male doctor played by the unbelievably great lead actor Shin Ha Kyun (from classic Korean films Joint Security Area and Sympathy For Lady Vengeance). He gave a totally amazing performance; when his face lit up with a smile he became irresistible! I just totally loved him in this role! I wanted to marry him myself! LOL
Who Is The Doctor -
And Who Is The Patient?
The last excellent K-Drama I had seen on mental illnesses had been six years earlier, with the masterpiece It's Okay, That's Love (2014), so for me it was way past time to watch another great one on this subject, and in some ways -- I never thought to EVER write this -- it actually was better than that earlier drama, which amazed me. I think the difference was that in the prior drama the emphasis had mostly been on one mental illness - schizophrenia - and it was primarily controlled with medicine - whereas in Fix You many different mental illnesses were addressed and the subject was how to actually heal them, and do so with natural treatments as much as possible. Many of the patients showcased, suffering through various medical / psychological traumas in the drama, brought me to tears! It wasn't because they were written to be sad characters in the drama, but rather because they were written and depicted as beautifully victorious characters! Each time they succeeded in conquering their mental illnesses I would think back to the 1957 classic American film An Affair To Remember, with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant: when Deborah's character saw something that was very beautiful it brought her to tears. Cary would ask her, "Why are you crying?" and she would answer, "Beauty does that to me." Well, it does that to me, too! :)
Eun Kang Psychiatric Hospital in Seoul has a unique method of approaching patients' various mental illnesses: the emphasis is on total healing from those illnesses, not just coping with them. They have an enviable success record because their doctors on staff are so committed to their patients that they push the boundaries of traditional means of addressing psychiatric issues, including utilizing and promoting new and original in-depth research and holistic therapies. Even on their off hours they worry about their patients, and seek novel ways of curing them, so that they can be released from the hospital eventually and lead normal lives. Their complete dedication is so inspiring!
These unique doctors include Dr. Lee Shi Joon (Shin Ha Kyun) a psychiatrist who is so unafraid of trying new approaches to healing that he sometimes gets in trouble with his top supervisors, who think he's just too radical; female psychiatrist Ji Young Won (the always lovely Park Ye Jin from Rebirth: Next and My Princess) who runs her own separate clinic attached to the main hospital, seeing mostly outpatients, and who is probably the doctor on staff with the most compassion for her patients; male physician In Dong Hyeok (Tae In Ho, DOTS, Just Between Lovers, Black Dog) who is secretly in love with her; supervisor physician Park Dae Ha (Jung Hae Kyun, Black Dog, 100 Days My Prince, My Mister) who is often put in the role of peacemaker when troubles arise between staff members; and the one doctor with an annoying personality (there always has to be one of them in a script!): the Vice President of the hospital, Oh Ki Tae (Park Soo Young - oh this actor did a great job in an unenviable role, so much so that sometimes I wanted to kick him through the screen, lol!). The President of the hospital is a wise older lady named Jo In Hye, played well by Jo Kyung Suk.
Jung So Min with Park Ye Jin
Playing Her First Psychiatrist
There were also various interns who worked hard in the hospital and often brought some much needed levity at times. These included head nurse Oh Hwa Young (Park Hyun Suk who played Choi Ji Woo's best friend in Winter Sonata), intern physician No Woo Jung (Ahn Dong Goo), and female interns Kong Ji Hee (Park Han Sol, who had such a lovely smile!) and Kang Neuri (Ha Young, who had a remarkable resemblance to a young Shin Se Kyung).
Black Dog Alumni
Jung Hae Kyun & Tae In Ho
We are methodically introduced to the various patients with mental illnesses in these doctors' and nurses' care. We first meet a musical actress named Han Woo Joo (Jung So Min) who suffers from borderline personality disorder and has a serious anger management issue. It's gradually revealed that she felt abandoned as a child by her biological mother, and then neglected by her adoptive mother. She gets in trouble with the law when she drives to a theater to accept an acting award, and her trouble is caused by one of doctor Lee Shi Joon's patients, a young man named Cha Dong Il (Kim Dong Young) who thinks he's a cop (even though he isn't!) and who forces Woo Joo to take a breathalyzer test, which she fails. (It turns out later it was broken! She wasn't drinking and driving).
