“It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” wrapped up its run a couple of days ago and after watching the drama till the end, I came to the conclusion that it’s the best Kim Soo Hyun Drama I’ve Ever Seen and I am here to talk about it and to talk about why I believe so.
This will be a review of “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.”
Note: this is a subjective review. I will share my personal opinion while keeping in mind how others might perceive it.
Introduction: My Perception Of Kim Soo Hyun
I am a fan of Kim Soo Hyun and have seen all of his dramas in the past 10 years. While I love the actor, none of his dramas personally spoke to me or fascinated me. It might be because I’ve stumbled upon his drama later in my kdrama watching journey and by then, my standards were getting higher. I admit I have more difficult criteria to what I label a good drama.
There is no denying that Kim Soo Hyun is pretty talented and mesmerizing, hence the fandom he has overseas as well. I was waiting to see him in a project where he can prove his acting skills and I think “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” is that one.
I was curious about what type of project Kim Soo Hyun would pick for his first drama following his military discharge. I was happy he chose this project because I expected him to choose something rather fancy or a blockbuster, his choice surprised me.
“It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” plot
There is no denying that I believe “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” is one of the best kdramas of 2020, thus far. I think I can only 4-6 kdramas that I liked and very few wowed me, the more I watch the pickier I become. I don’t always like that about myself, but if the plot sucks, I just can’t defend it.
“It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” was written by screenwriter Jo Yong, who has only one other credit to his name, a drama that few can remember. I bet so many people will remember him with this project.
“It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” might be ambiguous and there were certain points in the plot that I felt were weaker than I had anticipated, but for 95% of its run, there was no denying that “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” was well-written.
The drama talks about how parents influence their children growth and its told from the point of characters that suffered greatly under different environments (hence, their POVs aren’t always reliable).
It also tackles stigma about autism, mental health treatment, abuse and a lot more. These aren’t easy topics to discuss but I feel that “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” opened a space for us to discuss them and that’s a huge deal in my opinion. It’s not easy to open up about mental health struggles that one might suffer from, and I personally can attest to that.
What made “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” a great drama was a multitude of things, it wasn’t one particular thing. If the actors had been unknown actors and I had stumbled upon this drama, I would’ve still watched it and I bet many kdrama fans will give you the same answer if you asked them whether they’d watch it with different actors. This is a testimony of how good a drama is. There is no denying how great the actors are, but oftentimes, we watch because it’s THAT actor or THAT actress.
There is a lot of symbolism in Jo Yong’s writing. I also loved loved the dialogue between the characters, they felt like actual human beings having real conversations, not something so far-fetched. There is a whimsical aspect to the drama but it’s still pretty grounded in reality.
Screenwriter Jo Yong has done a great job with the characters. “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” isn’t really a goal-driven plot, instead it’s a character-driven plot, its about characters going about their day which in case you don’t know, a lot more difficult to write.
Having a goal in mind or a goal for a drama is often the preferred method, because it adds suspense to the story and keeps people glued to their screens, however, when there is no goal, it’s often less concise and a lot less fun. It takes a good writer to make a good drama about a character-driven plot, especially for 16 episodes, roughly one hour and 10 minutes of content on average. That’s a lot of content and it’s not easy to pull off.
The psychological treatment part, was it done well? ft. a licensed psychotherapist take
In my half-way review, I talked about how “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” wasn’t addressing the mental health aspect as much as I had wished it would. For a drama with the setting of a mental facility, I expected the focus to be on that a bit more.
The Screenwriter specifically shows us that our main characters have suffered through so much trauma growing up that need to be addressed, the drama ended with the focus on love and having a family, while I don’t disagree with the notion that having loved ones solves a lot, I wished the writer had taken more time to focus on getting those character that well-needed counseling.
Moon Young character arc is altered completely when she meets Gang Tae, to the point she’s unrecognizable by the end of the series, this made me wonder ‘is it this easy to undo a disorder like that?’
So I asked my cousin, who is a U.S licensed psychotherapist working in a Portland, Oregon hospital, and I am quoting what he told me when I asked if love cures such disorder and if treatment is used, here are his answers,
“I am not aware of any effective treatments, although psychotherapy is used sometimes.”a U.S licensed psychotherapist
“Especially if severe. Some people with milder antisociality can get a little better, but if they’re into their late 20’s or older probably unlikely.”a U.S licensed psychotherapist
So there you have it, a specialist commenting on the subject ,which means I was wrong. It cannot be fixed even with therapy. This could be why the writer didn’t address that for the character, but I still would’ve loved for Gang Tae and Sang Tae to have gotten some form of treatment and counseling. They clearly have a lot to unpack and usually have outburst that indicate a bigger issue within them.
I think it would’ve better if Moon Young’s condition was not attached to a personality disorder, while I appreciate the discussions the drama opened about mental health, it’s dangerous to present false narratives to a wider audience that said disorders can be cured or curbed when the reality is something entirely different.
Some people complained about what I said and thought that the mental health aspect was handled well, others think it was handled better than the average kdrama and to that I agree. Upon looking at it from a different perspective, I can say “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” definitely did a better job at helping people understand why some grow up to be fucked up, portraying them in a humane light above all.
You can call me greedy, I had even higher expectations that at least some of the main characters would get proper treatment and for it to be normalized.
I also had issue with the fact that after one counseling session with the doctor, Gang Tae realizes he shouldn’t give up on his love for Moon Young even though her mother killed his mother, that’s something that will always linger in the back.
I liked the happy ending but it felt like a gift to fans above all else, a little too happy for the grim reality that was presented at the beginning of the drama. Suddenly, Moon Young is a lot calmer and stable, and Gang Tae is somehow okay with all of what happened and that grim chapter is never brought up again.
The directing, production and editing
The beauty about “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” is the fact that you can tell a lot of work has went into the drama, especially early on in the series. There were certain scenes that were marvelous in my opinion.
The tim-burton-like animation was a beautiful touch. I bet it cost them a lot to add it there and was probably a hassle, stop-animation is difficult and I just loved the touches and the attention paid to details.
It might not appear to be at first glance, but it probably cost a lot to produce this series. I saw a couple of videos where the director goes into details about certain scenes and I was wowed.
Even if you’re not interested in directing like I am, there is still a good chance you noticed even though it wasn’t flashy. That’s the beauty of it, you can noticed even if it’s not as flashy as “The King: Eternal Monarch” for example.
The performances and chemistry
Everyone agrees that everyone did so well in the drama, there is no denying it. Everyone was amazing and cast well for their characters, especially actor Oh Jung Se. I can’t begin to express how much I loved his acting in this drama, his character is the most difficult to pull off but he did it so well, I forgot he was ever any other character.
Kim Soo Hyun and Seo Ye Ji also did well. Seo Ye Ji has been on my radar since 2017 when she starred in “Save Me,” I knew she was an amazing actress then, that role was another ball-game, very difficult to pull off.
I am so happy she is getting the attention she deserves and getting more international fans in the process.
Is it a good drama for everyone?
While I found “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” amazing my friend just couldn’t get into it. I admit, the first episodes aren’t the best but like every other introduction, they’re superficial. This is why it can be difficult for some to get into the drama.
Also, for those who prefer dramas with higher stakes or a goal-driven drama, this might be too slow for you. It’s also a healing drama and that means the pace is slightly slower. Something always happened at the end of each episode to make it interesting but some might still find it boring.
Those who watched it till the end have nothing but praise for it. I haven’t seen terrible comments about this drama, something that rarely happens these days.
So these are my thoughts on “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.” What do you think of them? do you agree or disagree?