Review: Remember: War of the Son

Remember (리멤버 – 아들의 전쟁; Rimembeo – Adeul-ui Jeonjaeng; lit. Remember: War of the Son) is a South Korean thriller television series, which aired on SBS from December 9, 2015 to February 18, 2016 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 20 episodes.


The Cast:

[Main]
Yoo Seung Ho as Seo Jin-woo
Park Sung Woong as Park Dong-ho
Park Min Young as Lee In-ah
Nam Goong Min as Nam Gyu-man
Jung Hye Sung as Nam Yeo-kyung

[Minor]
Jun Kwang-ryul as Seo Jae-hyuk
Han Jin-hee as Nam Il-ho
Lee Si-eon as Ahn Soo-bum
Lee Won-jong as Suk Joo-il
Um Hyo-sup as Hong Moo-suk
Kim Jin-woo as Kang Suk-gyu
Song Young-kyu as Tak Young-jin
Kim Ji-hoon as Pyun Sang-ho

The Plot:

Jin-Woo (Yoo Seung-Ho) has the condition of Hyperthymesia which allows him to remember almost every day in perfect detail. To prove the innocence of his father, Jin-Woo becomes a lawyer. He struggles to prove his father’s innocence, but he begins to lose his memory due to Alzheimer’s.


I wasn’t really a big Yoo Seung Ho fan, so I skipped if not didn’t finish his dramas so I was kind of hesitant about Remember. His role in the drama Missing You as Harry Borrison didn’t really leave a good lasting impression so it killed any affection that I could have grown to have for him when I was watching Operation Proposal. I seriously had regrets not finishing that drama in the past, but after seeing him as Harry I felt like I didn’t really miss anything so I really ignored him for a long time, until his name made some noise before he went to the army and I was like ‘how I wish I tried knowing him better‘.

Anyway, regrets are for later, so when he came back from the army, I anticipated for The Emperor: Owner of the Mask, but then I couldn’t finish the drama due to work and stopped all the same for other dramas for a while.

I was finally back on my feet when I decided watching Remember. At that time, I was missing some court action after receiving a lack thereof from Suspicious Partner. I mean, Suspicious Partner is really good too, but it focused more on the love story so I felt a little bit dissatisfied it didn’t really answer to my obsession on legal dramas. Yes, I love the genre a lot! And gladly, as if sent down from heaven, Remember and Yoo Seung Ho whispered to my ear and I didn’t regret every moment of it.

Watching Remember is truly worth it.

To break down everything, I’m going to place another section for review here just like in any other drama or movie reviews I did in the past.

Review:

THE BAD

In contrast to the many other legal dramas I had watched, Remember is quite something else as it focused on the darker, corrupt, and uglier side of the law. And in many ways, the drama was able to capture some of the real life happenings in and out of court related to jurisdiction, especially about lawyers, prosecutors, judges and police officers. How they aren’t always heroes after a court session. How sometimes people in power and who have the law to back them up uses it as a shield from unexpected blows that their wrongdoings may cause them.

The law, on one side, was like having impunity from everything that can bring them down. A safety net to catch them.

This almost-immunity has caused harm to the real innocent people who are put behind bars instead to become the real criminals’ scapegoats. As sad and unfair as that sounds, I do think that this is applicable to the real world. You don’t really know who the good or bad guy is even if the evidence is already right in front of you. Because in this world, the truth is always overcome with facts. Facts are something that someone can come up with and pose as the truth. So I guess, anything can really happen. Someone can be someone else if another willed for it to come true. And if there are evidences to back up the false truth, who won’t buy the lie?

Remember is perfectly in line with what I just said.

To which, the bad guys–including Nam Il Ho and Nam Gyu Man–pick on the poor and weak to cover up for their own crimes. Seo Jae Hyuk, who is Seo Jin Woo’s father and a simple everyday man from the average family, was the sacrificial lamb to the murder of college student Oh Jung Ah.

For the entirety of the series, boxing the story into Oh Jung Ah’s rape and murder case and Seo Jae Hyuk being pointed as the assailant to this crime made the plot more solid. Despite the different cases in between that they had, it didn’t really put the story to a different focus since the cases were related to the original case and to Nam Gyu Man who caused all this mess.

That being said, I think that Nam Gyu Man is actually the strongest driving force in the story to move the plot. Since he was the instigator to the crime and his anger management issues, cruel but full of flaws character made everything more interesting, on edge. Problems kept arising because of him and the fun never stops. He’s like an unpredictable storm that you don’t know when will strike. Sometimes he’s at ease, but most times he’s angry and he can’t control who he hurts. And you know what’s worst? That he’s dangerous in a sense that he acts his words; they aren’t just empty threats unlike what so many villains do.

