After Yang Review: A Profoundly Moving Sci-Fi Drama

Reviews, TV

The sudden loss of Yang (an android played by Justin H. Min) sends a family into mourning in Kogonada’s haunting and contemplative study of love, memory and connection. To young Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) Yang was an older brother who imparted wisdom on her Chinese heritage and supported her, to dad Jake (Colin Farrell) he was a confidante to philosophise with, and to mum Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) a comforting friend. As Jake desperately searches for a way to fix Yang the components of the family unit gradually come unstuck.

Based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein and set in the near future, where ‘technosapiens’ and clones are part of the fabric of the world, Kogonada’s understated approach to multiple ideas such as temporality, nature/nurture and identity quietly grows in power as the story slowly unfolds. Filmmakers, Yasujirô Ozu and Werner Herzog are a clear influence on how the characters interact with each other and their surroundings, with Kogonada beautifully using space, architecture and wide shots to convey emotional intimacy and distance.

The film touches on similar themes of what it means to be human as in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and in turn Blade Runner while also building on them, but the crux of the story is focused on family matters. In particular, Kogonada reflects on the way affection and strong bonds sprout over time, even if there isn’t a blood connection.

Using secret data banks from Yang’s system, Jake reaches into the android’s mind to discover his secrets and most cherished memories of time spent with loved ones. It’s rendered in an otherworldly fashion, with glowing star maps detailing the private and vast universes of our internal functions. A dreamy score by Aska Matsumiya that includes a theme by Ryuichi Sakamoto and takes inspiration from the cult film All About Lily Chou-Chou, combined with Mitski performing a new version of the closing song Glide, from the aforementioned film, further heightens the melancholic ambiance.

Kogonada pieces together the puzzle of the human condition and the slippery nature of time and memory in a thoughtful and subtly humorous fashion, with the film boasting performances across the board that are sensitively attuned to the overwhelming and unpredictable power of grief. It’s all profoundly moving.

After Yang was seen and reviewed at the Edinburgh Film Festival. It will be released on Sky in September.

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