What is a family? Is it about experiencing joy and pain together? Or about telling secrets no one else should know? Or maybe family is about acceptance of anything and everything about you? Or how about someone who could stand by you through and thin?
All of us have different definitions of family. Some people treat their friends better than their own relatives. Some are bounded by blood but treat each other as strangers. I had the lowest expectations when I started to watch this drama. All I know was it is slice-of-life, nothing fancy. It’s a story of a normal family whose relationship is being challenged by life. Never in my wildest imagination that this would turn out to be one of my favorite dramas in 2020.
“My Unfamiliar Family” was underrated and overshadowed by the flashy and gimmicky K-dramas dominating our year. But it’s simple nature and honest storytelling of its colorful characters were its major strength.
The Kim Family
The drama started with the parents Kim Sang-shik (Jung Jin-young) and Lee Jin-sook (Won Mi-kyung) deciding to “graduate” from their marriage and sell the family house. This was a long time coming since their relationship has been on the rocks for years. Finally, Jin-sook raised that she wants to graduate from their marriage, and as expected, their children have varying reactions. The eldest daughter Kim Eun-joo (Chu Ja-hyun), a very capable patent lawyer, is against it while their second daughter Kim Eun-hee (Han Ye-ri), a book publisher, supports her mom’s decision. Their youngest and only brother Kim Ji-woo (Shin Jae-ha) is also against the idea as well but this is because he cannot move out of the house just yet. This seems like just a typical family problem at first, but things got interesting for us when Appa was suddenly involved in a hiking accident and caused him to have amnesia. He woke up as a 22-year-old guy who’s still smitten with his wife! What a twist!
The most relatable character for me was Eun-joo. Maybe because I’m also the eldest child in real life, but the way she was treating everyone in the family – blunt, awkward, and authoritative – I felt like the writer was thinking of me when she wrote Eun-joo’s character. She does not mince her words and says everything that needs to be said no matter what the situation is. She always tells you what you should have done when you’ve made the wrong decision, and talks you back to reality when you feel entangled with your own overthinking.
But Eun-joo also had a struggle of her own. She suffered a miscarriage and underwent divorce – all while balancing her own family problems. What I liked about Eun-joo was how she thinks ahead of everyone else to help them overcome their own issues. But she does not realize how she’s stuck with her own suffering. What happened with her marriage with Yoon Tae-hyeong (Kim Tae-hoon) was really unfortunate, but I admired her for being strong despite the fraud. I couldn’t blame Tae-hyeong too because he was trapped in his own closet, but I just hoped he should have been honest with Eun-joo from the start. The betrayal was just too much to handle.
Eun-hee is the glue that sticks the family together. If not because of her, they would have fallen apart years ago. She may have estranged with Eun-joo at the start of the drama, but that little crack only made them stronger as sisters. Her own storyline was super cute! Good thing she didn’t end up with Im Gun-joo (Shin Dong-wook). Never trust a guy who speaks ill of his long term relationship just to score with you. It’s a trap!
Her renewed friendship with Park Chan-hyuk (Kim Ji-suk) was also adorable! Chan-hyuk was her family’s personal “safe” and shock absorber! I’m not really into the bffs-turned-lovers type of trope but Chan-hyuk and Eun-hee’s relationship was more than that. Chan-hyuk became family even before they started dating!
The family’s maknae is a treacherous one. He is a sweet lovely boy on the outside, but he apparently harbors some ill feelings towards his family on the inside. I understand why Jin-woo had it all kept inside him because most of his loved ones’ secrets were intentionally hidden from him, too. He found his refuge online through his long-distance girlfriend who listened to him when he had no else to talk to. It’s just sad that he was also victimized by this in the end, but the fact remained the same. Maknae needed someone to listen to and someone who will free him from all his heart’s burden.
Jin-sook and Sang-shik
The parents are my favorite couple in this drama! They were the main reason why I was lured into each episode without fail. Dad was my ultimate favorite character! His love for his wife and children was immeasurable. The plot twist about his second family was nicely told as well! I was crying like a baby when I saw what he wrote on his therapy journal!!!!!! I don’t want to spoil so much, but Dad’s notes were K-drama gold.
The story is full of great life lessons about forgiveness and acceptance. This was highlighted during the peak of Dad and Mom’s marital distress. Being transparent is the key to one’s marriage. The lack of communication only made matters worse and it eventually drowned them to the point that they could no longer save themselves. Dad sank into depression while Mom was trapped in her own misery. And in the end, Mom, for once, chose herself over anyone else for the first time in decades. We often forget that even the strongest mothers have weaknesses too, and in most times, it’s us. Mom finally started her life after years of worrying over her children.
Families are not mindreaders. They would never know what’s in our minds unless we tell them directly. This is my greatest realization while watching “My Unfamiliar Family.” The way truth bombs are dropping here and there kept things exciting even though it’s very complicated already. This was only made possible because of the stellar acting and tight storytelling. The drama made me miss my family in this pandemic, and I’m not even the expressive type. It showed us that since everyone faces their own personal hardships, we often ignore the struggles within the family.
The Kim Family may seem like an ordinary happy family, but just like yours and ours, there were also grudges kept deep within each family member. The cracks if left untreated will cause more harm in the future. It’s a good thing that all of them learned more about themselves and what led them to this present unhappiness. It’s still an ongoing process even at the drama’s finale, but everyone is getting there.