After Yang

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

After Yang
dir-scr Kogonada
prd Theresa Park, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan, Paul Mezey
with Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Justin H Min, Sarita Choudhury, Haley Lu Richardson, Clifton Collins Jr, Orlagh Cassidy, Ritchie Coster, Ava DeMary, Takeo Lee Wong, Brett Dier
release US 4.Mar.22,
UK 22.Sep.22
22/US A24 1h36

Farrell turner-smith choudhury

42nd Shadows Awards
Colin Farrell


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Tjandrawidjaja and Min
With an unusually meditative tone, this drama is set in the future but rooted in timeless human emotions. Writer-director Kogonaga is exploring enormous themes, including the nature of identity and memory, in ways that are unusually intimate. This may make the film feel like it's drifting through an achingly slow narrative, but there are intensely powerful things happening at every step. And visually, the film is simply ravishing.
Tea seller Jake (Farrell) has a quietly happy life with wife Kyra (Turner-Smith), teen son Yang (Min) and precocious young daughter Mika (Tjandrawidjaja). Then one morning Yang won't switch on; he's actually a "techno-sapien", a bio-robot companion purchased to keep Mika company and help her explore her Chinese heritage. While searching for someone who can repair Yang, Jake discovers a memory chip containing brief clips from throughout Yang's life, including his connection to a stranger named Ada (Richardson). While this elicits interest from a museum curator (Choudhury), it pushes Jake to explore his own relationships.
Rippling with complex ideas, the story follows Jake's quest to discover Yang's consciousness, which opens him up in new ways to his wife and daughter. This is played with extreme subtlety, but the impact is strong. Kogonaga intriguingly grounds sci-fi elements, as Jake and Kyra's home feels at one with nature, perhaps in response to climate change, while their society integrates humans, techno-sapiens and clones. Even the tech feels organic, as we see video imagery but no gadgets.

Farrell brings unusually hushed nuance to Jake, almost subliminally registering his earth-shattering feelings each step of the way. The key to the performance is in how he looks at his wife and daughter, revealing things he's only learning to express. In a smaller role, Turner-Smith has her own powerful moments of epiphany, while Min somehow manages to add a quirky soul to Yang's blank stare. Meanwhile, Tjandrawidjaja is a lively scene-stealer with great promise as an actress.

Among his discoveries, Jake is surprised to learn that Yang had a whole life before he joined the family, and this smartly plays out more as eye-opening wonder than a pointed plot twist. The remarkable implication is that Yang has a much more vivid emotional life than he is programmed to have, and that humans will only benefit from more readily opening up their own emotional responses. With its subdued approach to storytelling, this film does demand patience, but what it reveals is so strongly resonant that the story becomes riveting.

cert pg strong themes 18.Aug.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall