Dr. Brain Review: Proceed with caution, Lee Sun Kyun’s haunting tale might hook you irrationally
If I were to sum up Kim Jee Woon’s ‘Dr. Brain’, I’d say it offers a plaguing familiar emotion with a dash of slightly more than crazy served on a platter of Sci-Fi that only adds to its eerie essence.
‘Dr. Brain’ aka Dr. Sewon Koh. It is the story of him and him only. How? The other viewers would agree that not much is dealt into apart from this one character that has his life laid out in front of him, or so he thinks while a series of unfortunate and disturbing events make their way into it. As a mentally ill scientist who has taken the matter of his own families accidents into his own hands, Sewon’s story runs just as unusual as you’d expect.
After being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at a young age, Sewon’s mother is faced with the monthly fees of 1800 USD that she must now pay in order to get her son enrolled into a program that promises help to socially inept and developing children.
What she is unaware of though, is her untimely death that stands right outside the clinic. The view of a truck killing his own mother triggers a response that no one would expect from a child; Sewon collapses on the road. A doubly sized Hippocampus and a fourth of the Amygdala, a creepy man wanting to observe the growth of Sewon’s unique brain structure and we are met with one crucial turn that will affect his life.
Now, an apparently successful scientist, Lee Sun Kyun’s Sewon struggles to obtain the public favour for his controversial attempts of delving into the human brain. He is a living conundrum of what becomes of a person that thinks and does too much which is somehow not enough. Clutched within his own shackles of the wonderful creation of a man’s brain, Sewon resorts to illegal experiments that he thinks would satiate his hunger for the truth.
The line between research and crime is blurred when Dr. Namil Hong (Lee Jae Won) assists him with a brain synch to a corpse from their morgue. Sewon misses death but a slim margin and recaps the memories of his wife, Jung Jaeyi (Lee You Young), that played over once the synch went through. The first attempt preludes the possible death of Jaeyi by rapid successions of being hit by a rock that Sewon refuses to recall to his colleague.
He remembers how she refused to send away their troublesome cat Mika who she claims to be aiding their son Doyoong, also an autistic child. And after his death from an explosion, vehemently denies his demise. A watchful gaze behind Sewon brings us to a question of if the fire that killed his son was an accident or arson by a meticulously detailed murderer.
Private Investigator Lee Kangmu enters with a flair familiar to Park Hee Soon of ‘My Name’. The side effects of Sewon’s experiments begin with ringing ears, hallucinations, recaps of his mother who promised to be by his side, her consequent death, the brain scientist who first studied his abnormal brain and more, that only turn weirder by the minute.
Choi Jiun, (Seo Ji Hye) as the Lieutenant of the ST Investigative Unit, falls short of a spectacular embodiment, unlike her performance in ‘Crash Landing on You’. However, her constant prodding definitely adds to the viewer’s own sense of investigative thinking.
Sewon’s second synch sucks us into the brain of Lim Junki where a child mentions Mika the cat and we are walked through the reel of what could possibly be Lim Junki's murder. Dr. Brain’s perseverance is constant even through the struggles to establish an obvious connection one usually feels with a show after its first episode. The curiosity however is built very solid as you are taken deep into the world of a desperate scientist.
Sewon changes over time, with a stark difference to his own habitual actions, quirks and dexterity that make him mentally unstable, portrayed rather wonderfully by the ‘Parasite’ actor. His illusions take the form of people, ghosts, zombies and more that the once Sci-Fi show now turns horror to an extent that one would swiftly move it to the latter, unsatisfied.
The first episode comes to an end and we are faced with his wife as a patient strapped to a hospital bed with tubes coming out from all directions who becomes his third synch attempt. While I had the opportunity to watch all six episodes at once, I’m sure fans would be raking their brains after each to wonder just how uncanny it gets.
Just like its titular font, the show is crooked and messed up with a sense of incomplete dominance of Sewon that it desperately tries to convey. And maybe that is intended as one views life through the eyes of ‘Dr. Brain’, the adroit or possibly even pitiful scientist.
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