By: Tommy Gleason

Rating: 6.3/10

A slow, sociological film whose experimental cinematography provides a thoughtful filmatic experience building to a weak payoff. 

After Yang is set in a futuristic time where people can make clones or buy robots to build their families. The story begins when one family’s robot, Yang (Justin H. Min), mysteriously stops functioning. The father, Jake (Colin Farrell), scours across the local area to find someone to fix Yang. There is a watchful big brother conspiracy and a mystery of hidden memories, but they both lead to uneventful ends. The story is really about love and loss.

This film is based on the short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” from the science fiction book Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein. NPR said of the short stories, “In them, the future… is a place of technological wonder and societal dysfunction.” That description aptly explains After Yang because it presents us with a very advanced society that struggles to connect at the family level. It is a cautious warning of the widening distance technology creates between people.

The writer and director of After Yang is South Korean-born filmmaker Kogonada. He is known for his work with neorealism filmmaking. This style almost functions like a documentary and rejects traditional Hollywood conventions to tell stories of everyday life. In After Yang, Kogonada breaks some of the mainstream Western cinematography techniques to give us a unique look at family relationships in a distant future and examine the crisis of identity for Asians in American society. 

The use of the camera in After Yang is worth noting. Kogonada chose to adjust the length and width of the screen throughout the film. It begins with a more horizontal rectangle shape before switching to a square about half that size and then a much larger square that takes up the entire TV screen, often flipping back and forth. 

Another interesting technique Kogonada employs is the use of a misty cover over the screen. In the shots when Jake and his wife, Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), are futuristically facetiming, it looks like the camera is shooting in mist. The colors blur around the edges, and the scenes feel dream-like. 

After Yang also uses editing techniques that mess with the flow of time. Some scenes repeat over and over while in other scenes, single lines are repeated again and again. Jump cuts are used during these repeating moments to amplify the confusion. It provides an interesting examination of memory and blurs the line of reality. 

Beyond the manipulations behind the camera, two actors stand out in providing compelling performances. Min’s robot character is not given many lines, but he delivers the ones he does have with a powerful limitation of emotion. Min’s portrayal makes the robot feel robotic while also letting us empathize with his situation. And Min’s facial expressions often reveal more to us about the character than his dialogue. 

Colin Farrell leads the film as a quiet, lonely man searching for a love that he cannot explain. The character has many lines, but the true success of Farrell’s acting comes from his physical portrayal of the character. There are many times in the film when Farrell stares off into the distance with blank eyes that really grab the attention of anyone watching. Farrell heightens the weight of the emotional exploration of a future society.

After Yang is an experimental film that introduces conflicts without expanding upon them. It is a characteristic A24 film that focuses more on artistic expression and sociological questions than conflict and action. The film will be a joy for cinephiles who like to see new experiments in film, but it will struggle with mainstream audiences who may find the film boring. I give the film a 6.3/10.

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Pronouns: she/her/hers Kayla is a MU Journalism student with a double minor in Sociology and French. She joined MUTV's Entertainment section in the spring semester of 2021. She is currently the Technical Producer on Entertainment's Executive Board.