My day job is being a pop media critic. A lot of the time I am approached with all matter of questions about how I feel about some genre of entertainment, and the same question always arises, “What is you favorite _____?”. Movie, games, comics, etc, the question always comes up. When I answer my movie, people usually are confused or shocked.
Because it is the 2006 South Korean romantic comedy, I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Ok.
A bizarre film that is about suicide, mental health, brushing your teeth, killer cyborg rampages, and love.
Directed and written by Old Boy director, Park Chan-wook, the movie follows a young factory worker named Cha Young-goon. She is sent to a mental institution after cutting her wrist and attaching wires to it in order to “recharge”. The doctors who attend to her are informed that she believes herself to be a cyborg. She spends all her time talking to the electronic devices, licks and hold batteries instead of actually eating, and listens to her radio every night for instructions on how to be a better cyborg. Through interviews with Young-goon’s mother, it is revealed that Young-goon’s grandmother suffered from the delusion that she was a mouse. This fact and their connection is what drives Young-goon’s goal of getting revenge against the “men in white” who stole her grandmother away.
The doctors determine that she should be forced to stay for much longer than planned, and she ends up surrounded by people as bizarre as her, most importantly, schizophrenic kleptomaniac Park Il-soon. He obsessively makes bunny mask, brushes his teeth, and thinks his ability to steal goes so far as to be able to steal the abilities of those around him. He also thinks he lacks any form of sympathy (that is a major plot point as sympathy, or the lack of it, is passed off as being a major part of being a cyborg vs being human). He believes himself to be slowly shrinking away, shown in the story when the cuts away to his perception of himself, and how he continues to lose height.
Finding Young-goon fascinating, he eventually begins to care for her in terms of actual care. He tricks her into trying to eat food when the hospital begins to force feed her, and saves her from accidentally killing herself. He even carefully manipulates her desire for revenge against the men in white, whom ultimately end up being revealed as the hospital staff that took her grandma away to treat her own mental decline.
While I will leave the actual answer to if she is a cyborg for the movie to show, the entire journey is great. The main actors and supporting cast all end up showing off their characters traits so very well. Scenes where Young-goon has to interact with her fellow patients makes for both tense and funny moments. I saw this movie when I was a teenager, and while that is slowly approaching being long ago at this point, I have no shame in saying I fell in love with the character of Cha Young-goon. Won’t deny that as a young man it was tied into the characters attractive appearance and aesthetic (something about her constantly messy hair and semi manic pixie behavior). But now I after multiple re-watches and the fact I grew up, it is much more. It is the mannerisms, the conviction of her character, the growth she goes through, the scene where she asks Il-soon to take away her sympathy so she can be a proper cyborg and take her revenge.
If you do watch this movie, the questions you should ask yourself the entire time is that if she isn’t a cyborg, is she knowingly doing self destructive behavior? More plainly said, does she want to take her life? Or is she just a slowly weakening cyborg being starved from what she needs? If she isn’t, how deep does her delusion run? Should love exist with someone who is delusional? And most pressing, is sympathy a sin?
Yeah… Let’s just note that I watched and personally analyzed this film so many times that I could devote a whole essay series to it (hmm, just maybe…) and I am not trying to spoil the movie, especially the scene following when she has her sympathy stolen as it changes the films genre for a few minutes into something a bit more.
So that is my favorite film, I’m a Cyborg But That’s Ok. A absurd romantic comedy about love, suicide, mental institutions, and revenge.