When high school student Kim Eun Mi discovered that she was pregnant, her entire life changed in an instant. Determined to keep her baby, Eun Mi did just that. Raising her daughter, Jin Hee, on her own, the two have quite literally grown up together. Now in her forties, Eun Mi works as a physical therapist while twenty-nine-year-old Jin Hee works as an officer at the Namchon Police Substation. Despite being an adult herself, Jin Hee still lives with her mother; a fact which leads to an endless stream of bickering between the two. Though both mother and daughter will agree that they love each other dearly, the two just can’t seem to find a way to get along these days. As if struggling to find a way to deal with her daughter wasn’t enough, Eun Mi’s life takes a complicated turn when Dr. Park Jin Hong suddenly appears before her. While Eun Mi tries to make sense of the mysterious Dr. Park, Jin Hee struggles to find a way to get along with her works new director, Eun Jae Won. (Source: Viki) ~~ Adapted from the webtoon "Namnam" (남남) by Jeong Young Ryong (정영룡). Edit Translation
Cast & Credits
In a unique way affectionately told. Critically nuanced. Not off-the-shelf. Still easy to digest.I might have easily missed “Not Others”, if I hadn't volunteered to help out with the German subtitling. I'm glad I didn´t miss it, because "Not Others" turned out to be an unorthodox surprise - being unexpectedly substantial and also pleasantly true to life, thus rooted in a rather simple, normal, everyday world. It is the story of a family, above all of a single mother and her daughter, but there are also a few contemporaries who are related by blood or by choice.
The story goes on and on as life goes on and we go with it as a matter of course (and gladly so). (Well, at least that's how it was for me.) There was nothing particularly extraordinary and exciting about it. Just normal madness.
Well, admittedly, a bit more than normal madness... after all, the mother herself is still a teenager when she has her child and doesn't want to give up on some of the youthful pleasures in life - regardless of responsibility for the child. However, the script and the two leads find a good pitch for this very special, unusual and inherently difficult relationship dynamic with all its challenges. A clearly structured 'I'm the grown up and you're the little one' doesn´t exist. It is rather upside down here. Instead of the classic authoritarian hierarchy between parent and child, they both ended up bonding as allies sort of, in a world from which they have fallen. Due to the unusual role constellations, the arguments between mother and daughter often have a slightly funny touch. Behind this, however, lurks a rather unconscious overburdening on both sides. And this earnest approach of this emotionally tricky situation shines through again and again in the strategy of both of them trying to cope with everyday life. However, mother and daughter are overall impressing with their casual authenticity as well as pleasant directness and openness - a communication style that clearly sets them apart from so many others in the story. Choi Soo-young shines here, but especially Jeon Hye-jin, who can show herself from a completely different side in the role of the still youthful mother...).
At some point it's about a criminal case - eventually almost symbolic for the unwanted and eventually professionalized role of the daughter within the mother-daughter-relationship: the need to/the urge to look after her mother. And at some point it's also about romantic love - symbolic for the very human longing to rely on a partner on eye level, to lean on a shoulder... This human need actually concerns mother and grown-up daughter alike. But can there even be a place for 'outsiders' within the mother-daughter relationship?
Please don't take "Not Others" as a crime thriller or even as a RomCom. (The men in particular come along rather secondary...) Ultimately, it is the complicated emotional behavior patterns that characterize the family life of mother and daughter in the context of their very close and extraordinary relationship. This makes the KDrama breathe in and breathe out in its very unique pacing. It is primarily about this uncommon family, with an affectionate, yet critically nuanced look at their very special relationship dynamics. "Not Others" is cautiously questioning established (conservative) family models, too...
Overall, “Not Others” is no off-the-shelf KDrama (like so many others in 2023...).
I wish this was a J-dramaYes, I know the title will raise an eyebrow or ten. It is intentional because while the show is good, it has issues with pacing and the quantity and quality of plot materials. Please allow me to explain.
The show starts with an odd couple trope. The mother had the FL when she was still in high school, and we see flashbacks of those trying years. It helps to illustrate her struggles and how she overcame the challenges to build a life for herself and her young daughter. Overall, it is impactful and well done but you have to paste the odd bits together to get the full picture. To say the duo have a love-hate relationship is an understatement.
There is no doubt this is a female centric drama. The mum is involved in about 60% of the plots. That is fine because she is a good actor in a strong role. However, if you expect the younger FL to be the focus then you will be disappointed.
Of course, there are male leads, and they are very good actors, but their roles are firmly in support. This is particularly true for the mum's partner. He is totally devoted to her and he is the nicest guy. Our younger OTP took a long time to get going. It definitely started as a love-hate thing. This is where my remark about j-drama becomes more pertinent.
The show did suffer from mid show drag. The pace slowed and our couples are dancing around each other in baby steps. On top of that, the show digs deep in the box of tricks and fishes out a murder mystery to fill the gap. This is why I said I wish this was a j-drama. Japanese usually do this type of female centric dramas better without having to shoehorn in unnecessary (aka murderous) side plots.
Let's call a spade, a spade. The heinous act was egregious. The poor victim is basically faceless and portrayed in a bad light. The murderer was just a shady figure in the dark. We never truly understood his motive. As soon as he is caught the plot terminates. They could have substituted any lesser crimes and still keep the plot flowing.
The use of such lazy devices is now my pet peeve. The target is always a young woman. It is mostly done to inject some (unnecessary) shock/horror. If we are lucky, it serves a purpose, otherwise it is just a momentary distraction. Of the 3 k-dramas I watched recently, this has one murder, Behind Your Touch has at least one and My Lovely Liar scored the trifecta. I don’t know how young Korean ladies can sleep peacefully at night.
If we take away the murder, we are left with a straightforward girl power motif. We certainly see good interactions between the female characters. Sisters united - will not be defeated! This extends to the unconventional ending. Yes, some are disappointed with the arrested OTP development and a lack of skinship but I can also see why they ended the show this way.
The writer used the last 2 eps to reinforce a couple of key messages. The found family you choose is more important than the family you were born into. The older ML rejected his manipulating parents, again. The sad passing of the grandma spotlights a brother who cared nothing for the old lady in life but wants her money in death. The final scene in the hotel is particularly poignant because the FL found out that the old lady actually adopted her mum so that she really is her grandmother rather than just a term of endearment.
The ML played the noble idiot card so that the FL can go back to the HQ without hindrance. It was a lie and it went down like a lead balloon. He knew it and so does the FL. The quick kiss from the FL on the day of her departure sealed the deal. He also said that he will wait for her. That is quite swoon-y without being too lovey-dovey. That's not his style.
The mum showing up at the airport was total self indulgence. She is happy to live her own life but it is a comfort to have a partner you can lean on at the same time. Win-win.
Our CP's giving each others space and respect their SO's decisions is enlightening. Yes, it wasn't quite the grand romantic gesture we had hoped, but in light of the prevailing messages, it is an appropriate and fitting finish.
Acting is solid from the experienced ensemble. OST is pleasant. Rewatch is possible but a low priority.