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Film / I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK

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A 2006 South Korean film by Park Chan Wook, starring Su-jeong Lim and pop sensation RAIN.

Best described as "a Romantic Comedy that takes place in a mental institution and features a love story between a girl who believes she's a cyborg and a boy who believes he can steal other people's souls."

While critically acclaimed, the film had disappointing sales and box office numbers, possibly due to how completely different it is from the director's other works.


I'm a Troper, But That's OK:

  • Animal Motifs: A lot of them:
    • Cats and mice symbolizing cruelty and victimhood.
    • The yodel scene has a giant ladybeetle that could be seen as a Call-Back to Oldboy's ant scene, highlighting the much Lighter and Softer vibe of the film.
    • Il-soon's masks and movements seem to allude to rabbits, which might be a Shout-Out to Alice in Wonderland's white rabbit.
  • Apologizes a Lot: One of the patients apologizes for damn near everything since he was a witness to a car crash and assumed he was somehow responsible for it, which got him committed since he wouldn't stop apologizing for everything he did afterwards.
  • Arm Cannon: Young-goon imagines that as a cyborg she can turn her hands into machine guns.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: When Young-goon rails on Il-soon for stealing her grandmother's dentures.
  • Berserk Button: Don't talk about mothers in front of Il-soon.
  • Bungled Suicide: The very opening scene (although it wasn't actually intentional).
  • Character Tics: Considering their mental health, it's understandable several of the characters have them (although they're mostly played for humour).
    • Young-goon talks to electric objects wearing dentures and attempts to shake hands with people (who she actually wants to shoot).
    • Il-soon wears masks based on other people's faces, hops around like a rabbit, and furiously brushes his teeth when upset.
    • One male patient walks backwards, says redundant and meaningless things, and considers everything to be his fault.
    • Eun-young dresses like Heidi, never looks away from her mirror, and practices singing.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: All of the patients. Everyone of them has their own mannerisms, like stealing other people's abilities, flying off with magic socks or being a cyborg. None of them care much for the world outside of the sanatorium, or even outside of their heads.
  • Companion Cube: Young-goon has her granny's dentures. She also has a radio, bedside lamp, and the vending machine which she regularly talks to.
  • Consummate Liar: Sul-mi, one of the patients in the institution, is a mythomaniac, coming up with disturbing backstories for other patients before Young-goon or the audience know any better.
  • Cue the Sun: The final shot is of a beautiful sunrise revealing that Young-goon and Il-soon survived the storm.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: It's implied, but never confirmed, that Young-goon and Il-soon have sex. Considering they're both cloudcuckoolanders, anything could've happened.
  • Electric Torture: The shock therapy is portrayed as this. Sul-mi actually loses her memories every time she has it.
  • Emotionless Girl: Young-goon tries to be one, since cyborgs shouldn't have emotions.
  • Fat Bastard: Gop-dan, who is the only overweight character around, and one of the most selfish, unsympathetic, and overall vainest.
  • Force Feeding: Young-goon is subject to this since she won't eat, with realistically horrible results.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Mentally unstable or not, Il-soon shows off his creativity and inventing skills, the Rice Megatron being the sum of all this. It's explained that he used to work as a technician.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Young-goon slits her wrist.
  • I'm Not Hungry: Young-goon refuses to eat, if only because she thinks she's a cyborg, cyborgs don't need food and because she thinks she'll break down if she eats. Il-soon later comes up with the Rice Megatron that he "installs" into her so that she can recharge herself by eating food.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Everyone in the scene that has the patients complaining about Park Il-sun stealing things. Also Young-Goon as she buries her grandmother's dentures after her death.
  • Intangible Theft: Il-soon thinks and has convinced all the other patients that he's able to steal various intangible things from others, such as one patient's special table tennis serve, which he blames on Il-Soon for not being able to win any games anymore. Il-Soon "returns" it to him later because it's making his right buttcheek itch constantly. Young-goon wants to use his ability to get rid of her empathy as described below.
  • Lack of Empathy: Young-goon wants to get rid of her empathy so she won't feel bad about murdering the doctors.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Park Chan Wook's other works.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Il-soon eventually becomes this for Young-goon.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "Just give up hope, and stay strong."
