REVIEW: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, A Refreshing Study In Duality

It's Okay to Not Be Okay cover
K-DRAMA Reviews

REVIEW: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, A Refreshing Study In Duality

A review by The Sun – Guest Contributor

  • While not without its flaws, It’s Okay to Not be Okay is a story that will pull on your heartstrings and make you laugh and cry along with the characters as they help each other face their fears and grab their chance at happiness.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Minor spoilers in the review

It’s okay not to be okay, a Netflix original, is streaming worldwide and it just aired its final episode on August 9th, 2020.

This series is everything you have ever loved in a Korean drama but so much more. It is a study in duality, dark, macabre but also romantic and tropey.

The best description that I can come up with for this show is that it is as a love child of a Tim Burton movie and Korean romantic comedy drama. If you haven’t watched it yet, stop everything you are doing and go binge watch it on Netflix right now. Needless to say, this review has spoilers. 

It’s okay not to be okay tells us the story of three broken people and their difficult and emotional path towards healing. They are two orphaned brothers, Moon Gang-tae (Kim Soo-Hyeon), a 30-year-old caregiver at  a psychiatric ward living with his high functioning autistic older brother, Sang-tae (Oh Jung-se) and Ko Moon-Young (Seo Ye-ji) a children’s book author with Antisocial Personality Disorder (APSD). 

Along the road, there is drama, destiny, romance, heartbreak, fashion, fairy tales, comedy, horror, mystery, friendship, kindness and an inexplicably loud and ill timed deer. 

There are many things praiseworthy about this drama, the first being the courage to tackle a sensitive subject like mental health and disabilities as well as presenting it in a manner that is not cliched. 

“I think the title says it all. I feel everyone, including myself, in this world is a little bit mad in some ways and I wanted to take the chance to think about whether this is actually bad or not, ” the series’ director, Park Sin-woo, said in an interview reported by The Korean Herald.

Screenwriter Jo Yong, Park also reportedly said “I hope that, after watching the 16 episodes, people will want to befriend disabled people rather than trying to help them.” 

This lofty vision would not have been successful without the stellar cast and the tremendous job they have done in playing these extremely challenging roles. 

This drama was Kim Soo-Hyeon, Korea’s highest paid actor’s return to the small screen, in a lead role, after 5 long years. He plays the role of the emotionally closed, trapped in a life not of his choosing because of guilt and duty, Moon Gang-Tae so well that I have finally become a fan. His swoon worthy good looks definitely help too. 

Whether it is the well written characters, or their acting chops, but his chemistry with lead actress, Seo-Yeji is off the charts. 

Speaking of Seo-Yeji, my feelings for her can be aptly described by ??? emojis. She definitely is one of God’s favorites because if that face, voice, tiny waist, smile, endless legs weren’t enough, she is talented as heck!!!

She is excellent playing Moon-Young, an extremely complex character that if not played with the exact right nuance, would become loud and unappealing. The way she portrays the character’s underlying vulnerability despite all the bombastic bravado, absolutely deserves an award. 

Speaking of awards, my favorite character Moon Sang-Tae was played by Oh Jung-Se who recently bagged the Baeksang’s Best Supporting Actor award for his role in When The Camellia Blooms (2019),

Sang-tae, a high functioning autistic man, traumatized by witnessing his mother’s murder in his childhood is the make or break character of this drama. For a drama that initially gained buzz for its willingness to address mental health issues in a meaningful manner, it was vital that Sang Tae wouldn’t become a caricature.

Oh Jung Se who suffers from prosopagnosia  depicted his character with absolute sincerity and sensitivity and his relationship dynamics and dialogues with his brother Moon Gang Tae are some of the most heartfelt scenes in this drama.

From choreography to aesthetics to background score to costumes, to the graphics and animation of the fairytales – the details in this drama are exquisite and the entire production crew deserve recognition for it. Also can we take a moment to appreciate Ko Moon-Young rocking every outfit?

However this show wasn’t without its controversy as it suffered from allegations of plagiarism among other critique and while the show trended worldwide whenever an episode was aired, it’s performance in Korea has been comparatively dismal.

If I am to critique it without spoiling the ending, I would say the resolution of the crime/mystery storyline was not to my liking and they should have handled it differently. While it’s not without its flaws, it made every weekend while it was airing extra special and something I looked forward to. In this quarantine period, I don’t get to say that very often.

It pulled me in and played with my heart, made me laugh and cry along with the characters as they helped each other face their fears and grab their happiness.

Gang-Tae, Sang-Tae and Moon Young, I miss you.

In this quarantine, let’s accept it’s okay not to be okay and help each other through it.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]

Article written for The Roving Griot by Guest Contributor, The Sun

Did you enjoy watching this show? Leave your thoughts in the comment below.

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