‘After Yang’ is a beautifully crafted sci-fi meditation

Our review of “After Yang” first appeared as part of our coverage of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Where to watch: Playing in select theaters and on Showtime.

With his gifted eye for aesthetics, Kogonada’s films are among the most gripping in cinema today. His ability to compose beautifully crafted and richly crafted shots of environments and the people who inhabit them, makes his films visually and singularly special. Add to that his inclination as a storyteller to explore deeply meditative stories that reflect the meaning of life, and you’ll find that watching a Kogonada film is a truly transcendent experience. What’s crazy about those accolades is that he’s only done two feature films so far: 2017 Columbusand now, After Yang.

It might give you pause to wonder how someone who has only made two films in their life could make them so artistically accomplished. However, those familiar with Kogonada’s story also know that before becoming a director, his career path was to create video testswhose excellence has elevated the importance and recognition of the entire medium as an art form in itself.

Understanding and highlighting the methods of production of the greats of cinema is undoubtedly also what made his first feature film, Columbus, so refined and such a commendable beginning. Here, with his even more ambitious second feature film After Yangit’s exciting to watch him develop his artistic talents as he enters a highly conceptual sci-fi world that visualizes even more complex worlds with even deeper questions to ponder.

Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival last year, but now premiering in North America at the Sundance Film Festival this year, After Yang is set in the future in which humans coexist with artificially intelligent androids, whose conscious sentience now forces humans to confront their own lives; and with that, their flaws.

Adapted from a short story by Alexander Weinstein (“Saying Goodbye to Yang”), After Yang tells the story of a beautiful family, but at first glance curiously diverse, whose connection we have not yet understood. We learn that Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) are the parents of an adopted Chinese daughter, Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja). The latest to stumble upon framing a self-timed family photo is techno-sapien, Yang (Justin H. Min).

Yang’s inclusion in the family is part of a larger societal trend in which parents are buying “second siblings”, autonomous robots capable of providing them with companionship as well as a cultural history of life. legacy of their adopted children. Wise and thoughtful, Yang also provides philosophical advice to Mika, helping her better understand her own adoption, in one instance comparing her to a branch that has been grafted onto a tree to create new life. In this respect, Mika’s connection with Yang is particularly special. So when Yang suddenly stops working, it throws Mika into disarray. Jake takes Yang to a third-party worker, and when Yang is examined, a shocking discovery: technology is found to allow Yang to create memories of his life.

Kogonada uses Jake’s study of Yang’s memories (visualized as beautifully glowing web-like stars in the sky) to reflect on how much he lost touch with his own family and the special moments he had. he neglected in his own life. The montages of these fleeting moments from Yang’s point of view – daylight streaming through a window, leaves nestling in the wind, nature in its simplest and most beautiful form – are beautifully shot by the director of the photography Benjamin Loeb (When you’re done saving the world). Similar to Pixar Soulthe mundane moments are seen as the true magic moments of life.

It is here, within the re-reading of these temporal and fragile memories, that Kogonada asks his deepest questions and his philosophical affirmations. I can’t help but think of such a scene between Yang and Kyra, in which, as they discuss the temporality of life, Yang wisely quotes Lao Tsu, saying “what the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls it a butterfly”. ”

A moving score by ASKAplus an additional theme composed expressly for the film by Oscar-winning legend Ryuichi Sakamoto, add even more beauty to After Yang. Kogonada’s masterfully crafted second feature examines life’s deepest questions at life’s grandest level. Additionally, we also see Kogonada reflect on his own Asian ancestry, which also allows the audience to question our own identities by understanding our ancestry.

The performances throughout the film are all felt emotionally. Each of the scenes from actors including Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min and Haley Lu Richardson resonates deeply with their tender honesty. They convey a quiet serenity to the beautifully created world of Kogonada, while expressing such deeply felt feelings as grief, loss, and fear of the end of life.

Although you had to slow down to its patient, slow pace, it left my heart swollen, my eyes watering, and my soul transcendent. After Yang is a profoundly beautiful, profound and amazing achievement by Kogonada that will have you looking at your world and your life with a little more wonder afterwards.

96 mins.

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