Add to the villain wagon Nam Il Ho and I’ll say that to be honest, although Nam Gyu Man is the one to finish a dirty job to one of his crimes and who we visibly saw as the true villain, I think that Il Ho is the biggest evil character to this story. You’ll probably realize this as the story goes on and as you realize he is the big guy to every escape that Nam Gyu Man failed to think of a way out from.

Not to mention, he didn’t just offend Seo Jae Hyuk and Seo Jin Woo in the story. He also affected the lives of Park Dong Ho, who later found out Nam Il Ho actually has something to do why his own father died. Of Suk Joo Il, whom he bribed with a position by his side and used to convince Dong Ho to purposely lose the case he was defending and failed to save Seo Jae Hyuk from imprisonment. Joo Il died by his hands afterwards when he no longer has use for the gang leader. There was also his daughter, Nam Yeo Kyung, whom he never acknowledged to be of equal value as Gyu Man. Or Gyu Man, himself, whom Il Ho only raised to be like him to rule Il Ho Company and whom he never tried to understand. Il Ho has every connection you can think of to most of the characters introduced in the drama, to say the least, and it was always due to a bad note.

To wrap it up a little nicely, I must say that Nam Gyu Man and Nam Il Ho played the villain role for the most parts, causing me real frustration and absolute loathing about how awful their personalities are. In all honesty, the angry and vengeful character they have, caused so many dark feelings in this drama, that the beginning of the story drained me out so much that I had my own doubts. I must say that during those times I was starting to lose hope that Seo Jin Woo will ever fight the duo back, but then the little spoilers I purposely visited every once in a while fueled me to continue until the end.

Like seriously, if you can’t take heavy drama, the sort of hook they have on the tear-jerking and grueling first few episodes will probably exhaust your patience and tear ducts.

Remember_(Korean_Drama)-006

Then again, winning takes time and there are no easy back roads, you know.

THE GOOD

I think that Remember is one of the dramas I watched which have a really compelling and gradually paced story line that didn’t really go too slow or too fast. The build up in the beginning is quite frustrating, I must admit, because of how helpless Jin Woo’s situation is or perhaps how heavy the emotions were, but going past that stage brings you to the more interesting chapters of the story. Plus, there was never a time I got bored. I always looked forward to the next episodes as if there was no tomorrow.

Remember is pretty addictive to watch if you ask me.

It is also likable how they somehow balance the good with the evil. They started the first half with the enemies reigning the war and them celebrating their little victories–to the point I want to strangle Nam Gyu Man, but for the next half their protective net was destroyed and slowly penetrated by our heroes.

It is frustrating and I find it unfair Gyu Man and Il Ho always got their way out of a very tight situation because of money, power and connections, but it is nice to know that karma is a bitch and you definitely get the ending you deserve if you asked for it. It is disgusting that there are really people like them who love to see other people suffer and discard people after using them unfairly. However, I wouldn’t lie that most of the people they used to up their game deserved what they got. Well, except for Suk Joo Il, who at least proved his loyalty will always be with Dong Ho even until his last moment or Ahn Soo Bum who kissed up to Gyu Man and gladly didn’t end up dying.

That aside, it’s good that Jin Woo’s character got more depth especially with what he went through and how he was blessed and cursed to bear ‘hyperthymesia’ as a mental condition. Hyperthymesia may sound like a disease, but I consider it more as a gift due to the superior ability to remember certain events or details. It greatly helped him big time to find clues or overpower someone in court and even if everyone thinks he’s nobody and a newbie with not enough experience. It makes him look really intelligent and no longer the wimpy high school student who couldn’t save his father from unjust imprisonment, though it’s sad his father died before he could even clear his name. Nonetheless, a win is still a win.

I also like the fact that despite the themes being serious and most of them displaying intense emotions often, wearing a mask when needed, they shed this mask and melt to human beings who also pull off cheesy lines and draw out cheap laughter with their various antics. Just like how Jinwoo smiles like a child, or how Sangho is a gangster but still lives such a funny bromance with Ahn Soo Bum, or how Soo Bum is such a softy when away from Gyu Man to the point you’d ask yourself why he works for him, or how the top lawyer Park Dong Ho wears ridiculously outstanding and bright-colored clothes at court.

