Doctor Cha follows a middle-aged housewife who decides to resume her career twenty years after she had to abandon it to take care of her largely thankless family.
Cha Jeong-Suk has been a housewife for twenty years and after her husband fails to step up and donate part of his liver for her life-saving surgery, she decides it’s time to stop living the same thankless life and resume her medical residency, much to In-Ho’s chagrin.
It’s because he’s been in a secret affair with his first love who now works as his colleague at the same hospital. Jeong-Suk crosses paths with her and suspects her, only to relieve herself of doubts many times, choosing to trust her husband who keeps trying his best to make her quit her residency.
Her health and family life becomes more and more difficult as In-Ho and Seung-Hi keep pestering her and preventing her from working and succeeding, while her mother, children, best friend, and love interest Roy Kim support her.
She eventually learns about her husband’s affair and their relationship is also revealed to all her colleagues, so she has to go along with it even if the reality of her relationship with her husband is simply bitter and painful. Meanwhile, she falls sick again and her liver’s condition worsens.
In-Ho manages to redeem himself a bit while Jeong-Suk decides what she’ll do when it comes to her romantic life. Seung-Hi and In-Ho call it quits but the latter improves his habits and character, trying to be a better man than he was before, as other family members and friends also try their best to live happy lives.
Uhm Jung-Hwa is splendid as the titular character, delivering a wide range of emotions and strengths of the selfless housewife and the aspirational and empathetic medical resident.
Kim Byung-Chul succeeds in his portrayal of the frustrating and cowardly Seo In-Ho and makes the character truly impossible to root for, while also being capable of delivering brilliant physical performances during the comedic moments.
Myung Se-Bin plays her part really well and makes Seung-Hi an antagonistic character at the start that a lot of people can also sympathize. There’s an undeniable vulnerability behind the facade of strength and poise in Seung-Hi, which the actor manages to nail perfectly.
Min Woo-hyuk plays Roy Kim, and while he’s easy on the eyes, there can be many instances where one might wonder if eye candy is the only role he has to play here.
Doctor Cha isn’t overflowing with laugh-out-loud moments but its slapstick and goofy humor manages to work most of the time, and the actors do a great job delivering the physicality or expressions essential for the comedy to work.
The drama is intense and heavy at times and yet the affair is also heartwarming as the titular character tries her best to thrive in a world and environment rigged against her by her own loved ones.
For the aforementioned reasons, the show also proves to be rather inspirational and empowering, especially for women who are in shoes similar to those of Jeong-Suk.
There are the usual cliché and trappings of the standard rom-com story and while they’re tolerable, the way the show wraps up one of its central love triangles is really mature and rooted in reality.
It feels after watching the ending that the show misses out on providing a really cathartic conclusion for Jeong-Suk, as In-Ho and his mother don’t seem to have suffered nearly as cruel or drastic a difficulty as they subjected Jeong-Suk to.
Jeong-Suk goes on a shopping spree early on when she recovers after her first surgery, but that’s the only instance where she tries to indulge in herself. After that, she has to be the one to act responsibly while In-Ho and especially his mother splurge out on whatever they can.
Jeong-Suk does make empowering choices but it’s almost like she’s not allowed to have a vibrant second go at life. Even after completing her residency and divorcing In-Ho, she’s devoting herself to caring for others, like she’s been doing all her married life.
The lack better celebration of independence and freedom from a cruel and restricting domestic life is biting, and it makes no sense that she must feel any guilt for being a bit “materialistic” as she states at the finale to her mother.
Roy Kim’s reaction to the rejection is a downer and there’s little that expands upon his reaction, and later he’s just given some screentime with his faceless new partner in a dialogue-less sequence, all of which feels a bit odd.
Jeong-Suk’s request to him that he finds someone else who’s younger and more appropriate feels a bit like a downer too, as it repeats the selfless behavior she’s been used to throughout her marriage.
Jeon So-Ra and Jung-Min’s relationship seems to be at the same point more or less after the three-year time leap as it was before. Meanwhile, Kwak Ae-Sim’s Professor Park storyline amounts to little ultimately and could have easily been done away with.
Doctor Cha is a largely heartwarming and inspiring tale of a housewife who decides it’s time to live life on her terms and be done away with the relentless, thankless, and sacrificial life she has lived all these years.
Despite its shortcomings, it’s a drama that nails several different beats and genres, making for a sweet little binge.
Director: Kim Dae-jin, Kim Jung Wook
Date Created: 2023-04-15 20:30
Also Read: The love triangle in Doctor Cha explained