After Yang is a subtle, tender perspective on artificial intelligence that is a rarity for modern science fiction. Director Kogonada’s sophomore film explores a subtly futuristic world where artificial intelligence is commonplace. Within this subdued vision of the future, Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) purchase a lifelike android, Yang (Justin H. Min), to give their adopted daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) a sibling. The beginning of the film slowly reveals the inner tensions within the family, unfurling when Yang malfunctions and Jake is tasked with bringing his animatronic son back to life. The film voyages into the uncanny valley, and through Yang’s eyes, the audience is confronted with the passage of time, grief, and transience.
In the opening sequence, the film shows the principal characters participating in an uncharacteristically energetic synchronized virtual dance battle. Once mesmerized by the absurdity of this future society, the dance sequence abruptly ends and the viewer is jolted back into the daze-like world. With slow moves, Kogonada produces a powerful film that runs its course with restraint, but that is not a disadvantage. Every minor emotion is performed brilliantly by the cast, providing a sentimental projection of the future that investigates grief as core to humanity.
Adapted from “Saying Goodbye to Yang” by Alexander Weinstein, After Yang is a reflection on the things we take for granted and the complexities of loss. Throughout the film, Jake is intensely unsettled by the loss of Yang, grappling with buried emotions released by his initial grief but prolonged by Yang’s digital memory banks. When faced with a spectacle of his own life, he becomes consumed by a blend of nostalgic and penitent memory. After Yang expertly illustrates grief’s soul-striking ripples while probing humanity through Yang’s memories, presenting the uncanny from a new and satisfying perspective. PG, 96 min.