Monday, July 13, 2020

Drama Stage 2020: My Uncle Is Audrey Hepburn

This was probably the most optimistic and uplifting episode so far. And it dealt with heavy (like gambling addiction) and "controversial" topics.
I purposefully used the quotations mark here, because - as this episode shows - the transgender people's issue is not even an issue if everyone else treats people as people. Simple as that.

Junho is a 17-year old boy, angry and desperate. His anger stems from his desperation, and his desperation is anchored within his pathological father who is addicted to gambling. His addiction drowns the two of them in an enormous debt, and Junho resorts to getting beaten up so that he can extort some compensation money.

The father than decides to drop the boy onto some place and try to work this debt alone, because their tiny house is also used as collateral and most likely lost. In the later scene we see that, indeed, there is already someone else living there. And the possibilities to dump the boy are limited, because Seong-il exhausted every avenue (including the institutions) save for one that is his last resort.

And so they all three meet and then Junho learns why he never heard he had another family member - because his "uncle", as he was told, comes into the café as a bold and gorgeous woman. And her appearance is momentarily met with Seong-il's disdain, stating that his "little brother" should grow up and stop the fun. Junho is also taken aback, so when his father excuses himself as soon as possible to "go to the restroom", Audrey states that the boy's been abandoned and his father is not coming back. Reluctantly, Junho follows her, stating that he will stay only for one night.

There is a wonderful scene when Audrey, coming from her bar at 5 am, stumbles into Junho trying to sneak out. He tries to excuse his leaving as the necessity - he still attends the school in Seoul, while they live in Suwon. Audrey doesn't comment about his bag, but gives him money and ask to bring her melons after he's back. She is deeply convinced he will be back and there was one moment that a flicker of wanting to be back was visible in Junho's eyes.

And having absolutely nowhere to go, he is back. With melons. And I think this moment was the starting point that his hostility towards Audrey (and everyone around her, like Jangmi, another transgender woman and Nabi) starts to dissolve and Junho starts feeling at ease - for the first time in his short but hard life. He shows how fair he ultimately is - he also gives back the change that was left from buying melons and riding from Seoul to Suwon, but Audrey says she doesn't need it and he should buy himself an umbrella. Then she gives him a job at her bar. He's not allowed in the hall, but one day he's invited when the bar closes for a day because of the Audrey's low mood. Then Junho hears how she was beaten up by his own father and thrown away at the age 17 because of who she felt she was.

After some time Junho tries again to contact his father by sending him the pic he took at Audrey's bar - stating that he's working and living without troubles. Little did he know that the phone was actually taken by gangsters when his father was gambling again. So they try to intimidate Audrey by demanding she'll pay Seong-il's debts, otherwise they will tell the police she's making a minor work. The brawl that ensues cements, in my opinion, a bond between Audrey and Junho.

It is exactly because of that bond Junho leaves a note on a picture - the only picture Audrey has from high school. It's a graduation picture with Seong-il standing half a meter away from a very sad "little brother". That's why this picture was folded so Seong-il was removed. Junho goes one step further - he completely cuts his father out from the picture and writes a note on the back, calling Audrey an aunt and asking to cut his father and himself completely, so she could be spared the further pain.

And then the old demons come back and Junho is accused of beating up a classmate (who earlier was provoked to beat him up for compensation) so they end up at the police station. Junho's father, deep into the gaming lair, is unavailable, so Audrey comes to pick him up and seeing her in men's clothes breaks something inside Junho - he sees how unnatural it is, how timid, awkward and uncomfortable Audrey is. After that we see him being completely at ease with Nabi doing yoga, cheerful Jangmi being ecstatic about her nuptials, or Audrey just watching tv or reading.

The whole episode ended with Junho and Audrey smiling at the hospital, Junho being at ease and happy probably for the first time in his life. And as much as I am happy for Junho forging a bond with Audrey, I am skeptical whether his father can overcome his gambling addiction as it is a very hard one to beat (from what I read). Jangmi trying the wedding dress and seeing the soon-to-be groom looking at her lovingly was the highlight and a very much needed balance to the scenes that both preceded and went after it. It was just lovely.
The audience witnesses, along Junho, how transgender people are treated - the mothers covering their children's eyes, the apartment managers asking to dress less "promiscuous", the family members cutting ties and not willing to try and understand, the mocking, the gaze of everyone in the clothes store (where Jangmi very bluntly explains why she can't dress less flashy to Junho).
Let's hope more of the people are like Junho - who can just accept and love everyone.

  • Choi Seung-Yoon - Audrey
  • Kim Woo-Seok - Oh Joon-Ho
  • Hwang Seung-Un - Nabi
  • Kim Dae-Gon - Jangmi
  • Kim Kang-Min
  • Jang Kyug-Su
  • Oh Kyu-Taek - police station waiting area
(from: Asianwiki and Hancinema - also some of the pictures)