Park Chan-wook (mostly) trades in the vengeance for offbeat romance in "I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK," a love story set in the most adorable mental institution in all of Korea. Lim Su-jeong plays Young-goon, who’s committed following a possible suicide attempt after she’s convinced herself that she’s actually a cyborg and therefore do not need to eat. Pop star Rain is Il-sun, who suffers from the delusion that he’s
disappearing and that he also has the ability to steal aspects of people’s personalities. It’s meant to be fanciful, but Park both engages the fact that little sympathy or understanding is given to those suffering from mental illness in many parts of Asia — Young-goon’s mother doesn’t understand why her daughter can’t just act normal enough to not disturb the customers at their family-owned restaurant — while displaying no particular understanding of mental illness himself. The craziness of everyone in the asylum has a direct cause, whether it be parental abandonment, societal pressure or just a particularly traumatic event (however you choose to define that — in one case, it’s failing an audition for the Edelweiss Boys and Girls Choir, which would be a dire blow to us as well).
Park is a prodigious pop filmmaker, and while "I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK" doesn’t zip along like his earlier work, it offers a snappy, sun-soaked view of the shelter from a unkind world that group delusions have provided the institution’s residents. The film would be slight even without the failings mentioned above, but Lim, wafer thin and capable of producing some decidedly uncutesy rictus expressions, does manage to find flashes of genuine sadness in her character’s suffering. Park, meanwhile, having gotten his chirpy jollies out, will next move on to vampire movie "Evil Live."
"I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay" will screen at the IFC Center June 24 at 6:20pm and June 30 at 8:15pm. It has no US distribution.