Written by Becca Johnson
Director Kogonada is back with sophomore movie After Yang, a sci-fi drama that explores loss, love and reconnecting. When his young daughters android companion named Yang (Justin H. Min) malfunctions, Jake (Colin Farrell) searches for a way to repair him. His journey leads to the discovery that life has been passing by in front of him, as he tries to reconnect with his wife and daughter and bridge the distance between himself and his family. Thought provoking, profound and wistful, After Yang is a soft breeze on a warm day. It explores its themes with care, Kogonada proving his talent once again.
After Yang is first and foremost a sci-fi flick, as it tells the story of a family's relationship with an android. However, unlike many before it, it lets the futuristic technology just be, without a huge explanation. From the incredible dance sequence during the opening credits to its self driving cars and androids, After Yang lets you navigate the futuristic world for yourself. It is more of a character study than anything else, allowing conversations and emotions to take precedence.
After Yang explores its many themes with a tender feel that is a rarity in film. Yang is an android primarily for Jake's adopted young daughter Mika, to teach her more about her culture and where she comes from. Mika and Yang both bond in that respect, as both are part of the family but not by blood, and hearing Yang explain to Mika why this isn't a negative makes for one of the best scenes of the year thus far. It also explores grief well, showing that we all grieve for different things, in different ways. Jake toys with the idea of extracting all of Yang's memories, exploring the repercussions of such an act and how it may be intrusive – some memories are his and his alone, and perhaps aren't to be shared. Most importantly, it shows how loss can actually bring people together and make you realise what you do have left.
Colin Farrell is the driving force of the movie, giving an outstanding performance that isn't quite career best yet very close. He tackles the role with great emotion and mindfulness, and it's interesting to see his character navigating various thoughts and feelings and trying to fix Yang. Jodie Turner-Smith also turns in a good performance as wife Kyra, who often feels neglected by her distant husband. Haley Lu Richardson returns to work with Kogonada again, this time as clone Ada who seems to have a bond with Yang that his family weren't aware of; she excels. As exceptional as the performances are, it's director Kogonada who shines. Not only working as the movies director but its writer and editor, his stamp is all over it.
After Yang is one of the most thought provoking movies so far this year, bound to mesmerise its audience as soon as the opening credits begin. It's story is unique and well crafted, the performances are great and all technical aspects are as they should be, with stunning cinematography, editing and lighting. The way it handles grief and loss is one of the best explorations ever put to screen, and is worth watching for that alone. It harmoniously combines sci-fi with family drama to create a movie unlike anything we've seen.