Based on the 2016 short story, Saying Goodbye To Yang, by Alexander Weinstein, After Yang tells the story of Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), their adoptive daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) and “techno-sapien” sibling Yang. When Yang experiences a critical malfunction, Jake sets out to find a way to repair him but prepares for the worst, learning more about his robotic son and his impact on the family in the process.
After Yang uses its premise to explore a range of themes, including the complexities of cultural identity, how capitalism commodifies human life, the philosophical implications of sentient artificial intelligence and the difficult process of grief. The script juggles a lot of different concepts and ideas across the film’s 96-minute runtime, but it’s to its credit that it examines its central concepts comprehensively without losing an ounce of narrative momentum.
The depth of the social commentary doesn’t come at the expense of any emotional core, and director Kogonada does an excellent job of balancing incisive socio-political examinations with touching family drama. The Fleming family are complicated and interesting characters, and watching their arcs unfold makes for a thoroughly compelling cinematic experience. This is helped greatly by the great work of the cast, who rise to the task of making the film’s heavy beats land.
After Yang’s intelligent writing is also bolstered by confident cinematography and gorgeous visuals, ensuring a consistently engaging and dynamic visual experience to complement the intelligent scripting and facilitate the painting of a rich and diverse narrative picture. The sound design goes a long way too, with a soundtrack that pulls hard on the heartstrings – including a cover of the song Glide by Mitski that features prominently and speaks directly and poignantly to the production’s key talking points.
Overall, this is a wonderful film, introspective and thoughtful in its examination of the human (or technological) condition, while also providing solid and gripping drama. It’s a piece with a lot to say, and critically it manages to give each topic the necessary room without being cluttered or losing sight of the fundamental human emotions at the heart of its story. It’s a tender tearjerker of a movie, and its meditations on love, life and loss will likely remain with audiences for a long time.
After Yang is released in select cinemas on 22nd September 2022.
Watch the trailer for After Yang here: