Movie review: After Yang is a poignant sci-fi drama detailing the human condition

After his more theatrical (and unrecognizable) turn earlier in the year in The Batman, Colin Farrel brings a more natural and introspective quality to After Yang, Kogonadapoignant sci-fi drama that evokes memories of His, Ex-Machinaand Blade Runner 2049 all along.

An adaptation of alexander weinstein2016’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” Kogonada’s film blows you away from its wild opening credits—seriously, the dance number staged here is as joyful as it is bizarre—before settling into a more dramatic, often-mysterious temperament that follows Farrell’s Jake as he spends his day hoping to fix his robotic child.

And that’s robotics used in the most literal sense.

Set in a future where androids can be adopted and raised as members of human families, Yang (Justin H. Min) became a loving and valued member of Jake’s crew, proving to be of particular importance to Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), Jake and his wife’s adopted Chinese daughter who, thanks to Yang, connects to her heritage in a way she has never been exposed to before; Jodie TurnerSmith plays the role of Jake’s wife, Kyra.

When Yang fails to start one morning, Mika is understandably distraught and refuses to go to school until she knows he is alive and well. Not wanting to devastate his daughter, Jake takes the day off and scours his town in order to find a repairman willing to work on Yang; Jake’s decision to buy Yang used means official repair jobs aren’t as readily available.

Following advice that leads Jake to participate in illegal activities, a tech’s look at what went wrong with Yang unlocks an unknown addendum to his tech makeup – a camera. Soon, Jake is accessing Yang’s memories, revealing a more humanistic side to someone his family took so much for granted.

As easy as it could have been for After Yang to lean heavily on schmaltz and melodrama, its reflections on reconnecting with family and the human condition are never delivered to the point of sickly sweetness. There’s an atmospheric beauty to the film and an emotional reality that keeps the proceedings in place despite its futuristic mindset.

While some audiences may expect something a little more exciting in the traditional sense, After Yang is ultimately a very human drama dressed in an artificial setting that should cleanse those whose palettes are oversaturated with superficiality.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

After Yang is currently showing in select Australian cinemas.

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