TL;DR – There is a beautiful sadness to After Yang as you connect with the characters on the screen while also becoming introspective of your own life.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to watch this film.
After Yang Review –
At the start of the year, one of my colleagues recommended that I should check out After Yang, and well as is clearly apparent, I have been quite tardy on that request. But a promise is a promise, and also, a soft-science fiction film exploring the nature of sentience in a shifting world should be 100% my jam, so it is silly that I missed it up until now.
So to set the scene, we open with a family in a green field trying to take a photo together. While things look fine on the surface, with father Jake (Colin Farrell), mother Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), and kids Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) and Yang (Justin H. Min) coming together to join in on a family dance-off contest. But Yang is an android built by the company Brothers and Sisters bought to help connect Mika with her Chinese culture. However, something has gone wrong with Yang’s central core, and he has shut down, and now Jake and Kyra have the difficult job of finding out what to do next.
To borrow the parlance of this coming generation, this film is a mood. There is a softness to this film in the costumes, the sets, the story, the music, and the performances. It is a mood that helps you get swept up with the story and the characters. It is also used almost as a shield. There are conversations full of polite words and discussions, but that polite veneer is used to cover a wave of emotions. It also speaks volumes of a world where the film does not make any explicit comments, but you can see the impacts of it everywhere.
There are these moments, like when we explore Yang’s memory, that are both existential but also profound. Almost like you are watching some experimental cinema or walking through an art gallery and stumbling on an exhibit. It also makes you think about what are the few seconds of each day that you would lock away if you could? There is a beautiful sadness to it all as you connect with the characters on the screen while also becoming introspective about your own life. It is a powerful film that can tell its story and make you reflect on your own.
From the production side of things, I was impressed that the film always knew what the most important factor at any one time was. With the sound, did there need to be a musical score of soft pianos and eerie strings, the sound of rain on the roof, a door sliding, the wind and birds in the trees, or was there the need for silence? This might all sound very common sense but rarely does a film nail it as well as it does here. The performances could be called understated. Indeed there is a stillness to them. But there is also a depth to every performance that stretches from the quiet moments like a treatise on the elements of tea that make it profound. This contrasts with the opening credit dance-off, which might be one of the most energetic sequences I have seen this year. Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, and Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja all moved me in moments as they explored grief and life and how they intertwine.
In the end, do we recommend After Yang? Absolutely. Look, I have no compunctions that this will not be a film for everyone. It is, at its core, an exploration of life and grief, and that is not going to be everyone’s jam, but it was mine. I found it to be profoundly beautiful, delightful, and moving. If you liked After Yang, I would also recommend to you Finch.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of After Yang
Directed by – Kogonada
Written by – Kogonada
Based on – Saying Goodbye to Yang by Alexander Weinstein
Music by – Aska Matsumiya & Ryuichi Sakamoto
Cinematography by – Benjamin Loeb
Edited by – Kogonada
Production/Distribution Companies – A24, Cinereach, Per Capita Productions & KISMET Movies
Starring – Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Ritchie Coster, Sarita Choudhury, Clifton Collins Jr. & Haley Lu Richardson
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: PG; United States: PG