It’s Okay To Not Be Okay mesmerizes with its brilliant sketching of human nature in its various shades. It’s a beautiful show that centers around the sensitive subject of mental health. Although it does not deal with it perfectly, everything else in the drama is pitch perfect — story, characters, relationships, music, acting, production quality, camaraderie.
Moon Sang Tae (Oh Jung Se) suffers from autism spectrum disorder and his younger brother Moon Kang Tae (Kim Soo Hyun) takes care of him. The latter works as a caregiver in hospitals. The brothers cross path with a children’s book author, Ko Moon Young (Seo Ye Ji). The three of them also have a connected childhood as they used to reside in the same town.
The very first thing that we notice is the gorgeousness of the drama — sets, colours, outdoor locations, camera quality. framing of characters as well as props — everything is done tenderly. The cinematography is excellent and every frame is like a painting. But the grandeur never overrides the heart of the show.
Every episode has an overarching theme which is likened to the fairy tales that the heroine writes. The illustrations are lovely and proof of the terrific artistic work done on the drama. Add to that the narration by the beautiful voice of Seo Ye Ji, it’s just perfect.
The show paints all its characters with many strokes. No one is exactly what their first impression might tell you. As we move forward, we see so many layers in them. And that is true for not only the three main characters but also for the supporting characters.
The central relationship of the two brothers is beautiful — they both love each other immensely but also have some unresolved hurt in their heart. Sang Tae might be innocent and not too worldly due to his disorder, but he is also quite thoughtful and understanding in his own way. Oh Jung Se breathes life in this character. Kang Tae, on the other hand, is calm and composed and always places his brother’s care before anything else. He has spent all his life as a caregiver, suppressing his wants and desires. I like that the drama depicts the plight of the caregivers —they are human too, they can get tired and dissatisfied too. Kim Soo Hyun is amazing in this role, his eyes speaking volumes.
Then there is Moon Young, who is very feisty, rude and impulsive. She does not have any control valve. The drama hints at her mental condition of having antisocial personality disorder in the beginning but later doesn’t expand it. She is hard to like but as we delve deeper, we see her traumatic past and also that she has a kind heart behind the rough and tough personality. Seo Ye Ji is simply wonderful in her performance, so charismatic and beautiful.
Kang Tae and Moon Young, and later Sang Tae — all come together due to circumstances and it’s exhilarating to see the path of their emotional healing. Nothing is solved miraculously but the characters grow and improve.
Kang Tae and Moon Young have shared emotions of being lonely and having traumatic past. They are a perfect pair — he helps in bringing control while she helps him in letting loose. Kim Soo Hyun and Seo Ye Ji are magical together — I could feel the sparks flying with their crackling chemistry. I loved the main romance — the push and pull and the butterflies-in-my-stomach experience. The main trio has a great camaraderie and this family of three is so precious.
There is a magical realism feel throughout the drama. There is a an ominous vibe punctuating the good times. The drama has longer episodes than normal but it never feels unnecessary or stretched. It is full of heartwarming moments and a strong set of characters. The hospital’s director, Joo Ri’s Mom, Sang In, Jae Soo (his friendship with Kang Tae is gold) , Joo Ri (her unexpected budding romance with Sang In is cute) and Seung Jae — all provide strength and warmth to the show and their relationships with everyone are well defined and delightful. The various patients of the hospital also get a chance to shine and the cameo by Kwak Dong Yeon is specially winsome. The soundtrack of the drama is superb, effectively underscoring the feels. The emotional quotient is pretty high and there were many instances where I was misty eyed, overwhelmed with feels. The backdrop of a small coastal town provides freshness. The drama is also sprinkled with humour.
I do think the whole arc about the serial killer seemed a bit out of place. Also, the mental hospital seems unprofessional in more than one terms — patients run away many times, the staff seems inefficient except Kang Tae. But these are just minor quibbles.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay is bittersweet as well as heartwarming. It stays with you for a very long time.
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10