I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK gets some points for not wrapping things up with a neat little bow, but they do little to offset the film’s more significant issues. Cyborg’s got a lead performance problem and a stakes problem, something the film tries to avoid acknowledging, which ends up creating an infinite loop.
Im Soo-jung is the titular Cyborg. She’s not really a cyborg; she’s just got schizophrenia, inherited from her grandmother. The film opens with Im at work—a radio factory—where she cuts herself open to put in wires, which mom Lee Yong-nyeo sees as a suicide attempt, not a wireless communications upgrade, and has Im committed. The opening titles cut between the factory scene (which, in hindsight, is probably just Im’s imagination) and Lee explaining the family history to doctor Choi Hee-jin.
For the first act, Cyborg pretends doctor Choi might be important. She is not. She spends a large portion of the film “dead,” which makes no difference to the plot whatsoever. The first act also pretends the other patients in the mental hospital are important. They’ve all got quirks, which the film first uses to introduce them to Im, but soon become leading man Rain’s introduction too. He’s the only unattached male for Im’s new girl in the ward—there’s a love triangle elsewhere, but it’s unimportant—so, of course, they’ve got to pair off. Let’s not get into whether or not Im’s capable of consenting to the physical relationship Rain wants. If he’s not a nice boy, Cyborg gets a whole other (and entirely valid per onscreen events) bent.
Rain’s guy thinks his mom ran off because of him, and no one can convince him otherwise. While Cyborg’s at its most accessible in the first act with the other patients, it’s at its best when Rain is learning how to care for Im. Im only did the radio installation in her arm to get hospitalized so she can track down the white suits who took her grandmother away. Because she’s a cyborg, and she’s going to kill them.
The film’s got a few imaginary sequences with Im going full T-800 on the hospital staff, which is where director Park really flexes. But, unfortunately, they have no bearing on the film because Im doesn’t have any character development, so they’re just ephemeral tangents. They don’t even set the mood for the third act, which is a full romantic drama, as Rain realizes he’s the only boy for Im and feels the weight of responsibility.
If Rain had an actual backstory, it might be a good character arc. Instead, it’s the best Cyborg can offer.
And then there’s Im.
She gives an accomplished quirky performance in the lead. Except there’s nothing else to it. She thinks she’s a cyborg and is trying to figure out how it’s okay. The film’s got a very epical arc involving Im needing to eat; only cyborgs don’t eat. The script’s also got some obvious timeline problems. But then it’s also got Im either fantasizing about her adventures with Rain or Rain fantasizing about his adventures with Im. I think the ultra-violence and body horror is supposed to distract from those details, but… again, they’re just red herrings.
Good special effects and good music (Jo Yeong-wook). Park’s direction is solid, if occasionally tedious. He and co-writer Chung Seo-kyung drag Cyborg out in all the wrong ways. Five minutes of backstory for Rain would’ve made a big difference.
Still, Rain’s a solid lead, Im’s sympathetic, and the film’s usually charming. Monotonous but charming. Cyborg’s got its ups and downs, but it’s OK.
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