Another good thing about this drama is how they portrayed the characters. How each of them have two sides and have real flaws. Good examples of this are here: the young, naive Jin Woo who knew nothing about the world turning into a mature man, who is capable of saving the innocent; Park Dong Ho who looks rough on the edges and who backstabbed Jin Woo and his father at court, but truly regrets what he did (that he secretly helps him and watches over him) even when he is already on Gyu Man’s side and was defending that awful family; Soo Bum who follows Gyu Man’s orders, but still upholds his own morals not to kill a human life and treated Gyu Man as a friend despite the former treating him like crap all the time;  Suk Gyu who appears high and mighty, but is a fair and just judge who thought friendship shouldn’t be spoiled just because you are friends; there’s also Prosecutor Tak who I almost strangled to death for suddenly changing sides, but ends up only working undercover. The build up of their characters are so rich I am in love with each of the roles they partake in the drama.

There’s no one to really hate here except Il Ho, for me. Oh, and let’s not start with the investigators. Those awful, lying creatures change skin like snakes. Haha.

SUPER MEMORY

One other thing that will probably interest you in this drama is their use of the mental condition ‘hyperthymesia’. Seo Jin Woo has hyperthymesia in the story. In the beginning, being it a medical term and sounding boring really killed the mood for me to watch it, but then after some research I did before watching this drama, I was totally convinced I must watch Remember.

I love knowing more than what a drama presents to me, so the condition ‘hyperthymesia’ really made its mark on me. I mean, you might think it’s just an unhealthy mental condition on the outside that makes someone a crazy person, so it’s not really any harm to know something useful about it right? And you know what’s really cool about it? Out of 7 billion in the world, only six people at present were found that has this same mental condition.

Hyperthymesia didn’t also mean that the person bearing its weight has perfect memory and is entirely an extremely smart person with an IQ level of more than 200, but instead a person who has detailed, and rather realistic remembrance of a lot of his past daily life. They can perfectly describe some events in detail or describe what you wore in a specific day he might have encountered you as if he was still at that moment. Furthermore, it is especially included that hyperthymistic persons can’t be good at everything. They may be good at one thing, but their pace at learning is just like of an average person–so all should be fair in life in the least.

I would like to also mention that this kind of persons also experience some bad effects from the absolutely fascinating, one of a kind, condition; that despite its coolness, it kind of also sucks because whenever they revisit the past, it is out of their control which memory they would revisit and it’s quite hard for them because remembering those events so well for them felt like living in the past, making it hard to live in the present and future. Just imagine yourself time-travelling, but just in your head, and being stuck in that particular memory. Won’t it make you sort of claustrophobic?

Because I have this kind of knowledge, all thanks to wikipedia (yeah, one of my best friends besides google), I knew I neglected the drama’s creative license to reinvent and to make up things–you know the fictional part and all? I wouldn’t have figured this sorry of an excuse for myself to avoid bias if it isn’t for my sister who made me realize, so I am mentally thanking her for that. Because of this strong bias towards the fictitious intention of the writer to make things that way in Seo Jin Woo’s life, I wasn’t really able to help but protest how he ended up getting Alzheimer’s, when in fact, in one of my researches, because hyperthymistic persons have superior memory than most people do, they have a lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s at an early age. Yet, Seo Jin Woo suffered Alzheimer at twenty-two-ish!

That frustrates me, until now, but I must commend the writer for their effort to incorporate this idea to the legal theme of the story. It makes this more original and really good than so many other dramas because of that.

And I guess, hyperthymesia became Seo Jin Woo’s double-edged sword to battle the evil by being amazing at almost anything and everything, graduating law school at such an early age of twenty-two and being awesome at his job as a lawyer with this even if he has such a really small and unpopular law firm.

I think that this made him even more admirable and the story more interesting as it went. Because of the detailed revelations he had with every court room war, I looked forward to his next moves and the the next episodes. Plus, it makes Seo Jin Woo’s younger self and his poor living a little less pitiful. It makes him good at one thing and that became his gun and sword to fight evil, the unjust, the corrupt and most importantly the people who hurt him or his father.

THE CHARACTERS

Yoo Seung Ho as Seo Jin-woo. I think that no one else will be cool enough to pull off the Seo Jin Woo character more than him. Yoo Seung Ho is brilliant with his acting, being able to evoke strong emotions from the viewers, just like I. I cry when he does and I smile whenever he does, especially when his eyes crinkle to actual happy crescents. His emotions are just so contagious, add the fact that he looks still good whether he’s sad, or angry or happy.

I must also commend him for his versatility. Seung Ho used to have secondary roles in the past that hardly highlights his hero potential, but he truly shined through this drama on his own as the protagonists. I could tell that he would do well even without the supporting characters and that he would continue to do so much better in the future. And that he really makes me proud as someone who is born in the same year as him, considering how mature the role was for his age, there’s no doubt he has something in him that not so many actors do have.

