The film follows the journey of Young-goon, who's convinced that she is a cyborg. Now mental illnesses seem to run on her family as several years prior; her grandmother was sent to a mental house for believing she was a mouse. Young-goon has held a grudge against the `white coats' (doctors and nurses) for her grandma's misfortune, so when she is sent to a mental home herself, she plans to kill them all. However; as a cyborg, she doesn't know her purpose in life. A vending machine has its purpose of serving people, but she doesn't know as she didn't come with an instruction manual. So she tries to discover her purpose for existence in the meantime. In the real world though; because Young-soon believes food would disrupt her cybernetic system, she has stopped eating, leading her physical state to deteriorate. Despite the doctor's attempts to force feed her, it's the efforts of Il-Sun, a fellow patient in the mental home, and the affections that they have for each other that help Young-Soon to live and discover her true purpose in life.
To play such wacky, mentally challenged characters; you'll have to be a good enough actor to carry the part, to convince the audience your mind doesn't operate the same way others do - otherwise you just come across as annoying. Luckily Im Su-jeong and Rain perform their characters beautifully! Im Su-jeong plays the main female role, I love the little touches that she gives to her character that convinces everyone that she's a cyborg; such as licking batteries, and talking to vending machines and light bulbs with big glazed eyes. Rain (also known as Jeong Ji-Hoon) portrays her love interest - Il-Sun, a man suffering with anti-social behaviour and kleptomania. Il-Sun likes to steal anything from various useless items to people's souls; Rain adds various quirks to the character such as jumping around, acting like a bunny rabbit - completely random but it somehow works and keeps the audience on its toes, wondering what the hell he's going to do next.
The actors also handle the romantic side of the film very sweetly and gently, there is a kissing scene (although not at the end of the film with inspiring music if that's what you're thinking) but the way the story unfolds and how Il-Sun tries to keep his love alive whilst playing to her cyborg fantasy is wonderfully carried. One of my favourite lines from the film is where Il-Sun tries to break into a room where Young-soon is being held captive to deliver the message that "the vending machine says hello". It's simple, gentle yet effective lines like these that add the sweetness to the romance without giving you cavities.
On top of the star crossed lovers, we're also given a delightful cast of side characters. From a sample of crazy patients of the ward we're given a large woman who thinks she can fly if she wears a special pair of socks, and a male who thinks anything that goes wrong is his fault - so he apologises continuously for everything....and he likes to walk backwards everywhere. Even the other patients who don't talk get a moment in the spot light, like there's one guy who rolly pollys across the hospital floor.
This film does a great job of painting scenes with bright colours and comical scripts whilst having a dark underlying theme throughout the scene.
There's a scene near the beginning where Young-soon tries to insert wires into an open wound she made and plugs them into a socket. If it weren't for the purposely bright colours through the film, the way the actress flails about after being electrocuted and the voice over of her mother's amusing side of the story - this scene could be considered very disturbing. But the director, Park Chan-wook, manages to weave enough of `surreal' element to put that serious thought in your head for a second, then immediately washes it down with good old fashion comedy!
Often, the scene will switch from reality to what Young-goon perceives it as; one minute small rifles will appear from Young-soon's finger tips and a roll of bullets from her mouth, one mean look at the `white coats' and you have a blood bath of a scene (added with the Asian films trade mark of irony with uplifting, classical music playing in the background!) Then a few seconds later it'll switch to what's actually happening - Young-soon simply holding her hands out as she eventually collapses from exhaustion (with the doctors looking very confused). Again, it shows how deeply troubled this girl is, but how can you not enjoy all the violence?
Normally special effects don't fall within my radar, as far as I'm concern you've seen one explosion - you've seen them all. But I couldn't help but love the little effects they added to this film to make the patient's illusion all the more real. In one instance; Young-soon literally hovers for some parts of the film (obviously to represent what she thinks she's doing), you get see the heat of the jet packs coming from her feet. This plus many more quirky extras really bring the cyborg persona to life. For Ill-Sun (who's a kleptomaniac that fears of disappearing) during scenes where he's more vulnerable, his form smoothly shrinks to represent how small he feels compare to others and magnifies his fear. There's plenty more to praise here but I'll leave that for you to admire when watching.
As mentioned before; humour in Asian films tend to be very odd, often leaving its audience with a big question mark over their heads. Although there's still a fair amount of `randomness' in this film, there's still plenty of scenes that I found genuinely funny that goes beyond hit and miss, and I found myself quoting some of the lines to my mum after the film - a sign of a good comedy. Such memorable scenes include when the ward's patients accuse Il-Sun of stealing pyjama elastic bands...and Thursdays...(apparently). Plus the beginning where Young-soon's mum fails to notice that her daughter had a problem until she tries to electrocute herself! There are a couple of recurring jokes; one being a character trying to talk whilst sobbing and having the nearest person trying to translate, but none are over done enough to lose the humorous flare.
The only problems I had with the movie is the ending, it's pretty open and doesn't really conclude anything in an obvious way. Being an Asian film fan, I'm used to it as endings to Asian films tend to not be fully conclusive as English films. But being a romantic comedy, most fans of the genre would probably expect the couple to have a dramatic scene towards the end, followed by a passionate kiss and heartfelt music. Let me save you time, if you were expecting that kind of ending, look somewhere else for it.
I walked into this film nothing absolutely nothing about it, I walked away feeling very happy that I did! It's wonderful when you expect nothing from a piece of media yet end up surprising yourself in the best way possible. I'm not a huge romantic comedy fan, I'm not one for sappy love scenes or the slapstick comedy that tends to walks hand-in-hand with it, so this films ticked all the right boxes for me. If you're bored of seeing the same themes from the Eastern cinema and hideous American remakes, or just looking for something different, make sure to pick this up!