I'm a Cyborg but that's OK
Okay, how do I begin to describe this film? I had no idea what to expect from Chan-wook Park's latest film was a bit of a mystery to me, despite having seen the trailer and read about the film early on in it's development.
Let me see if I can describe it easily to you, a young woman is admitted to a psychiatric ward as she has been rather unhinged since her grandmother was taken away from home. Her Grandmother was also admitted to a psychiatric hospital because she believed she was a mouse and has a fetish for eating radishes. While there the young woman meets a man who believes that he can steal people's abilities and use them as his own, and soon the pair find themselves growing closer.
Yes it does sound strange, but you must remember that this is Chan-wook Park, the man who wrote and directed the Vengeance series, and that however strange it seems the story just might hold something for you. After seeing the film I can whole heartedly attest to that, it's wonderful.
Saibogujiman kwenchana or I'm a Cyborg. But That's OK has a wonderful feel to the film from the beginning, it feels eager and childlike, carrying an innocence that is willing to accept anything that happens in the story, something which leaks into the audience too.
When the film gets going you find it is a little difficult to get into to begin with, the characters actions often seem bizarre and you feel like making judgements early on. However you have to accept that innocent quality that is portrayed in the characters and just go with it. That in itself is a message that is carried through in the film.
The story really takes off once the young woman, Cha Young-goon played by Su-jeong Lim, arrives in the hospital and begins to be introduced to the patients, and from this moment on we see the comedy in the story which had the press audience laughing out loud.
It's mainly the quirks of the many patients and the way that they are explored that provide the humour in the tale, and there is quite a bit. However for every funny moment with them there is a revealing and personal scene.
The patients initially seem mad because of their behaviour, but as the film develops and it explains their backstory you see their humanity and almost understand their resulting actions.
However at the heart of the film is the sweet and touching story of the two lead characters, Cha Young-goon and Park Il-sun played by Rain. Their moments on screen together are tenderly scripted and their performances are very emotive and easy to connect with.
They way that Park Il-sun's character tries to help everyone is wonderfully shown, and it never goes too far beyond the reality of stilted human emotion and connection. The best example of this is when he helps Cha Young-goon to eat, the way that scene is written and visualised is beautiful and shows this character trait perfectly.
The film is very well shot from the opening second, and the title sequence merges well with the film, they becomes a part of the opening explanatory scenes rather than being a separate entity. From the first few shots you feel that you're in for something special.
Despite the comedy and the tenderness of the film there is some action as well, after all the woman believes she is a Cyborg and has a deadly mission to complete. The scenes where she demonstrates her special abilities are built up to slowly. What makes these scenes particularly powerful is that she repeatedly talks about them and yet we never really believe that they are going to actually happen. When they do, it has a powerful impact.
However there's something preventing her from carrying out her task, and the film shows you the way she can overcome that obstacle well before she actually does. This raises the tension in the film, something which you wouldn't have expected in this oddly romantic tale and gives an unexpected edge to the tale.
The moments that the action does begin are comically done, and yet carry with them a disturbing and quite serious tone, something which I'm sure censors all over the world will be glad of. The effects are superbly created too and never overpower the story or detract from any human empathy you may be feeling with the female lead.
Another great tension building moment is the eating scene, which manages to build the humour at the same time. A group of people in the canteen all watch the lead as she struggles to try to eat. The expectation of each mouthful from the group is almost painful, and is continually broken by a burst of comedy only to be raised again at the next attempt. This is another great scene which shows off the filmmaking talents from scripting to directing to acting, a wonderful few scenes of the film.
My only concern about the film is the ending which seems abrupt and somewhat of a let down. There was such a build up to the final moments but there seems to be a lack of momentum or idea of really where to take the story next.
The direction it finally goes in just feels like a confirmation of where the story has already been heavily hinting at for some time, and in that way I felt as though I was short changed since the rest of the film was so strong.
There almost seems to be two endings, with the first one having played out and been much stronger. I thought that the tale could have ended before Cha Young-goon discovered her reason for being alive.
As it was, when it ended I was left with a slight bitter taste. Having been entertained and moved, and enjoyed such a great experience throughout the film, the ending left me slightly confused and unfulfilled.
Overall though the film is beautiful. The scripting, direction and acting is wonderful and very incisive, and the quirky story reveals the simplest of tales, that of love. Chan-wook Park has once again shown that he has a unique vision as well as a great talent for storytelling.