March 7, 2022

CINEMA | Colin Farrell Contemplates Life 'After Yang'

"There's no something without nothing."
Colin Farrell Justin H. Min Kogonada | After Yang A24
A24 / Elevation Pictures
Enigmatic Korean-American mononymous video essayist turned sophomore filmmaker Kogonada crafts another striking yet forlorn character drama ruminating on masculine Asian identity. This time, he uses speculative science-fiction motifs of artificial intelligence and near-future tech to slowly ponder themes of existential humanity and cultural heritage in After Yang based on the short story "Saying Goodbye to Yang" written by Alexander Weinstein.

Starring Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith as multiracial parents of an adopted Chinese daughter, the film revolves around their transracial family's refurbished android "brother" caregiver, the eponymous techno-sapien Yang (Justin H. Min), malfunctioning and needing to be repaired despite being obsolete.

Farrell's father character, Jake, is soon led down a path of questioning who his A.I. servant was and what his real inner thoughts were. He discovers more to Yang's fractured identity than his programming to serve his owners, help raise his "sibling", and teach her about being Chinese despite not even being human himself.

Haley Lu Richardson Kogonada | After Yang A24

There's a peculiar tone to Kogonada's cinematic storytelling only slightly heightened by its lo-fi futuristic setting where androids, clones, and driverless transportation seem casual yet much of the film has a vaguely analogue feeling where technology comes off as more tangible or human. This misdirection only enhances the characters' questioning of their own identities through reflections of memories.

Kogonada has crafted another deeply contemplative poem of a film questioning our own humanity. His layering of Chinese-American cultural points feels so natural and nuanced as embedded into his ambitious near-feature sci-fi vision of life. Farrell's understated yet affecting performance anchors the intriguing story's very insular ideas about family superbly. After Yang certainly makes you ponder what makes you who you are.

After Yang screens at the VIFF Centre starting March 11th. Kogonada and cinematographer Benjamin Loeb (an Emily Carr alum) will discuss making the film as part of VIFF Talks: Indie Spirits online through VIFF Connect on March 18th.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Inverse / Stir

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