Writer and director Jee-woon Kim has created some memorable movies, from the delight of 2005’s A Bittersweet Life, to the surreal of 2008’s The Good, The Bad And The Weird.
Now, he’s here with his latest offering, a six part TV series on Apple TV+ starring Sun-kyun Lee (“Parasite”, “2036 Apocalypse Earth”)as the titular doctor.
We kick things off in 1990, children play in a kindergarten, all but one, Sewon (Sun-kyun) who is in a closet switching a torch on and off in his face. He peers out and spots the fire extinguisher and, in voice over, tells us he’s always been different, always wanting to take things apart.
As you can imagine, that doesn’t go well. Cut to everyone crying and Sewon’s mother arriving to see what’s happened. The teacher tells him Sewon needs professional help.
She takes him to a place, they can scan him, he solves puzzles with ease, but they can see he has zero social skills. They have an autistic group for children like him but, at $1,000 a month, his mother can’t afford it.
Then we, and more importantly Sewon, witness his mother stepping in front of an oncoming truck. A horrific accident which, seemingly, barely registers with Sewon, despite him being able to remember every single, precise detail of it.
Fast forward to the present day and he is now a renowned scientist working in the field of neurology. He thinks there is a way to tap into another humans mind, see what they are thinking, hear their thoughts.
We learn that he has had a wife Jaeyi, Joo-Young Lee (“Times (TV)”, “Baseball Girl”), and son Doyoo. However, his son has died in a huge fireball and his wife, who was convinced their son was still alive, took her own life.
Sewon keeps experimenting with his brainwave transfer device, using rodents initially. Finally, he gets it to work, but there’s a catch. It only worked because the rodent giving the memory, died.
Risking everything when he is unable to get access to a recently deceased corpse, he and his colleague Hong Nam, Jae-won Lee (“Mr. Queen (TV)”, “Record of Youth (TV)”), find their own, someone killed in a car accident, so they believe.
However, during the transfer, Sewon sees something very different, what he sees looks like a murder. We don’t know who, or why as his heart stops during the transfer and Hong has to bring him back.
When he arrives home a private investigator is waiting for him, asking if he knows a Junki Lim and could he speak to his wife. He is put out and says he doesn’t know the man and he should go.
The next day however, two police officers arrive and ask the same questions. Sewon is coy about his wife, never answers directly. He is also beginning to have some pains in his head, from the transfer no doubt.
He finds Junki Lim in a morgue and decides to use his machine on him, to see who this man is, how he knows his wife. However, he’s been dead for two days and the memories aren’t clear.
Sewon however is starting to change. He’s seeing things, everywhere, he’s acting oddly and seems to have picked up habits and quirks from the brain transfers.
One of the visions say his son is still alive and he heads home, to the basement and…
Dr. Brain is a surreal and spooky start. It reminds me a little of Christopher Nolan’s Memento from 2000. Guy Pearce having to right everything down because his memory was shot, but hear, Sewon is having to do the same because he’s not able to separate his memory from those he’s transferred in.
3rd November 2021
THE QUICK SELL
Welcome to the world of Dr. Brain in which Parasite's Sun-kyun Lee plays Sewon, a brilliant doctor who begins having visions when he implants memories from the dead into his own brain.
TV / STREAMING PLATFORM