M. Night Shyamalan’s recent psychological horror thriller splits the audience into two camps: Those who lament that he hasn't made a good film since The Sixth Sense and those who rejoice that he has finally redeemed himself from The Last Airbender. Despite this division, both fans and critics agree that the best thing about the movie is the phenomenal performance of its lead actor, James McAvoy. #Split, however, met a lot of criticisms from audience and experts for causing a negative impact on people who are suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder in real life.
Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder, is said to be a person’s way of escaping reality by separating identities of themselves to cope with unbearable traumatic experiences.
'Kill Me, Heal Me'
The 2015 South Korean drama Kill Me, Heal Me falls under a completely different genre. While Split has a dark and mysterious atmosphere, Kill Me, Heal Me gives the D.I.D. theme a lighter and funnier approach. Instead of vilifying mental illness, the series sensitively depicts how an abusive family can affect a fragile child’s mind and how, as a grown adult, he tries to deal with the struggles that come along as he confronts his alters to overcome his condition.
Instead of demonizing the strongest of his personalities (Shin Se-gi), the show reveals how his seemingly "evil" self is just another vulnerable part of him who’s hurt yet determined to fight and protect. Just like how M. Night Shyamalan is famous (or infamous) for his surprising twists, Kill Me, Heal Me also has a shocking reveal that catches even the ardent #Korean drama viewers off guard.
Starring Ji Sung, Hwang Jung-eum, and Park Seo-joon, and created by the writer of the highly rated historical romance The Moon that Embraces the Sun; Kill Me, Heal Me is the story of a third generation chaebol (conglomerate heir) who attempts to eradicate his multiple personalities so he can live a more normal life.
He seeks professional help, which leads him to a fateful encounter with a psychiatrist named Oh Ri-jin. She decides to be the mediator between Cha Do-hyun and his alters. Eventually, Cha Do-hyun develops interest in his quirky doctor but more complications arise as his romantic feelings for Oh Ri-jin deepen. Turns out their lives have always been entangled ever since they were young.
Though the show starts off cheesy and over the top, it is able to find its comic and dramatic balance with its smooth tonal shifts between its off-kilter scenes. The makjang elements, such as corporate politics and birth secrets, are touched upon without being overbearing. And of course, the sensitive issue of a main character experiencing D.I.D. would have been offensive at the hands of a less capable actor. The show wouldn’t have elicited that much sentimentality if it weren’t for Ji Sung's careful and emotional performance worthy of a year-end Daesang (Grand Prize).
Born Kwak Tae-geun, Ji Sung is a 40-year-old award-winning actor and Hallyu superstar. He is famous for his roles in Save The Last Dance for Me, My PS Partner, Secret Love, and is currently starring in the ongoing legal thriller Defendant.
Ji Sung's seven personalities in Kill Me, Heal Me don’t even come close to the quantity of James McAvoy’s 23 personalities in Split, but the former comes on par acting-wise. (OK, that's reaching. We all know McAvoy's in a whole different league.) We can't deny that Ji Sung's acting ability is exactly what carried the drama and made it a memorable one.
Ji Sung's Seven Personalities
#JamesMcAvoy traverses age and gender in Split as he plays various identities, such as Dennis the neat freak, the refined, accented lady Patricia, and the adorable 9-year-old Kanye West fan, Hedwig. In Kill Me, Heal Me, Ji Sung also shows his wide acting range as he remarkably brings these personalities to life:
- The main character, Cha Do-hyun, is the altruistic heir who is desperate to fix his memory lapse and gain control of his life.
- Shin Se-gi, the flamboyant badass who comes out in intense situations that Cha Do-hyun’s meek personality can’t handle.
- Perry Park, the bubbly satoori-speaking ahjussi who loves dancing, drinking and making improvised bombs.
- Ahn Yo-seob, the melancholic teenager who tries to kill himself every single chance he gets.
- Ahn Yo-na, Yo Seob’s bratty twin sister who loves fangirling over handsome oppas.
- Nana, the 7-year-old girl who owns a teddy bear.
- And Mr. X, who briefly appears at the latter half of the show as Cha Do-hyun gets closer to accepting harsh truths in his life and carefully reconcile with his alters.
Kill Me, Heal Me may seem like a typical romcom, with a lead character who comes off as just another caricature of someone with mental illness, but it is not. The show is totally hilarious, especially when alters Perry Park, Ahn Yo-na and Shin Se-gi take over and show off their charms. Despite its overall comedic approach and unrealistic medical scenarios, Ji Sung's convincing portrayal — in combination with his co-star's complementing performances — prove that D.I.D. is no laughing matter. Even the romantic relationship of the lead pair is not just something that blooms from the childhood sweethearts’ trope that is typical in Kdramaland. It comes from the same psychological wounds that they try to cure together through love and mutual trust.
With endearing characters and solid writing of a mystery-filled plot, Kill Me, Heal Me successfully conveys a deep heartwarming message about how the difficult path to healing is a journey worth taking. And one doesn't need to be a D.I.D. patient to be able to relate to it.
"Everyone has several people living inside them. There’s the me who wants to die and the me who wants to live. I live every day fighting with the me who wants to give up and the me who wants to at least grab my chances."
— Oh Ri-jin
Have you seen Kill Me, Heal Me? Who is your favorite among Ji Sung's seven personalities?