Hands: Telling the Story

One thing I noticed during a re-watch was how often PDnim focuses on hands. He portrays an emotion and tells a story just by having us look at a character’s hands, and through this he encourages us to keep paying attention.

These moments of close-ups start at the beginning, with one of our first looks at Ji An being this one:

Our very first glimpse of Yoon Hee is this:

As the story progresses we keep seeing close shots of hands, especially of certain key characters: Dong Hoon, Ji An, Kwang Il, and Jung Hee. Here’s a sampling.

Dong Hoon

In Episode 6, after Dong Hoon discovers Yoon Hee’s affair, he heads to the soccer field but ends up sitting in the bathroom for a while. His hands convey defeat:

This is mirrored in his face as the camera pans up:

Later, when Yoon Hee finally confesses to the affair in Episode 11, Dong Hoon punches the door and then rests his battered hands on the ground. You know they’re in a painful conversation by just looking at this shot:

In Episode 13, the awkwardness of this moment, as well as the difference between Dong Hoon and Yoon Hee’s choice of drinks are highlighted here:

Ji An

There are several close-up scenes of Ji An’s hands scattered through the early and middle episodes of the show. However, this particular moment in Episode 12 is always heartwarming to watch even if Ji An’s apprehension comes through. Jung Hee is just so effervescent and welcoming and Ji An isn’t too sure about it:

In the later episodes, as Dong Hoon and Ji An’s story becomes more ardent and entwined, close-ups of both of their hands appear more frequently:

When Dong Hoon finds out the truth about the wiretap in Episode 14, he has to keep it together and get his message across:

And Ji An, caught out, is so penitent (Episode 15):

Shortly afterward, Dong Hoon goes to the police station to see Ki Bum:

And later he finally, finally finds her.

Kwang Il

Another character whose hands appear in significant ways is Kwang Il.

In Episode 8, after Kwang Il sees Dong Hoon and Ji An sharing a drink together, he isn’t too happy as his partner asks him what’s up between Ji An and the new guy:

Later, Kwang Il is listening in on the wiretap recordings in Episode 15 and he can’t help but be affected. His hand starts out as a closed fist but by the end of the sequence his fingers are intertwined. He’s no less tense but he’s certainly feeling less hostile.

Running away from the private detective, Kwang Il eventually finds a place where he can send the USBs to Dong Hoon in Episode 16. In the end, the hands that repeatedly abused Ji An have the chance to do something to protect her and Dong Hoon. As Kwang Il walks down the street, his hands are loose by his side and he looks lost in thought, trying to remember the boy he once was.

Jung Hee

Another relationship that PDnim decided to feature through hands is the one between Jung Hee and Gyeom Duk. Three simple frames tell a profound story:

There’s one thing Jung Hee holds onto tightly that she just can’t have (Epsidoe 13):

And Gyeom Duk is so rattled by Jung Hee’s visit that he needs days to recover (Episode 15):

Back in Hugye, in Episode 16, Gyeom Duk seeks out Jung Hee and they finally get the closure they need. This is a wide shot, but notice the hands:

So…what to make of all this? Why are there so many scenes of hands? I think PDnim wanted to draw us in, over the course of 16 episodes, to slowly but surely notice what people’s hands were saying. In doing so, we would gain confidence that we were understanding the emotions and inner life of these dear people. Sometimes the words are obscure and veiled, but the hands don’t lie. Defeat, discomfort, resignation, sorrow….the hands have shown it all in My Mister.

Someone else said earlier that we know the code because PDnim and writernim taught it to us. In the case of the hands, the show is telling us to keep paying attention because the characters’ hands are speaking significant things, and true things.

Which, by the end of our story, leads us to this truth:

Now that Dong Hoon has seen Ji An again, his love for her comes through boldly and confidently (albeit subtly!).