    • "Why would a girl like you want to die? We must carry on living through thick and thin."
  • Meet Cute: As cute as you're gonna get at a mental hospital.
  • Missing Mom: Il-soon's mother not only abandoned them when he was 15, she also took the whole family set of electric toothbrushes.
  • My Card: Il-soon gives Young-goon a very convincing one he made himself, with a lifetime warranty for the Rice Megatron he made.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Young-goon tells her mother she's a cyborg, and her mother asks her if she's feeling strange because she missed a period.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Most of the patients display this.
  • One Head Taller: Il-soon and Young-goon. This is played with during their first kiss, where they both try and solve the height difference, with Young-goon imagining she's hovering off the ground with her Rocket Boots.
  • Only Sane Man: The doctors, quite literally.
  • Parental Neglect: Young-goon's mother is too busy/ashamed to seek help for her, and Il-soon's parents ignored him so much he genuinely thought he was invisible.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Young-goon's eating disorder can largely be blamed for this: she told her mother that she thought she was a cyborg when she was younger, which she misunderstood to be something shameful, and while she is fine with it, she tells her not to let anyone else know, thinking that people hearing that her daughter has something wrong with her will negatively affect her business. As a result, Young-goon is reclutant to tell to anyone why she refuses to eat, making it difficult for the doctors to figure out what the problem is and they are ultimately forced to forcefeed her until she reveals the truth to Il-soon who comes up with a solution.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Young-goon's mother tells the doctor that her mother mostly raised Young-goon at the beginning of the movie, explaining why Young-goon is devoted to her granny.
  • Reading Lips: Il-soon is shown to be quite good at this when interpreting a distraught Young-goon. It is shown that he learned it from one of the doctors who apparently reads the lips of crying patients. It comes in handy later.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Young-goon goes on an imaginary one against the "white-coats" for incarcerating her. It may not be real but it's pretty disturbing while it lasts.
  • Rocket Boots: Young-goon imagines she has them as a cyborg.
  • Rule of Funny: See Willing Suspension of Disbelief below.
  • Shirtless Scene: It's Rain! Would be a complete waste not to let him take his shirt off at least once.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A light hearted waltz plays during Young-goon's bloody killing spree.
  • Stepford Smiler: Doctor Seul-ki may be this. It's understandable that working in a mental hospital would take its toll on her.
  • Surreal Humor: It's full to the brim with it. The most notable scenes feature a bed flying around accompanied by a giant ladybeetle, someone shrinking themselves by brushing their teeth to escape an angry girl who's convinced she's a killer machine, and a grandmother being pulled away by a giant rubber band while desperately trying to tell her granddaughter the purpose of existence.
  • Take Off Your Clothes: When Il-soon pretends to install the Rice Megatron in Young-goon's back, he asks her to do this. Subverted as he's the only one who realises how awkward the request sounds.
  • Tin-Can Telephone: Il-soon uses one to communicate with Young-goon while in solitary confinement. He then sings her a song about Yodel Land.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Played with. When Young-goon takes her top off in front of Il-soon you'd certainly expect fanservice, however instead we get to see how emaciated she's become. Il-soon is clearly distressed by this, although he still caresses her bare back for good measure.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Park Il-Sun is easily upset and retreats to this everytime something unnerving happens.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    Young-goon: Anyway, let's just take off our wet socks.
    Il-soon: More than our socks are wet...
  • Unusual Eyebrows: Young-goon's eyebrows are white for some reason.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Young-goon is a cyborg, so she convinces herself she can't feel love and has difficulty returning Il-soon's feelings, although it's obvious she reciprocates.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: Granny tells Young-goon that she is not a cyborg but a nuke bomb, and her purpose is to blow up the world. Young-goon tries to go through with it.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: The director has openly admitted that the mental institution as depicted in the film is deliberately the antithesis of what a real one is like. This was done for narrative purposes.


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