Picking up on the discussion on a modern taboo, i.e. age gap relationships, @akhenaten concurs that if the age gap were smaller, Dong Hoon’s dilemma wouldn’t have been as complex. Dong Hoon, the paragon of morality, finds himself in a situation of temptation with a woman who seems to be everything that’s wrong for him… yet she becomes his pillar, his soulmate, the air he needs to breathe.
[Continued from Blurring the Lines of a Modern Taboo]
I wholeheartedly agree with you on this one. There have actually been comments somewhere about why Ji An’s character couldn’t have been a woman nearer or the same age as Dong Hoon so they wouldn’t find their pairing so uncomfortable. Yes, the writer could have easily gone that way but then it would go against the very essence of the tension and dilemma that Dong Hoon’s character is supposed to go through. And this would just be another story of a man who has an affair with a woman because he and his wife have a lonely marriage and he’s under so much pressure. Their age difference actually makes the dilemma more complex.
If Ji An were a thirty-something or forty-something woman, I’m sure Dong Hoon wouldn’t even get involved with her to the extent that he has with Ji An. He would immediately put the proper distance because he’s married. And anyway, didn’t Do Joon Young himself say that Park Dong Hoon is attractive with the ladies? So it wouldn’t be so much of a stretch to assume that there have been women of his age who showed their interest to him at one point. And that, I think, is something that Dong Hoon has already developed defense mechanisms for.
With Ji An, I don’t think he initially saw her as a possible threat to his peace of mind or a probable source of temptation for him so he didn’t deal with her in the same way that he would a woman his own age. He let his guard down because to him in the beginning, she was just a kid. They had nothing in common on the outset. If it weren’t for the fact that she stole the bribe money and he needed her to get it back, they wouldn’t have interacted so much. Being the proper man that he is, I doubt if he would even ask her out to eat with just the two of them.
And therein lies the conflict. Of all the people, he was the last man anyone – or even he himself – would think would get involved in an affair or allow himself to be tempted. Didn’t Ki Hoon say that? He’s always been the quiet, reserved, morally-upright one among them. And yet he now finds himself in that situation of temptation with a woman who’s everything that’s wrong for him in the eyes of society and perhaps even in his own eyes, if he were looking at the situation objectively: she’s only 21, young enough to be his daughter; she’s a temp under his department; she has a shady past; she has nothing. But he’s in too deep and his objectivity flies out of the window with Ji An. He’s gotten so involved that he can’t let her go, and would even go to the extent of killing someone for her sake if necessary. This behavior is very much unlike the Dong Hoon that everyone’s known.
And strangely enough, this girl – woman – connects with him in a way that he’s never known with anyone else. Perhaps with his best friend, the monk Gyeom Deok, he had that similar connection. But then, even without Gyeom Deok, he can still function quite well. But with Ji An, she’s the air that he breathes.
Which is why I think the writer and director are geniuses, and Lee Seon Kyun and Lee Ji Eun are actors of the highest caliber. They wanted to tell a love story, but they didn’t want the romance. They wanted us to be convinced of the love without the need for scenes that are clearly set up to give us that mindset. And they succeeded. And how.