Interestingly, I didn’t notice many close-ups of Yu Ra or Ki Hoon’s hands. I wonder if this is because PDnim wants us to pay attention to their words instead, since Ki Hoon is a mouthpiece for Dong Hoon and Yu Ra speaks for Ji An.

18 thoughts on “Hands: Telling the Story”

  1. Two More (the final scene): 1. LJA’s elec shock hand gestures when she finds PHD (the moment he turns back showing his face), 2. LJA’s finger movements (nervous) before their conversation started

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      1. Looks like you guys are discussing how to interpret “I will buy you dinner” on Man vs Drama. And you also mentioned “I will call you” (echoing ep3) (actually I said something similar somewhere in this GMS site).

        Anyway, pls also note that when LJA says “I will buy you dinner” she takes a step forward, and then when she says “I will call you” she takes another step forward. Such body language reads that she means it and she is advancing. (Instead of politely saying goodbye, as some Koreans may argue.)

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      2. Yes! I couldn’t remember where exactly I had seen the comment about the earlier “I’ll call you”, but it lodged in my brain. Thanks for the reminder; I thought it was a great point.

        If Ji An takes two steps forward when she invites him to dinner, that *is* a good sign. Her expression seems sincere as well.

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  2. Yep I read your post there a while back (only replied here as I don’t have a soompi acctg).
    Also appreciate your other post regarding “What events still would have happened [without the wiretapping], and what wouldn’t have?” …. Well done!

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    1. Well, just so it’s said :), we’d love to have you over at Soompi! (If you feel up for joining, of course.) You have good things to say. There are a few of us who watched MM recently and we’d love to catch your insights as well, especially as we all discover new things upon rewatching the show. I joined Soompi a few months ago just to talk about MM. This website and Soompi have been the best rabbit holes ever. 😆

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      1. Well, I only have some misc. observations (apparently/hopefully not yet discussed previously). and already posted them in this amazing site (as comments here and there). Don’t have longer piece/analysis like yours, except for a short piece (about the rebirth/funeral) that I just edited and reposted as comments under the other analysis A Metaphorical Rebirth.

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  3. Another observation about LJA’s emotion before PDH turns around (the ending scene): her heavy breathing which is not shown directly: She finally found PDH and the camera was still shooting from her back. Look at her shoulders (read deep breaths and very strong emotions/feelings).

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      1. Yes very subtle, but her feeling crystal clear when you do notice (except for the ones refusing to see it). Likewise, her two steps forward (during the handshake) also very subtle. When she speaks, pay attention to her shoulder movements and then you notice she steps forward. Probably you have missed that. This is a very well made drama (Oh no, no close up / shot of her feet. This show does not work that way.)

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  4. Hello the Sweetroad, another observation/ question regarding the hands telling the story.

    How come when LJA says farewell to grandma she repeats “we will meet again” (two index fingers coming together) sign 3 times? Grandma also does it 3 times when she tells LJA the precious fate (nidana / predestined relationship) of meeting people in life. Don’t think the sign language requires doing the movements multiple times… If not, maybe it’s about fate/nidana?… LJA does not call PDH, but she walks around Saman. And finally when she hears his voice (instead of walking away) it’s her third encounter with PDH (#1. her Saman job, #2. at the janitor’s place, #3. the cafe). If that’s the case, she’s very strong-willed.

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    1. Why Scriptwriter Park makes their encounter(s) a fate (nidana/ predestined relationship)?

      The indecisive PDH could defer his life to fate. But LJA?… Sounds odd to me. More importantly, why do they completely avoid contacts during the time jump? Do they intend to be back together?

      Friends would not avoid calling each other. It’s their deep feelings and controversial relationship stop them from doing so.

      Remember their farewell drink and farewell hug? Very emotional (although subtle and restrained), and obviously deeply in love. Yet, the circumstances do not allow them to be together (except for in the form of an affair). At the time, PDH seems to be falling back to his “life as usual” mode which would eventually make everyone suffers (he wants LJA to be around while his broken marriage remains unresolved). A dead end, right? So, LJA leaves (not forcing him on anything). KYH leaves (not taking his crap).