Park Sung Woong as Park Dong-ho. He may look like the typical secondary main character with the money, wit and all, but I think Dong Ho is more than just a side kick or anything. He sports an accent that rather proves how much of him remained despite the education, he wields an iron fist in court, but has a very soft heart that goes for Jin Woo, who is so similar to him. He saw himself so much in Jin Woo that his loyalty goes beyond a 50, 000 won contract he wouldn’t normally agree to if it was a different person who asked for his help.

Dong Ho is both a friend and a brother, I guess, that is necessary in the story to help grow Jin Woo’s potential as a lawyer. And at some point he might seem fickle and you may not be sure which side he is on, but Dong Ho is secretly very loyal to the people he trust. So to say, though I’m not familiar with the actor, this character perfectly shined in the drama with Jin Woo.

Park Min Young as Lee In-ah. I’m not really a fan of her dramas, but this one I watched her with patience while observing her. Not trying to be a complete judgemental ass here, but after City Hunter, I felt like Min Young doesn’t shine with the roles she often choose, but as Jin Woo’s love interest and a friend who rooted for him all the way, I guess Min Young doesn’t annoy me that she’s feminine and looks like a fragile damsel in distress.

Her character, In Ah, has a very strong personality that is sometimes sweet, understanding and then the next spitting fire or is there with compassion that brings strength to another character in the story. I also love how much she tries to protect Jin Woo in her own little ways and that despite her clear affection for him, she is patient, intuitive, and not harming or forceful.

Nam Goong Min as Nam Gyu Man. This guy totally stirred my emotions in all directions as he portrayed the evil, hot-headed Nam Gyu Man.

I love Nam Goong Min with all my heart; honestly fell in love with his acting since Beautiful Gong Shim, because he can just do anything and everything at once. So, imagine my surprise when I realized he who I thought he was in this drama and how hateful the role is. I just can’t picture him as an evil character since I saw him first as the good guy with a leading role, but after watching him do Gyu Man I feel like I grew a newfound respect for Nam Goong Min as an actor. This just goes to show how versatile and talented he is. I think he will succeed with every role he accepts.

And more than that, I must commend him for acting Gyu Man the way he did. Gyu Man is a very cruel man, but is just as much a victim of his own father, who he tried impressing all his life but never acknowledged him. He’s vibrating with so much evilness, but he is amazing on keeping the nerve under his skin that despite his anger management problems, Gyu Man has his moments when he was in control, but has a really bad temper that ruins all his plans. He looks cunning, but because of his hot head, he’s not always thinking straight, so he only resolves to temporary remedy that backfires at him. Nonetheless, Nam Goong Min made this character so unforgettable.

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Jung Hye Sung as Nam Yeo-kyung. With Yeo Kyung, I am a bit disappointed that she didn’t have much to do with the drama but be sassy with In Ah or watch at the side while keeping a blind eye about the bad things people around her were doing. Being a prosecutor, I didn’t think that it is possible to stay out of the loop no matter how secretive your family is, but she didn’t know anything until it was slapped at her face by Gyu Man himself. Not sure why she’d think he couldn’t hurt a fly or anything, but maybe father and son were just that good at hiding things from her or she was just uncaring to the point gossip about her family won’t reach her ears.

I think that she could have had more potential than this if they just developed the rivalry between her and In Ah, but then I guess the writer didn’t think that would be helpful in the drama or they just want her to remain as the pure, unknowing little sister. Well, at least she gets to do what she wants in the end and became free from the patriarchal hierarchy in their very twisted family.

I must say, Jung Hyesung has more remarkable roles than this, nonetheless, she did her best as Yeo Kyung, that I know.

Other characters that made a mark :

Jun Kwang-ryul as Seo Jae-hyuk. To be honest, whenever there was as scene with this man and his son, I always cry. They just seem so, so sad the emotions are hard to hold in, especially that its about family. But I must say I admire this character as a father, because despite their meek living condition, he is able to provide for his son without a single complaint and has a desire to protect him with all his might. I think this is the kind of father who is stronger than anybody else; it’s his strong edge despite his Alzheimer’s.

Lee Si-eon as Ahn Soo-bum. He is quite the character to me. One moment, he’s so serious and he always follows Gyu Man that you would think he’s in the same league as him, but then he complains about him just as much as every friend or employee does to his friend or boss. He is most definitely fun to watch especially when he confides with Sang Ho. A plus for him is probably his ability to put up with Gyu Man despite how he is treating him like a slave and how he was finally able to draw a line between their friendship that he was able to stand up for himself despite of his fear of him.

