While After Yang is set in the future, the Kogonaga film is timeless. This beautiful story about identity, family, and memories will stay with you for years to come.
After Yang is a meditative, intimate film written, directed, and edited by Kogonaga that filled with intricate ideas about human identity. It is a ravishing film with what may appear to be meditative exercises about what matters in life but is much more complex than that.
The film follows Jake (Colin Farrell) and his family in the future. He has a happy life alongside his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), teen son Yang (Justin H. Min), and young daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja). One morning Yang won’t switch on as he is actually a “techno-sapien”, an android companion brought into the family to help Mika as her companion but also to 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, before they brought him into their family, including his relationship with a stranger named Ada (Haley Lu Richardson). While the discovery of Yang’s memory elicits interest from a museum curator (Sarita Choudhury), it drives Jake to explore his own relationships and self-identity.
One of the mechanics informs Jake this is a special feature in Yang, and not all of the androids have chips to keep memories. As the path to repair Yang takes longer than anticipated, Jake is fascinated by the discovery of Yang’s past life and memories. In order to better understand Yang, Jake downloads the memories and watches them at home while Yang is in repair. Jake has never been a fan of the androids as he sees them as more as someone serving a function to society, not beings. While watching Yang’s memories, Jake is overcome with emotion as he sees wonder, empathy, love, and pain through Yang’s eyes. In Yang’s memories, Jake finds not only that Yang was a real person who experienced emotions, but discovers different sides to himself and his family.
Farrell delivers his best performance in years in After Yang. His performance is so layered, subtle, and emotional. In a year full of Farrell performances, his portrayal of Jake in After Yang stays with you. Min is perfect as Yang; he plays the role so naturally and organically. At times you forget Yang is an android, but other times it’s all you can see in Min’s performance. He injects such humanity into the story. Min’s own expression is strong enough to stay throughout the film until the final scene, which leaves the audience on such an emotional note.
After Yang reminds us to slow down in life and appreciate the little moments. Much of the memories from Yang are small moments many would not consider monumental, but these are the exact moments that you cherish of your loved ones. Everyone can relate to this as many of us have lost a loved one and looked back on an intimate memory with them.
Kogonada exercises such control from beginning to end in such an emotionally complex film. After Yang is a beautiful, thought provoking and tenderly paced mediation on life, self-identity, memories, and our relationship with artificial intelligence.
Should be Considered: Best Lead Actor (Colin Farrell), Best Supporting Actor (Justin H. Min), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Where to Watch: Showtime
Lives in LA with her husband, daughter and dog. Misses Arclight, loves iced vanilla coffees.
Favorite Director: Darren Aronofsky