After Yang: Kogonada’s Meditative, Emotionally Powerful Sci-Fi, Starring Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith (2022 Best Films, So Far)

We are now at midpoint of the calendar movie year. Have we seen many good or powerful pictures, thus far?

After Yang is a meditative sci-fi film written, directed and edited by Kogonada, is one the best films of the year.

Producer Theresa Park had acquired screen rights to “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” a short story written by Alexander Weinstein.

It stars Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Justin H. Min.

It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Fest, in the Certain Regard series, in July 2021.

Premise
In a world where robotic children are purchased as live-in babysitters, a father and daughter attempt to save the life of their robotic family member, Yang, who has become unresponsive.

Narrative Structure (Present and Past)

Jake and Kyra live with their adoptive daughter Mika and Yang, a robotic child they purchased from certified reseller Second Siblings, rather than from his original maker, Brothers & Sisters Inc.

When Yang becomes unresponsive, Jake, determined to save his robotic child, goes on a mission to repair him. Meanwhile, Brothers & Sisters recommend replacing Yang, which means his body will decompose.

In a flashback, Yang reassures a curious Mika that she is still part of the family despite being adopted.

Jake takes Yang to cheap repairman named Russ, who discovers a hidden camera inside of Yang. Jake takes the “camera” to a museum specialist named Cleo, who tells him that it is Yang’s memory bank.

Yang’s memories include clips from every day of Yang’s life, including his time with Ada.

The next day, Jake takes Yang to Cleo.

In a flashback, Yang becomes sad about his inability to truly live.

Jake tracks down Ada, who is a clone, who confirms Yang’s relationship with her. Jake and Kyra decide to move on, letting Yang decompose and donating his memories to the museum.

In a flashback, Yang and Kyra discuss the improbability of an afterlife.

Jake talks to Yang’s previous owner, Nancy, who recalls that Yang was not a new product. Jake discovers a setting on the memory bank that unlocks more of Yang’s memories. They reveal that Yang had lived an entire life before either Jake or Nancy owned him, in which he developed a relationship with Ada.

The older Ada, who had cared for the aging mother in Yang’s first family, later dies in a car accident.

The younger Ada tells Jake that the person in Yang’s memories was her great-aunt. At night, Mika tells Jake that she does not want to lose Yang.

In the last scene, Mika begins singing a song heard in one of Yang’s memories.

Intellectually ambitious, After Yang deals with an existential crisis, which forces viewers to ponder what it means to be alive and human in a world that’s increasingly dominated by technology.

It’s an impressively executed, powerfully meditative mystery, seeking to understand the deeper social foundations of all emotional bonds.

The film had its US premiere on January 21, 2022 at the Sundance Film Fest, where it won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize. It was released simultaneously in theaters and streaming on Showtime on March 4, 2022.

Cast

Colin Farrell as Jake Fleming
Jodie Turner-Smith as Kyra Fleming
Justin H. Min as Yang Fleming
Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja as Mika Fleming
Haley Lu Richardson as Ada
Ritchie Coster as Russ
Sarita Choudhury as Cleo
Clifton Collins Jr. as George
Deborah Hedwall as Nancy

Kogonada at the 2017 International Film Festival Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Writer, director, and editor Kogonada