“My Liberation Notes” has concluded recently, but despite that, it has not yet left my memory and will probably remain on my mind for quite some time.
Today, I am here to share my thoughts on “My Liberation Notes” and why I personally believe its one of the best kdramas of 2022, if not the best of 2022- thus far.
Note: This is a subjective review.
“My Liberation Notes” is written by Park Hae Young who has famously worked on the masterpiece “My Mister” a couple of years back. That drama was regarded as one of the best of 2018, it won numerous awards and basically, everyone praised it from critics to fans.
This marks her first project in four years and it feels like it. It feels like she took her time contemplating and pondering what to write and how to write it.
I say that because the dialogue this time is very memorable, clever and has many amazing quotes. It doesn’t mean “My Mister” didn’t have that, but with this one, you can tell a lot of effort went into crafting those lines that can be easily quoted. They’re deep and meaningful without sounding pretentious.
As I said in my review of “My Liberation Notes” first half, I don’t think this drama is for everyone. But I’ll tell you this, almost everyone who watched it truly enjoyed it. I don’t say this lightly, try finding bad comments/reviews about the drama from people who didn’t watch two episodes and then quit, you won’t find it easily. Also, if you personally don’t feel like watching something that is so realistic and at times gloomy, this might not be for you. Some watch kdramas to escape reality, others don’t. And there are many people who don’t vibe with slow-paced content in general.
And it gets better as you go on, which is also becoming rare in kdrama land especially for 16-episode format projects.
“My Liberation Notes” is one of the best slow-paced kdramas I’ve seen in a while, likely since 2018’s “My Mister” which I still remember to this date. I wouldn’t call this drama ‘healing’ because there were many times it wasn’t, but it did feel like it at times but not at all times.
Park Hae Young writernim has truly outdone herself this time. The characterization, the script, the story, the progression, everything, everything was top notch.
Its not easy to write slow-paced content that remains interesting throughout, a lot of writers slap the label ‘slow-paced’ at a kdrama that has little to no substance and call it a day.
Aside from the fact that the characters need to be memorable and engaging, there needs to be enough tension and progression each episode to prevent the drama from becoming stagnant.
This is where Park Hae Young excels. By each episode’s ending scene, the characters feel like they’ve ‘changed’ a bit, they’ve ‘moved’ or made important decisions that shall shape their future. No episode feels dull or unnecessary.
This is probably why “My Liberation Notes” became one of the very few kdramas to start out with less-than-average ratings before ending on its highest yet.
In case you guys don’t know, this is typically difficult to pull off. If you start out at an average rating number and maintain that for a while, you’ll likely never be able to surpass that average you achieved. “My Liberation Notes” was able to break that curse.
This is because “My Liberation Notes” is one of the very few kdramas I’ve seen this year that has a lot of replayability value. You end up replaying scenes over and over again to catch details you’ve missed or focus on other scenes that had equally memorable lines.
As time went by, I saw people become more attached and I’ve seen so many theories and videos on social media by Koreans and foreigners discussing the drama and those got a lot of engagement. It built a fanbase slowly and managed to progressively do better.
I typically don’t repeat scenes in kdramas not unless I am rewatching to write a review or make sure I didn’t miss a certain thing. This is the first time in a while that I found myself replaying scenes over and over again just because I enjoyed them so much.
There are also a lot of symbolism and motifs in the drama. This is what makes the re-watch value so high. The lighting, the positions of the characters, the places they meet and how everything plays out, it all feels so deliberate.
This of course had to be done with the director’s help. This is one of my favorite directors’ work in 2022. I can feel he paid so much attention and truly captured the feel the screenwriter was aiming for. I’ve seen some behind-the-scenes videos and the way he directs them and plans everything out down to the little details made me fall in love with the drama even more.
Beyond surface level, “My Liberation Notes” is the type of drama that becomes more depressing the more you think about its premise. Its nothing grand but the average struggles of just an average person with no money or background… it hurts a lot, especially when the characters rave about and revel in what almost feels so normal to many other people but its a luxury they can’t afford.
“My Liberation Notes” characters feel like actual real-life people. The details Park Hae Young writernim put into each one is amazing. Every character feels so average but in its own way unique. They’re not out of this world, they’re not anything that is particularly special but they still command your attention.
In an industry where many writers feel compelled to write out-of-the-box outlandish characters that have contradictory characteristics, “My Liberation Notes” truly stands out as one that refused to do that.
As time goes by you begin to be able to guess how each character behaves and that increases your attachment to it subconsciously too.
Added to that, each character faces a different set of issues but relate to the same grand point. In a sense that everyone feels lost but differently. She was able to capture that feeling so well.
In interviews I’ve seen of the cast, they mentioned that they’ve tried not to change the dialogue or improvise much and thank goodness they did that. The dialogue is written in a way that it can only convey the emotions intended properly if its said as is.
My favorite character is Mr. Gu, but I honestly liked almost everyone. Even those I didn’t like I still felt bad for and liked the way they were written.
Whoever cast the actors for “My Liberation Notes” deserves the biggest raise imaginable, give them the biggest raise ever. I can’t ever imagine anyone playing any of these characters but them.
The casting choice that personally surprised me the most was Lee El. She mostly plays mysterious, stiff and/or tough characters, it was such a nice change of pace to see her play someone who is at times clueless and thoughtless. A woman who just blurts whatever comes to her mind. I found her transformation for the role amazing.
Son Suk Ku honestly takes the cake here, not that his performance was the best because they all did so well but because his charisma overshadows and swallows almost everyone around him.
By design, his character stands out. But he, as a human, has so much appeal and charisma that its honestly so sexy. I wouldn’t say he’s traditionally handsome like many other Korean actors but he’s definitely got so much charisma and appeal that he topples over most charismatic Korean actors I’ve seen in a while.
There is something about him that is so interesting, he’s sort of laid back as a person. He started out acting later than most of his peers [in his late 20s] and maybe thats why it appears he’s just going with the flow and not particularly concerned with the way others view him. He oozes charisma without it feeling forced or as if he’s trying so hard to get you to see he’s so cool. He’s just naturally cool but can change his energy if the character he’s doing require something else.
He does a lot of acting with his eyes and can switch between cute and flustered to dangerous in a second. It was so much fun watching him.
Lee Min Ki is wonderful here, he excels playing such types of characters. He plays a type of character that is in a way inferior to Son Suk Ku’s but still manages to make it so charming. As a first male lead, he’s just your average joe and I guess some people were surprised by how average the character was. Personally speaking, his lines in the drama were the ones that made cry the most. He is a chatterbox in the drama but when he hits that nerve… oh… it hurts…
… and Kim Ji Won… O.M.G, where do I begin with her? Personally speaking, this is not only my favorite project of her thus far but also my favorite performance by her, EVER.
I wouldn’t have expected her to pick such a character but she nails it. She truly shines alongside Son Suk Ku and they share great chemistry. Her detailed acting is amazing here and she put a lot of emphasis on portraying as many emotions as she can with micro-facial expressions. Truly a pro. I respect her a lot for choosing such a project. I wouldn’t expect a hallyu actress to pick such a type of project.
“My Liberation Notes” is a masterpiece. Its nearly flawless and so much fun. At times, it was also so heartbreaking but in a way that keeps you coming back for more.
Its definitely not for everyone and I doubt the younger kdrama fans will relate to it [talking about teens] but I think most will appreciate the messages its trying to tell.
It almost feels, at times, that the screenwriter went into our heads and was able to express how we feel about life generally. It was beautiful to see.
Its nothing grand or so over-the-top and sometimes, its just what we need.