The news of an arrest of this famous actress makes the headline news, and she is fired unfairly from her newest acting job, which causes her to go off the deep end emotionally. Doctor Shi Joon begs her to go easy on his patient, that he isn't in his right mind. Once Woo Joo finally calms down she agrees, and she even helps his patient avoid the fate of suicide. This puts an idea in Shi Joon's head that Woo Joo would make an excellent therapist for some of the other patients in the hospital, helping them to act out what is really troubling them, so that they can actually heal from past traumas by coming face to face with them. She becomes excited by this idea and starts to put her whole soul into it.
Other patients who are helped by this unique theater therapy are patients with tremors, visions, imagined pain, childhood and workplace traumas, unwholesome family problems causing isolation issues, stuttering, multiple personalities, anorexia, and many other common conditions with some kind of mental illness at their core. One of the most moving incidents for me was a male patient (played by Oh Ryoong) who had to be hospitalized because of night terrors - he had been a fireman and tragically blamed himself for not being able to save several children during a fire. His guilt eats away at him until he can't sleep at night, he wakes up screaming all the time, and his family has him committed to the mental hospital. Through intense acting therapy sessions he is able to get in touch with a time in his life when he was truly happy: as a child at school when his teacher had been especially kind to him, giving him daily hugs because he got none at home. The doctors are able to get in touch with this teacher (played beautifully by veteran actress Ban Hyo Jung, who had played the grandmother so well in Shining Inheritance), and through the stage acting therapy she arrives to hug him, just as she had done at school twenty years earlier. He breaks down and finally is able to come to peace within himself about the tragic aspects of his life. They also promise to stay in touch and remain good friends. I had a good cry in their beautiful scenes together.
As for Woo Joo, she is still having her ups and downs, but she receives some measure of peace within herself by discovering her birth mother had left a letter for her at her orphanage, and the letter was beautiful and said she had gone back to take Woo Joo out of the orphanage, but that she had already been adopted; the laws back then didn't allow any information about the adoptive parents to be revealed. The letter, read to her by doctor Shi Joon, tells Woo Joo that she was very much loved, and not rejected at all, just left at the orphanage temporarily due to a financial crisis. From that moment on Woo Joo starts making remarkable progress healing her borderline personality disorder. She had been loved after all! She makes peace with her past, and with her adoptive mother from whom she had been estranged. She even gets a new job teaching acting, and is on her way to a full recovery. She also grows in her relationship with her best friend, who runs a noodle cafe, Kong Ji Sun (Joo Min Kyung). Their scenes together were always riveting. They had great on screen chemistry together.
As for doctor Shi Joon, Woo Joo's new, stronger personality makes him realize how much he cares for her personally, and not just as a patient, and their relationship blossoms into a kind of platonic romantic one, with possible future progression into something permanent, once she is fully healed. They really are healing each other's past emotional wounds, and Shi Joon actually is able to come to peace with his father, who has Alzheimer's disease, played by wonderful veteran actor Choi Jung Woo (from Master's Sun and Doctor Stranger). Always thrilled to see his name in a cast list! :)
Fix You aka Soul Mechanic is a very moving drama, with life-affirming positive characters to enjoy and root for, a drama that is like a lighthouse on top of a turbulent, water-sprayed mountain cliff. It's a drama you can look up to as a beacon of hope in troubling times of pandemic and financial crisis. Everyone in the drama strives to do the best they can in life, and they help each other out in times of trouble. They have REAL conversations that are natural, but profound, especially those taking place in the honesty of private therapy sessions.
As soon as I finished it I wanted to go right back to episode one and re-watch the entire show all over again! It rates the very highest grade from me - A+ - without any hesitation. For me it's the second best K-drama of the year, after the subtle, beautiful I Will Go To You When The Weather Is Nice. I think these two 2020 dramas will be my more recent "go to" dramas of choice when I want to remember what attracted me to Korean dramas in the first place: wholesomeness, bittersweet stories that stay within your heart forever, characters who become like extended family to you, and OST music that can melt your heart. Bravo to all the actors, crew, the writer, the director Yoo Hyun Ki, musicians, and cinematographers involved in making this marvelous, unforgettable K-Drama.
Humor - The Best Healer
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 KJV