A belated discovery of an underrated drama, it was caught between In A Good Way (我的自由年代) and The Pursuit of Happiness (愛情的生存之道) during the heated Friday dramas competition so most people overlook this, including me. I did have plans to catch up with this someday and fortunately, I was in the mood to marathon it at one go even though real life has been eating me up lately. I know I have so many things to catch up, especially reviews for In A Good Way, It’s still a sweet drama despite that I’m not as obsessed about it as I was in the beginning and I am really busy, hence the delays. After much contemplation, I decided to review this series first as I just finished watching and it’s still fresh in my mind.
Kiss Me, Mom! is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel by Giddens Ko (九把刀) with the same title. Giddens Ko is the author of the mega hit Taiwanese movie You are the apple of my eye (那些年，我們一起追的女孩). It follows the real-life story of Giddens Ko and his family when his mom was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (blood cancer) so you have to prepare a box of tissue and somewhere you can be alone while watching this drama, you might not want others to see you bawling like me. Alan Ko (柯有倫) is playing as the second son of the Ko’s family, the protagonist, which is Giddens Ko himself or nicknamed (Ah-Sheng).
Just a quick trivia, You’re the apple of my eye follows the story of Giddens during his high-school days, while Kiss Me, Mom! follows the story of Giddens when he’s a grown-up and an established novelist. I also think that Alan Ko is a better choice to play Giddens Ko than Kai Ko (柯震東) because Kai is too handsome to be Giddens but Alan gives off similar vibe as Giddens, LOL! I also think Giddens may have purposely chosen actors who shares his surname to play as him, Alan Ko and Kai Ko, don’t tell me it’s just a coincidence!
(柯 is pronounced as Ke but when it’s translated to English surname, it becomes Ko)
The Ke’s family is a very ordinary family, we have the grandmother who has mild-dementia, the slightly stern dad (Liao Jun, the same daddy in In A Good Way, he’s definitely the best daddy and can be considered as Taiwan’s nation daddy), the gentle and caring mom (Pan Li Li), the capable yet uptight eldest son Ke Jing-Shan (Da Shan), the hot-blooded second son Ke Jing-Sheng (Ah-Sheng) and the sweet youngest son Ke Jing-Yun (Ah-Yun).
The brothers have a tight relationship, they all truly care for their sick mother and I think it was the family parts of the story that had me bawling the most. It’s very painful to watch someone you care, someone who loves you so much, especially your mom fallen ill but on the up-side, this illness not only tightens the knit between the brothers, it also forces them to grow-up to become mature gentlemen. When you’re about to lose someone you love, you’ll only discover how much you love that person and things that didn’t matter much to you in the past becomes clear all of a sudden and that’s what the brothers are feeling.
Da Shan (Danny Liang)
The eldest brother is a researcher of medicines and is an uptight man that is kind and caring towards his family. He has a long-time girlfriend, Ya Ya ( played by Yang Qing) who have asked him to break up with her for at least more than 60 times, she is a girl who likes to ask for a break up for trivial things when she feels neglected by the busy boyfriend but she cares a lot for Da Shan which is why she never really mean it when she says let’s break up. Da Shan might seem a bit weak, nerdy and a boring guy who only knows about studying but he can be very reliable and manly at important times, especially when it’s about his family.
Ah-Sheng (Alan Ko)
The second son of the Ke’s family, a hot-blooded freelanced writer who likes to dream and can be immature at times. He has a stable long-time girlfriend, Tian Xin Mei (nicknamed Tian Tian Quan, played by Kimi Hsia) who he dated for over 7 years. However, they are in the verge of breaking up due to circumstances but still stay in contact because Tian Tian Quan has a close relationship with his mom. Out of 3 brothers, Ah-Sheng is the one who grow up the most because of his mom’s illness, he becomes more considerate and less hot-tempered than before.
Ah-Yun (Evan Yo)
Ah-Yun, the youngest son of Ko’s family is very sweet, innocent and kind. He’s a college student and is in the cheerleading team due to some unexpected circumstances. He have a crush on his schoolmate, Xuan-Xuan who treats him as her best “girl” friend as she mistakes him as a gay. Because of his mom’s illness, he became independent and no longer a young boy anymore.