      But, again, why don’t they stay in contact?

      LJA tells him she’s leaving to start a new life with no history. That effectively blocks PDH from calling her.

      Yet, LJA never calls, and why?… Self-sacrifice? She is not quite ready yet? Not in a position to ask for an update especially his marriage status? (her love too pure and selfless and she never asks something like that.) Still waiting for the right timing, and will call eventually?… I don’t know. The story never tells…. Yet, obviously she is not avoiding him. When she finally hears his voice, she approaches him right away, in deep breaths so full of emotion. Her love has never changed.

      So what the hack is going on??? I don’t understand.

      … Anyway, at the end, their fated encounter. PDH happens to be talking about the situation of his son and “the kid’s mom”. That coincidence is (not only for us the audiences but also) for LJA to get an update on PDH/KYH ie the last obstacle has been removed. Finally the timing is right,… and a promise of more.

      Fate?… or lazy scriptwriting?

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    2. (Because of my own survivorship bias) I tend to assume that their story would be heading to a happy ending, so I keep looking for indications/implications that the two would be back together…. But there’s NONE,… not until the very final scene.

      (Without the coffee shop encounter, the story could have simply ended at the hug. Still da complete story, but a sad one.)

      The hard truth is, their circumstances has been so difficult that even the very brave and determined LJA, although still helping PDH selflessly, ready to give up. Not only once but many times:
      (1) The loanshark’s call to PDH about her stealing;
      (2) Her suicidal confession and her plan to have PDH fire her;
      (3) Her escape after KB’s arrest, and her farewell call;
      (4) Her departure to Busan to start a new life*

      Every time she’s facing a dead end. She simply does not know what else she can do. No options. She has to give up, although in tears and in pain… “Next life” sounds hopeless, right?

      When they separate:
      -LJA knows she needs to become a new person and see the world.
      -PDH knows he needs a new life because of all his unresolved mess (broken marriage, no saving, and matters out of his own control like his career).
      They also need a self-reflection of everything (their life, their love, etc.). Therefore, the time jump a must.

      However, at that point, they simply don’t know their future…. “Fighting!” That’s it. No promise. No plan. No nothing. Heartbreaking. Maybe they will have a future. Maybe not.

      For those who have survived an equally difficult situation, you know what I mean. At that point, all you can tell yourself is that you are dying for a future with your loved one, and you will do everything you can. However, you can’t promise anything because you really don’t know what will happen down the road. While you wish for a miracle (and mercy), you also feel hopeless. It’s a fight/struggle that you don’t know the end game until you fight it through.

      Taking a step back, I no longer dismiss their fated encounter** as a lazy scriptwriting. It’s just that hard.

      (*) She does want a rebirth in Hoogye (ie to be together with PDH, LJA says she likes Hoogye = she loves PDH). Yet, she knows she has to leave, while at heart she does not want to (refuses to move a step after the hug).
      (**) We can argue that, most of the time (and to a certain extent), fate is the consequence of a choice, just like Rebirth is a choice. Indeed, the headstrong LJA returns to seoul in a year and still wanders around Saman. The indecisive PDH gets her updates from Chairman Jang, and hangs out around her office. Perhaps their encounter would be just a matter of time; otherwise, they would simply call later on…. But my point is, at the time they separate, everything remains uncertain and they simply do not know the future, no matter how deeply in love. Maybe they will have a future. Maybe not. Time will tell.

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    3. I think LJA’s 3x “we will meet again” and grandma’s 3x “precious fate” are indeed hints foreshadowing LJA’s third encounter with PDH. Remember PDH and LJA say they will greet each other happily when bumping into each other in the future? The subject itself another hint of future encounter and I think it’s mentioned three times: #1. PDH asks for new slippers, #2. Farewell call; #3. Farewell drink

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