After Yang is a combination of cyberpunk and art drama signed by Kogonada, an American artist who became famous for his video essays in which he analyzes the content, form, aesthetics and structure of film and television content. This is his second feature film after the drama Columbus from 2017. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in July last year, and was released in early March by A24 and Showtime.
The plot of the film is set in the indefinite future in which children grow up with techno-sapiens, androids who are there to follow them, to help them and to discover the charms of the world together. A family of three is facing a problem because their beloved android Yang is broken. In an attempt to fix it, Jake (Colin Ferrell) discovers the life that passed in front of him and tries to reconnect with his wife Kira and daughter Mika.
Advances in technology in the future have made many things easier for these people, but they have become unaware of important life issues. Mike came into their lives when the couple adopted Mika, with the goal of connecting her with her heritage and the history of the Chinese people. The fact that there are companies that design and program androids for this specific purpose speaks for itself about the state of this world in the indefinite future. However, the film is full of optimism and is full of small but important and touching gestures.
The screenplay is based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein and Kogonada brings it to life quite vividly. We learn about Mike’s past, follow the race against time in an attempt to save himself, as well as a family that is facing the possibility of living without an android that has become its vital member. Mika is not ready to lose the Mother she knew as her brother all her life, while Kira is aware that they relied too much on him to raise her daughter. Whatever happens, a married couple must be ready to become a significant part of their daughter’s life.
It soon becomes clear to us that repairing androids is not the primary goal of the plot. The script emphasizes the relationships that have been established or will be revealed, and through them the film enters into universal concepts and issues such as memory, memories, communication, family, love, parenthood, sadness, faith, or everything that is really important in life. . Although a good part of these ideas are presented through direct dialogue (great scene in which Mike Mickey explains the grafting / adoption of a child), Kogonada presents a lot to us visually and through editing – he transcends words and goes straight to the core of experiences.
We get these experiences through Yang’s “memories”, a series of video clips with which the manufacturer of androids wanted to determine on a practical example what is really important for their existence. The author visualizes this collection of memories as stars that together form a galaxy. The dialogues in these memories are uncertain, they are interrupted and repeated in different tones, as if the person who remembers them is trying to get the right mood or significance of what happened.
I liked that Kogonada subtly draws attention to the design and logistics of this future, instead of doing so by making it the key focus of the story or overwhelming us with visual effects. In that way, his message about the preciousness and importance of life is not disturbed, but in accordance with the minimalist, but convincing visual experience that this film leaves.
After Yang is an ambitious combination of cyberpunk and intimate art drama that explores the nature of memory and family life and deals with important topics such as “what is existence” and “what is really important in life”. Final rating: 7/10
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