Tian Tian Quan (Kimi Hsia)
The earnest, hardworking and sweet girlfriend of Ah-Sheng. Over the 7 years of their relationship, she had to travel back-and-forth from Taipei to Zhanghua just to meet Ah-Sheng on weekends and even though it’s tiring for her at times, she’s happy to be with Ah-Sheng. However, her life starts to crumble as her parents ran away and left her with a huge amount of debt. Because of this, she decided to break up with Ah-Sheng as she don’t think Ah-Sheng is mature or capable enough to take the burden and she’s afraid that the heavy burden will become the source of conflicts in their relationship in the future. She would rather end their relationship earlier, when they still love each other and hide her debt from Ah-Sheng to not drag him down.
Ya Ya (Yang Qing)
Long time girlfriend of Da Shan and Tian Tian Quan’s bestfriend. She can be sassy at times when she felt neglected by Da Shan but she deeply loves Da Shan and is a kind woman that take cares of his family like her own. Even though she’s not yet married to Da Shan, she helps the Ke’s family a lot when Da Shan’s mom is sick. She also acts like a dating-consultant to Tian Tian Quan whenever she’s facing relationship problems.
Xuan Xuan (Beatrice Fang)
Xuan Xuan is Ah-Yun’s schoolmate and partner in the cheerleading team, she’s very energetic and bubbly. She dreams to become a flyer of the cheerleading team and Ah-Yun wants to grant her wish by becoming her base. She misunderstood Ah-Yun as a homosexual and treats him as her best friend. They have a very good relationship as Xuan Xuan is able to talk about everything in front of Ah-Yun.
Brief recap & Thoughts
Kiss Me, Mom! portrays the lives and hardships of the Ke’s family and I really like the strong slice-of-life vibe it gives. The main 3 lovelines are unique to its own and I enjoy three lovelines for different reasons. The eldest son, Da-Shan and his girlfriend, Ya Ya is the bickering couple with Ya Ya acting as the sassy girlfriend and Da Shan as the slow yet sincere boyfriend, he can be really dumb about dating at times. The second son, Ah-Sheng and his girlfriend, Tian Tian Quan’s relationship may be the most realistic couple out of the three as even though they truly love each other, there are other realistic factors that hinders their relationship. The youngest son, Ah-Yun is having a huge crush on his partner in cheerleading team, Xuan Xuan, their relationship is very sweet and innocent, just like first love.
Ya Ya can be quite willful at times, especially when she’s getting angry over trivial things but I guess many girls in real life are like her, making a fuss in front of their boyfriend to get more attention. Da Shan can be frustratingly dumb at times when it’s about dating but that part of him is what made Ya Ya love him the most because he’s always sincere and earnest. I do enjoy some of their bickerings because they make an amusing couple, haha!
Honestly, I was a bit irritated by Ya Ya at first because she seems like the princess type of girlfriend which makes her quite unlikeable. But slowly, I warmed up to her character and really appreciate what she did for Da Shan, she really gives him her full support when he’s at his lowest point because of his mom’s illness. She’s so kind and caring towards his mom and often comes to his house to take care of the household chores to ease the burden of his mom even though she’s not yet married to him, so sweet!
I really think that Ah-Sheng and Tian Tian Quan love each other a lot but sometimes, love can’t overcome everything. Because of her debt, Tian Tian Quan is forced to grow up and really think over things seriously, she can’t company Ah-Sheng to daydream anymore as there’s so many problems that she have to face. Ah-Sheng may be a loving boyfriend but that is not enough to overcome the growing gap of differences. After their breakup, it made him think a lot about their past and he realized that Tian Tian Quan has been very caring, patient and compromising to him even though he can be childish at times.
Their breakup was bittersweet but I think it was inevitable because Ah-Sheng is not yet ready to carry the burden, he’s not mature enough to handle the pressure and he also have to take care of his own problems, his mom’s illness. I actually agree with Tian Tian Quan’s decision to break off their relationship because rather than letting the problems to slowly eat up the remaining feelings that they have, it will be better to break things off earlier when they still love each other. The breakup and mom’s illness only made the hot-headed Ah-Sheng to become more mature so like what he said, “The price of growing up is to learn how to slowly let the people that I love to leave one by one.”.
On a side note, I think that Tian Tian Quan matches more with her new pursuer, the art teacher and colleague of hers, Teacher Wang (Kou Jia Rui) because he’s really the example of a perfect 2nd male lead. He’s SO warm, gentle and mature, he’s exactly the type of boyfriend that can take care of her well when she’s at the lowest point. Kimi Hsia have great chemistry with both Alan Ko and Kou Jia Rui, that made me feel conflicted about her relationship with Ah-Sheng. Even though Ah-Sheng is very sweet and really loves her a lot, I don’t think their relationship will work with so many problems meddling in. I know that Ah-Sheng is the protagonist and I should root for him but I just can’t help myself rooting for the mature Teacher Wang.
