Title: My Liberation Notes (English Title) / My Liberation Diary (literal title)
Main Cast: Lee Min-ki, Kim Ji-won, Son Suk-ku, Lee El
Writer: Park Hae-young (My Mister)
PD: Kim Suk-yoon (Law School)
Timeslot: Saturday and Sunday 22:30
Three siblings, exhausted by the monotony of day-to-day adulthood, seek to find fulfillment and freedom from their unremarkable lives. (Synopsis from Netflix)
Amidst all the fast-paced plot-driven K-dramas premiering left and right, My Liberation Notes starts with a slow narrative and with a story heavily anchored to its characters’ internal growth.
This new Park Hae-young penned drama tells the story of three siblings and a stranger who lives in Sanpo, a fictional town on the outskirts of Seoul. The three siblings commute from their small village to the city every day. The series started in the middle of their routinely day in the city and we see a sneak peek of who they are and the changes they aim to have in their unremarkable life as they make their way back home.
Yeom Mi-jeong (Kim Ji-won) is the youngest child whose introversion stops her from expressing herself to other people. She does her job quietly be it in her work or chores at the farm. But we get a glimpse of her thoughts whenever she commutes from the city to Sanpo. Other people think she’s bland and that kind of image got stuck to her as well. But what I like the most about this character is that she knew that she just need to find the right person that wouldn’t see her as ordinary. It sounds easy but her struggle is very much real. She doesn’t say much on the outside but she ponders about her life deeply. And we hear those thoughts whenever she spends time alone commuting from Seoul to Sanpo. Those scenes were very simplistic but her inner dialogue makes them memorable. The words the writer picked would definitely resonate to anyone wading through adult life.
Yeom Gi-jeong (Lee El), on the other hand, doesn’t have trouble expressing herself. She grumbles and complains about almost everything she doesn’t like. What she lacks, however, is self-awareness, which was pointed out in one of the scenes. Unlike Mi-jeong who knows exactly what she likes, Gi-jeong couldn’t pinpoint exactly what she’s looking for. She says she wants to find love but what kind and from whom she couldn’t say. However, she does know that what she wants is meaningful conversations rather than meaningless physical companionship.
Gi-jeong has a similar personality to Yeom Chang-hee (Lee Min-ki), the middle child of the Yeom Siblings. He clearly wants to get out of their village and live in the city but he doesn’t have a life plan. He has this inferiority complex about being a small-town boy and thinks that his life would be different if he lives in Seoul. His honest opinion could come off as brutal and cruel to some but his siblings and Sanpo friends are already used to his bluntness. His character lack the color Gi-jeong has or the depth of Mi-jeong’s mind but I think – I hope – we could eventually see a different side of him in the coming episodes.
And every after their day in the city, these three siblings will come home to their family home in Sanpo and Mr. Gu (Son Suk-ku) would be there with a bottle of soju beside him. It was amazing how this character didn’t have much of a line but his presence was very much felt. They intentionally didn’t give him a proper character introduction because the end of episode 2 clearly tells us we’re going to know him through the eyes of the three Yeom siblings, specifically Mi-jeong. And it seems like he is the key to the “life plot twist” they’ve been all wishing for.
All throughout the pilot week, we watched the characters travelling from the city to their village. And this question – “how can you spend every day of your youth going home?” – was what hovered over them every minute of their journey. And I think that’s what the beauty of this series lies. It makes us ponder without coming off as obnoxious. The first two episodes managed to pull us into its slow-moving story of people trying to liberate themselves from the invisible shackles of their lives or the habit they tend to get stuck at. They’re struggles are not overly dramatic or melancholic but some of us probably experienced the same struggles at some point in our lives. The simplicity of this series might come as boring or bland to some but it was what makes it relatable to many. It is a quiet but definitely impactful start for My Liberation Notes.
-The tension between Mr. Gu and Mi-jeong was electrifying.
-The first two episodes are very reminiscent of My Mister: three siblings and a mysterious person coming into their life. Except for this time the narration leans towards the siblings instead of the mysterious person.
-This quote from one of my recent reads, Normal People by Sally Rooney, reminds me of Mi-jeong’s internal struggle about time passing while she earns a living: “she finds it strange, to be paid for her hours at work – to exchange in other words, blocks of her extremely limited time on this earth for the human invention known as money. It’s time you’ll never get back. The time is real. Time consists of physics, money is just a social construct.”