Premise: The trials and tribulations of a young couple, Jung Hoon and Hye Yoon, on the rocky road to marriage. Orbiting them are their families and friends who have their own ups and downs to navigate. Who was it who said the course of true love never did run smooth?
For those who appreciate dramas peopled with multi-dimensional women Can We Get Married? offers an entire series structured around not just one or two, but five–yes, FIVE–women at various stages in their (love) lives. Ostensibly about love and marriage, the drama ultimately however, is about the strength of family and the bonds between mothers, daughters and sisters. When the men in their lives disappoint, exasperate and downright turn nasty, they have each other.
Here are women in all their flawed glory. There’s Hye Yoon (Jung Soo Min), the twenty-something bride-to-be who is pushy, insecure and self-absorbed. She’s lucky to have her adoring and forgiving fiance Jung Hoon (Sung Joon) who comes from a wealthier family. Therein lies one of the major problems they have to overcome on the road to marriage, that of the difference in social class and having to satisfy all the expectations that come with it.
Exacerbating the problems are of course, their meddling mothers. Hye Yoon’s mother Deul Ja (played by the wonderful Lee Mi Sook) is gauche, brash and a product of her hard scrabble life as a single mother who wants to ensure her daughters never have to struggle financially like she did. She’s overbearing but not without self-awareness, and I grew quickly to love her and her fierce love for her daughters.
Jung Hoon’s wealthy mother Eun Gyung (Seon Woo Eun Suk) is equally devoted to her family, except that she isn’t capable of letting go of her petty, selfish need to cling to her class consciousness for the good of her son’s happiness. She’s childish and spoiled by the doting men in her life. But in a world where the only form of social power stems from the success and wellbeing of her son, Eun Gyung becomes something more than a creature to be despised.
Obviously, these two don’t get along, and as we all know, hell hath no fury like a dramaland mother-in-law. Much of the drama’s highlights are the moments when these two interact, all surface politeness but with undercurrents of I’ll-show-you, like a tennis match, lobbying underhanded insults and one-upmanship. Sparks fly, but not the romantic kind.
Then there’s Hye Yoon and Jung Hoon’s best friend Dong Bi (Han Groo) who has a complicated relationship with her on-and-off boyfriend Ki Joong (Kim Young Kwang), who happens to be Jung Hoon’s cousin. Class plays a huge stumbling block in their relationship too, but it’s really their differing attitudes towards marriage and commitment–she wants it, he doesn’t. Their positions change over the course of the drama through Dong Bi’s journey, who is the show’s most fascinating figure. A little enigmatic and unpredictable, she’s unapologetic about her choices but forthright about her mistakes. Shorn of family ties by choice, she’s not beholden not anyone except the people she allows into her life. For dramaland, this aspect alone is rarity.
As a foil to the troubles our young couple, we have Deul Ja’s younger sister Deul Rae (Choi Hwa Jung) who at the age of 50 has discovered a love for Harleys and for a younger, twice-divorced man. They are people who because of their age and where they are in their lives, don’t have to conform to the suffocating norms of marriage. Liberated from such strictures, they are free to dictate the terms of their relationship and it’s progress (no matter how much noona Deul Ja thinks otherwise). Because of this, they are joyful and exuberant, and I adored them. Without this couple, the drama would’ve been far less funny and enjoyable.
At the other end of the spectrum is Hye Yoon’s older sister Hye Jin (Jung Ae Youn) whose marriage to a wealthy, cheating arse Do Hyun (Kim Sung Min) is breaking down. The drama delves very deeply into their nasty divorce, dramatising the toll it takes on both spouses and their son. Their conflict gets ugly but the drama handles it without sentiment and thankfully, doesn’t take the easy way out to resolving their dispute. The drama also makes no judgements, and what could’ve been the show’s tragic figure ends being a portrait in steely, if vulnerable, determination.
Can We Get Married? wasn’t an easy, digestible watch. It’s heavily dialogue driven and doesn’t take dramatic, plotty turns. There’s a fair bit of screechy squabbling in the beginning that I needed to take extended breaks from. But I couldn’t turn away and kept coming back to see how these women would fare. And they fared really, really well.
Can We Get Married?
Starring: Sung Joon, Jung Soo Min, Kim Sung Min, Lee Mi Sook, Kim Young Kwang, Seon Woo Eun Suk, Jung Ae Youn, Kang Seok-Woo, Han Groo, Kim Jin-Soo, Choi Hwa-Jung
Overall rating: 4/5
Director: Kim Yun Cheol
Screenwriter: Ha Myung Hee