Friday Drama Review: “May Queen” – A Dramatic Voyage

May-QueenKim Jae Won, who earned my respect in the 2011 drama “Can You Hear My Heart”, drew my attention to this drama. The excellent performances put in by top youth actors and a top shelf cast of characters kept me hooked. Unpredictable twists and turns continued throughout keeping the viewers guessing throughout the entire drama.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

May Queen 38 episode epic tale of three families who fates are tied together in the shipbuilding industry. A ruthless man, Lee Duk Hwa as Jang Do Hyeon, kills his friend, marries his friend’s wife (Yang Mi Kyung as Lee Geum Hee) and subjects the witness to a life of servitude as a butler in exchange for his life. The hapless wife loses not only her husband in the tragic event, but the evil man disposes of her infant daughter as well (he believes) in order to make her reliant on him and his children for comfort. Jang Do Hyeon’s ambition is to be a shipping magnate and to do so he destroys his competition, Hae Poong Shipbuilding run by veteran actor Go In Bum as Kang Dae Pyung.

The bulk of the drama centers around Chun Hae Joo, played by Han Ji Hye, the lost daughter of Lee Geum Hee, Park Chang Hee (Jae Hee), the butler’s son, and Kim Jae Won as Kang San, grandson to Kang Dae Pyung and would-be heir to the now-defunct Hae Poong Shipbuilding. Many axes to grind…

Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

At 38 episodes one might be concerned that there may be too much going on, too many side plots, too many tangents, etc. as can happen in many dramas. Worry not, dear drama fans, while there may be the odd slow scene or two, every single episode contributed to the final story.

Ahn Nae Sang, a fabulous actor, plays Chun Hong Chul, Hae Joo’s father. Yet another “Red-Shirt” part for him, this character was also too short–lived for my liking. Hae Joo’s other family members were also well played. Hateful characters were played deliciously hatefully. Moon Ji Yoon perfectly played an oppa that you really just wanted to slap upside the head for the majority of the drama. In fact, the whole family did an amazing job of making you crazy most of the time.

Jang Do Hyeon epitomized evil ambition. His ambition ruined his son Il Moon, who was an arrogant bully from childhood. (Both actors played their parks well: Seo Young Joo as young Il Moon and Yoon Jong Hwa as the damaged adult.) Sister In Hwa had a more difficult role, vacillating between spiteful and pitiful. Son Eun Seo managed the part well.

May-Queen-PosterThe real stars were the main trio: Chang Hee, successful but loyal, finally turned vengeful and losing most everything. While not as charismatic as the others, Jae Hee was brilliantly dramatic and was successfully convincing in his character turn-arounds. Han Ji Hye’s character stayed true blue to herself throughout the drama. Her dramatic scenes were inspiring. Not enough can be said about child actress Kim Yoo Jung who played the young Hae Joo. I have seen her in several dramas now and this girl is truly an amazing actress! The most charismatic part went to Kim Jae Won who was completely adorably as Kang San. His upright character and sweetness would have won over any girl. The young Kang San (Park Ji Bin) also put in a fine performance.

Adorable couple award goes to Lee Hoon as Prosecutor Yoon Jeong Woo and Kim Ji Young as Lee Bong Hee. Their antics kept me giggling throughout the drama.

Cinematography: My rating 7/10

The cinematography was good. There was nothing spectacular and the shipping yards showed no signs of change over the years, which was a continuity issue. However, the sets and costuming were good.

Music: My rating 6/10

“Goodbye to Romance”, kind of an old-fashioned feeling song, was not one of my favorite songs, but it was appropriate to the script. Kan Jong Wook’s “39.5” is a beautiful, poignant song that also fits well with theme. Choi Won Hee  has a lovely piano piece that’s worth listening to.

Overall Charisma: My rating 8/10

The characters were very strong and very well played. The actors used in this drama seem to have been chosen with real care as they were all extremely well suited to their parts and played well off each other.

Taking a look at cultural differences between what American sensibilities would call for verses Korean values, brings into question a number of decisions made by the lead character Hae Joo in particular. The first is her unwavering respect, understanding and sympathy towards the mother who mistreats her so terribly in her youth. Despite constant abuse, Hae Joo continues to work her hardest to help support her family and assist her mother in any way possible. She meekly accepts all criticism. This kind of acquiescence is not tolerated in American culture or is seen as a weakness. In Korean culture, however, respect for one’s elders is a given. Granted, Hae Joo’s saint-like ability to cheerfully turn the worst circumstances into better situations undoubtedly not the norm, but that is what makes her character admirable. Hae Joo also chooses to stay with the abusive and/or useless members of the family when her only supporter dies – her father. Once again, after the loss of her only emotional support, a non-Korean girl would have high-tailed it for the next county, but Hae Joo stayed on to take over her father’s job as the responsible member for caring for the family. Even when she and the family discover that they are not blood related, at this point even Korean people would give up, as bloodlines are extremely important. Once again, Hae Joo chooses that family that “suffered together” as her “real family”.

Overall, this is definitely a hard-core dramatic piece with comic relief sprinkled in here and there. Have a handkerchief handy. From the beginning. Really. The characters worm their way into your heart quickly and it is easy to empathize with their stories. Sorry to be so long-winded on this one, but there was too much I couldn’t leave out!

Happy Drama Watching!