In a cinema world of Marvel blockbusters and CGI extravaganzas, it is rare that I get to see a film that makes me think and reflect anymore. That is why as cinema lovers, we need to embrace films like After Yang. This isn’t just the kind of film that has you thinking a little during the credits, this is the kind of film that has you sitting stunned in your seat reflecting on your whole life before you can start the engine and leave the carpark afterwards.
Directed by Kogonada, After Yang shows the events of what happens to a futuristic family when their human companion robot named Yang (Justin H. Min) malfunctions and shuts down.
With the event making their adopted daughter, Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidja), severely depressed, Jake (Colin Farrell) and his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) decide to do whatever they can to have Yang repaired, even if it means going down illegal channels. But as they try to find someone to help, they soon find themselves discovering that Yang himself has memories and it is up to Jake to try and put together the jigsaw pieces that they have left behind.
I found there to be something kind of beautiful about this film. The world that Kogonada has created here goes against the grain of most futuristic films. He doesn’t ruin the atmosphere by trying to impress the audience with CGI created futuristic items. Instead, he seamlessly inserts things like driverless cars and a history of companion robots that makes everything feel so real. It is that natural feeling that he manages to generate that draws audiences into this story so well.
This isn’t a film for everyone. As the cinema lights went up in the cinema, I saw it in I heard a couple of whispers of “dull” and “nothing much happened” but this is not the kind of film that goes for the ‘WOW’ factor, this is the kind of film that a film lover will sit down and savour.
I found while watching the film that it was impossible not to find myself having some deep thoughts going through my own mind. I found myself wondering “What memories would be most prominent in my memory bank if scientists picked apart my brain?”. Would they be memories that I would be proud of, or would they let my loved ones see things they never knew about me before?
Of course, the other strong message to come across in After Yang is the importance of belonging and that is depicted so well in this film. Yang as a character allows Mika to explore her own Asian heritage, while at the same time even though he is a robot he is looking for his own sense of belonging not only in a family perspective, but in the world of humans around him. It is a beautiful story and the fact that Kogonada allows this narrative to play out in its own time without rushing it, makes After Yang it even more special.
I should also mention the acting performances in this film as well. Colin Farrell pretty much carries this film, and he once again reminds Hollywood that he is an actor that is well and truly above a lot of the blockbusters he appears in. Likewise, Malea Emma Tjandrawidja is amazing in her role as she puts in a performance that is well and truly beyond her years.
After Yang may not be a film for all but if you love serious cinema, this is one of the must-see of 2022. Beautiful, poignant and helmed by a director that shows his true craft, After Yang really is something very special.