Ah-Yun is SO cute like a little boy and their relationship is just too sweet, they’re adorable together just like puppies. I enjoyed their love story more than I expected. Ah-Yun likes Xuan Xuan so much that he’s even willing to make her unborn baby his child and he’s really the sweetest, kindest guy that is willing to do anything to make her happy. Xuan Xuan is very innocent and gullible and that’s because she acts like her age. On the other hand, Ah-Yun is much more mature for his age. I would enjoy their story even more if Xuan Xuan sacrifice some things for Ah-Yun as he’ve done so much for her that it feels that their love is very one-sided. Anyways, I really think Ah-Yun is too precious that I want to have a friend like him.
Even though the lovelines are pretty enjoyable, it’s the family bonding that affects me the most. The Ke’s family bond is even stronger than before because of mom’s cancer. Because of the illness, the Ke’s family members show their unexpected sides. The dad who Ah-Sheng used to think as a male chauvinist is actually loving his wife in his own way, he truly loves his long-time companion who took great care of his mom, his sons and the house.
I was bawling with him when he breaks down in tears in his own radio program (he’s a radio DJ), a man who seldom express himself is suddenly crying because he felt so helpless. In an Asian family, father is a strong figure and the head of family that should always be strong at all times so when he breaks down like that, I really felt that his strong facade was crumbling down into pieces and he’s just an ordinary man who is about to lose his precious wife. He even knelt down in front of the doctor to request for help. That really got me and every single scenes of him and his wife just made me tears up easily. Slow clap to Liao Jun, he’s really the scene stealer of every dramas where he usually plays as a daddy, best daddy ever!
Da Shan who Ah-Sheng used to think as a boring nerd who only knows how to study is very reliable during important times. He is very firm and determined when he’s defending his mom from disturbing people and visitors in the hospital room, he even push out the patient’s bed in order to protest to the hospital admins when the other patients are being too noisy, it earned the respect of his younger brothers. It was really unexpected to see this side of him as he’s usually quite meek in front of Ya Ya and he’s not the type to fight for anything. Because of the illness, he takes up the head of the family role and become a dependable son of the Ke’s family.
Ah-Sheng also becomes less hot-headed and decides to write at least one book every month to support the hospital fees. Ah-Yun is no longer a young boy as he now understands how to think over things in a more mature manner and always try his best to help the family and ease the burden of his brothers. Even the grandma who always need mom to take care of her starts to do household chores even though it may not have the best outcome.
Everyone in the Ke’s family becomes closer because of this tribulation, especially the brothers. In times of needs, they are there to support each other and to liven up the spirits of their family, to make their mother happy during hard times. They can’t share the physical pain that their mother is experiencing because of the medical treatments but they are her precious sons that are always there for her so that she won’t feel lonely.
I also have to comment on Pan Li Li’s stellar performance, she makes me cry so much and it was reported that she really shaved her hair in order to sacrifice for this drama, someone please give her this year’s best actress award! She plays mom with so much warmth and gentleness. Even though she’s in a lot of pain and in doubts about her future, she always try her best to look fine and happy in front of her family members as she doesn’t want them to be worried for her.
Besides Liao Jun, Pan Li Li has the best acting out of the cast. Not that the young guns are bad in their acting but because mom and dad are so outstanding in every single scene that they stand out from the crowd of young actors and actresses. Overall, everyone did well and I really enjoyed the heartwarming story with its realistic touch. Some may find it to be slightly slow-paced but 15 episodes is the perfect length for this drama. I actually wish that they explored more on Tian Tian Quan’s story with Teacher Wang and Ah-Sheng as that part felt a bit rushed towards the end. It’s not a pitch-perfect drama but I truly appreciate that it not only shows the growth of these characters but it also taught me the meaning of a true family.
It also shows that Giddens Ko has his own way in touching people’s heart through his stories as I can feel strong attachment and sees some part of myself in his stories. This show left me a decent impression on TVBS channel self-produced Taiwanese drama so I’m looking forward for their next original drama Rock ‘n’ Road (A咖的路), set to premiere on 16th March with Kimi Hsia and Yang Qing as the leads.