After Yang Image

After Yang

By Alan Ng | March 4, 2022

NEW TO THEATERS! Based on the Alexander Weinstein short story, filmmaker Kogonada’s After Yang is the story of a man reconnecting with his family in the not-so-distant future of humanoids. Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) are the parents of adopted Chinese daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja). The three live as a family with their lifelike android, Yang (Justin H. Min). Jake bought Yang to help Mika stay connected with her Chinese heritage, and in return, Mika forms a close sibling bond with Yang.

After losing an internet family dance battle, Yang suddenly breaks down. Jake needs to fix him quickly before he decomposes but finds out the warranty is invalid because he purchased Yang as a refurbished Techo-sapien. To make matters worse, the store he bought Yang from has vanished. Jake then seeks help from an underground service center but discovers a conspiracy perpetrated by Yang’s parent company, Brothers and Sisters. Yang has been recording all his interactions with the family.

Now Jake is in a bind, as if he returns Yang, the company will have access to his private data and potentially sell it on the dark web. Curious about Yang’s memory drives, Jake is able to access the android’s data storage (aka memories) of not only his family but those of the last two families who owned him as well, including one involving a human clone named Ada (Haley Lu Richardson). Jake’s journey through Yang’s memories enables him to discover the real reason Yang broke down.

“After losing an internet family dance battle, Yang suddenly breaks down.”

Based on a short story, After Yang should have been a short film. I say this because the added backstory and conspiracy theories detract from the true message. The first half is Jake’s struggle to fix Yang because Mika is heartbroken that she’ll lose him. There’s an attachment issue that needs to be explored, but instead, we’re chasing a big tech conspiracy that never resolves itself and is forgotten.

The second half is the real reason Yang is broken, which has nothing to do with any mechanical malfunction but is revealed as Jake accesses those memories. Unfortunately, Kogonada’s script fails to establish a proper emotional connection between Yang and us (the audience). For this story to work, we must find sympathy for a robot through the memories he collected in the past. But, our loyalties lie with Jake and Mika and never shift from them to the android.

After Yang is a good-looking movie, especially for one that’s mostly talking and conversations, the acting is good — an easy feat for seasoned actor Colin Farrell and Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja is adorable as hell. But unfortunately, it misses its storytelling potential by focusing too much of our attention on the wrong story elements. I’m interested in the conspiracy and android world-building, but this is about family.

After Yang screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

After Yang (2022)

Directed and Written: Kogonada

Starring: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Justin H. Min, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

After Yang Image

"…Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja as Mika is adorable as hell."

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