poster my liberation notes

My Liberation Notes KDrama Review


The plot of My Liberation Notes is centered around three siblings: Yeom Chang Hee (Lee Min Ki), Yeom Ki Jung (Lee El), Yeom Mi Jung (Kim Ji Won). Every day, the three commute from their village home to Seoul for work.

The siblings are pretty much the embodiment of working class South Koreans with their timely problems. Chang Hee feels insecure because as the only son in the house, he’s unable to earn as much as expected. His older sister Ki Jung keeps encountering romantic disappointments.

Meanwhile, youngest sibling Mi Jung feels utterly lost in life. Her demure nature is being taken advantage of by the people around her, adding up to her fatigue. Their lives become intertwined with a mysterious man who moves in next door, a chronic drunkard who simply calls himself Mr. Gu (Son Suk Ku).

As the drama unfolds, we discover how these ordinary people liberate themselves from the shackles of societal pressures that bind them.

My Liberate Notes Review with (a little bit of spoilers)

The drama thrives on its roster of memorable characters. These characters are special not because they are extraordinary – it’s the opposite. These are people who can be your neighbors or colleagues, with struggles that are so down to earth it is so painfully relatable.

The three siblings shine in their own individual storylines.

First of all, there’s Chang Hee with his misguided attempts at getting rich to prove himself as the only son of the family.

His desperation and bullheadedness can at times feel tiring to watch. Thankfully, the sensitive writing and Min Ki’s delicate performance made Chang Hee an adorably flawed character.

And then there’s Ki Jung’s lovesick character. To be honest, she’s a difficult character to love. Ki Jung has a surly demeanor and whiny tendency – definitely non-likeable qualities. She also seems to get into problems of her own making.

But through her stumbles, you begin to see how she’s just so human. She’s certainly not written to be aspirational. In fact, Ki Jung holds a mirror to some unlikeable sides that exist in us: annoying, nagging and just wishing someone would save us one day.

Credit goes to El for delivering such a raw performance with this tricky role.

Mi Jung is without a doubt the centerpiece of the drama. The title refers to the office extracurricular club that she was forced to join by the HR.

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a open scene from my liberation notes

With a few other colleagues, they decide to form a club for non club enthusiasts, a liberation club, thus rebelling against the system in their own quiet way.

Mi Jung’s introverted nature belies the depth of her soul and the drama had so much fun exploring her emotional journey, from feeling hollow to slowly finding her purpose again. Her character seldom speaks, so it was up to Ji Won to channel her burgeoning emotions via other means.

Being used to her roles as chirpy characters, seeing Ji Won play Mi Jung is certainly an impressive revelation.

Their family has an interesting dynamic: it’s not warm, but also not broken. It’s just an ordinary family trying so hard to function well as a unit. It’s awfully realistic in that way.

Of course, it’d be wrong to talk about this drama without mentioning Mr. Gu. As an elusive figure who came into the Yeoms’ lives, Mr. Gu is without a doubt the most stand out character, played to perfection by Suk Ku. For half of the drama, the character’s true identity is shrouded in mystery.

But his main appeal lies in the way he affects the family, especially as his interaction with Mi Jung blossoms into romance. It’s worth noting how, with barely any skinship, they have perhaps the best chemistry between a kdrama couple in a while.

Watching two lost souls connect doesn’t seem that exciting on paper, but Mi Jung and Mr. Gu’s every interaction is nothing but. The character itself is such an intrigue – between the mystery of his past, why he wastes away in the village, and his rugged masculine ways, Mr. Gu is simply a bewitching presence.

Describing this drama with its wafer-thin plot can never truly do it justice.

a screenshot from the tv show my liberation notes

My Liberation Notes is an experience. The story just unfolds at its own pace like real life would. You follow these individuals as they encounter everyday situations: abusive bosses, financial difficulties, ambiguous relationships, disapproving families, etc.

The languid pacing might put off some people, but you come away from every episode feeling like you’ve digested so much.

How Chang Hee slowly accepts his failures, how Mi Jung observes her surrounding with acute awareness, how Mr. Gu rediscovers his will to live. It is an extraordinary feat to make a character-based story feel epic and consequential.

"I will not pretend to be happy. I will not pretend to be unhappy. I will be honest."

At the end of the day, My Liberation Notes is about life itself, a celebration of all its good and bad days. The drama never goes for the uplifting route, nor does it go down the melodramatic path despite its forlorn fall aesthetic.

With the "it is what it is" mantra, the drama invites audiences to embrace life as they come. The good, the bad, and the ugly – all of them make us who we are and that deserves appreciation. Strangely, this accepting attitude feels more like a healing comfort.

Coupled with the beautiful cinematography and music, My Liberation Notes is a must-see drama for those who are feeling a little lost and disillusioned.

After Thoughts

Quiet but introspective, placid but full of struggles, wistful but not melancholic, My Liberation Notes is a breath of fresh air in a kdrama landscape crowded with formulaic offerings.

The 2022 drama came from Park Hae Young, the writer of the critically acclaimed 2018 drama My Mister, which also depicted a searing observation on life. This drama itself wound up receiving accolades for its screenplay, winning the prestigious Baeksang Arts Awards.

Some dramas keep viewers glued to the screen with thrilling plot developments, but not this one. My Liberation Notes’ slow burn storytelling relies on the strengths of its characters and ruminations. It confidently turns a slice of life story into a grand tale about adulting and finding meaning in life.

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