Lee Won-jong as Suk Joo-il. I got really annoyed that despite the values he upheld and how he raised his gang, he did bad things in exchange for a little comfort in his life. This comfort caused someone to go to jail and for Dong Ho to actually side with the enemy withouth him realizing this enemy is also the reason why his own father died. Nonetheless, I am glad he was able to redeem himself when he chose to believe in Dong Ho in the end despite the threat to his life.

Kim Jin-woo as Kang Suk-gyu. So this cutie is actually one of the few things I like about watching Remember. He just looks so cool and handsome with his robe on and the fact that despite his sharp features that may misconstrue him as one of the bad guys, he has proven otherwise his value by being a fair and just judge with a true value for friendship.

Song Young-kyu as Tak Young-jin. Ah, he’s so to say another revelation. I just saw him as one of the villains in a drama before seeing him as Prosecutor Tak so I was a bit wary of his character at first, and then suddenly he sided with Nam Il Ho and I got really fooled for real that he was bad until they revealed the twist in the end and proved he was really one of the good guys. I give him and the drama props for fooling me. It looks so real.

Kim Ji-hoon as Pyun Sang-ho. So, Sang Ho really looks like a full-pledged gangster with no compassion so whatever, but trust me, Sang Ho is more like a teddy bear who followed Dong Ho like a lost puppy. He’s sometimes annoying for how loyal he was, but then it is unparalleled to the point nothing can separate him from Dong Ho, so that’s really something to say about him.

THE ENDING

So this is one of those moments when I’d reflect and consider it is much better to give value to the journey you’ve been through, especially in watching a K-Drama such as this, than focusing on the ending and disappointing yourself. The ending isn’t that pretty to be honest; it is as open as it can get.

I mean, get it, eventually Jin Woo is just like his father who develops Alzheimer’s at twenty-two-ish (by the way even an early onset Alzheimer’s wouldn’t develop that early and as I am trying to prove, based on my research Hyperthymesia would most likely get him the least chance to have Alzheimer’s due to the structure of his brain that must be involved with both conditions, but then this is fiction or some if it is based on that), he ‘s gonna quit being a lawyer since his memory is deteriorating at a fast rate, and because he doesn’t want to be a burden especially to In Ah, he goes away to somewhere they don’t know and they will only find him after a year or so. Add to this frustrating fact they only had one kiss scene and the potential love story ceased to exist before a relationship between them even took place.

But if you come to think of it and look at the bigger picture, what is more memorable in the end isn’t the finish line and how things came to a conclusion, but the tiny details that made it possible for the characters to cross that bridge. You’ll eventually remember the more important things that left a big mark to you; how Jin Woo fought for his father’s innocence and the changes that took place, along with the other important characters influence in the story. You don’t want to remember Il Ho who made it so hard for him, or you don’t find much of an impact about the attraction between Jin Woo and In Ah. Instead, you find yourself drawn to the story line; the war the son put himself in the front line for and won with his own power.

Not everyone may be happy and the ending is bittersweet, but as the saying goes, all is fair in love and war. There’s really no true winner or loser in a war. It can end in many ways possible.

And possibilities don’t really cease to exist. They are infinite and it is up to your imagination what is next.

OVERALL

I loved everything until the ending came. It sucks to not have a really happy ending, but it is as realistic as it can get. Putting myself in the writer’s perspective, I think that allowing Jin Woo to go away with a real goodbye is probably the most just goodbye he can do. I mean, not everyone likes to say goodbye. Sometimes it is easier to go away without saying it, because you know that if you do see the person before going away, you might have second thoughts and regret it separating from that person when you go.

I feel that this way, it is less hurtful for them and for the viewers even if it feels unfair. I’m just not sure why it took In Ah such a long time to find him, when in fact he is just right under her nose. Plus, the ending scene, it’s really so open-ended you don’t know whether she leaves him be or follows him to the end of the earth. But I think that is up to your imagination. Maybe the few nonverbal cues give us the hint that In Ah’s going to want to stay by his side despite his condition or maybe she is just happy that she has found him and that knows he’s fine as he is. Not sure about it, but I guess this is better than imagining them being together only for In Ah to suffer by Jin Woo’s deteriorating memory and her getting exhausted of taking care of him when they grow old.

So, over all, discounting the little to none romance, the bittersweet ending, and some little flaws here and there, I am giving this drama a 4.4 out of 5.

 

 

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