The Prayer: Film Review

The Prayer, directed by Min Kyu-dong, explores a dystopian world where sick patients are cared for by artificially intelligent androids, designed to look like their guardians, to help ease the burden of the healthy while caring for the ill. Specifically, viewers follow the lives of Yeon Jung-in (played by Lee Yoo-young) and Choi Jung-gil (played by Yum Hye-ran), who watch over their loved ones in a hospital along with the androids. Even with the help of AI, is it still possible for guardians to burn out and give up on their loved ones?

In reference to the film’s title, this sci-fi flick asks the question whether prayer is enough to save everyone. Watching over her husband who suffers from dementia, Jung-gil is constantly praying alongside a nun. Despite her efforts, she struggles to stay strong. Driven mad by her husband one night, she attempts to suffocate him, only to be stopped by his AI caretaker. Eventually, she gives up on prayer and decides to commit suicide, as she can no longer find it in herself to keep trying and living.

For Jung-in, her mother has been in a coma for several years already. Successful and wealthy, she subscribes to an AI caretaker who takes care of both her mother and herself. Despite this, she is also exhausted and slowly loses motivation. Rather than her, it is the android who turns to prayer here. After finding a business card left behind by the nun who was usually next door with Jung-gil, the caretaker gives her a call seeking guidance. Deciding in a seemingly emotional manner to prioritize Jung-in’s life over her mother’s, the android ultimately pulls the plug to relieve Jung-in of the burden of her mother. The caretaker is then sent back to the manufacturer for research purposes, to investigate the cause for her actions. While the android begs for help, the nun is left trying to save the android from being taken apart and experimented on.

Aside from the obvious message that AI has its pros and cons, the story also touches briefly on the difference in quality of life for the wealthy and the poor. While it does not explicitly state that Jung-gil is poor, she was only able to afford the cheapest type of AI for her husband, while Jung-in had a state-of-the-art android for her mother and herself. Jung-gil’s husband lived in a smaller room with far less light and cramped space, while Jung-in’s mother had a room with a much larger space, floor to ceiling windows, and higher quality care. Although they live different lives, both ultimately suffer tragic outcomes, proof that money cannot solve everything.

The Prayer was an interesting watch, though it did at times feel like it lacked direction. Thrusting viewers into the story with no background information or explanation, the film quickly moves, leaving no time to form any emotional attachment to the plot or characters. The movie also did not have much of a conclusion, just slightly touching on where Jung-in and her android ended up. While The Prayer was well made, it did not feel like a complete movie, but rather a draft.

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