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After Yang

"Atmospheric, gentle and languid"

★★★★ - STUFF 

- Sci-fi-infused family drama shows Colin Farrell's more sensitive side - 

This understated little sci-fi infused family drama presents a very different side of Colin Farrell.

After two recent larger-than-life performances in The Batman and TV’s The North Water, this sees the charismatic Irishman deliver a far more introspective and poignant turn as a father desperate to save a beloved member of his whānau.

Evoking memories of A.I., Ex-Machina, Her, Blade Runner 2049 and Lars and the Real Girl, Korean director Kogonada’s (Apple TV+’s Pachinko) adaptation of Alexander Weinstein’s 2016 short story Saying Goodbye to Yang tugs at the heartstrings from the first frames and draws you into its mysteries and Farrell’s character’s quest to try and find a way to repair his “robotic child”.

A constant companion for Jake (Farrell) and Kyra’s (Jodie Turner-Smith) adoptive daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), Yang (Justin H. Min) has also helped her to connect with her Chinese heritage.

While tight finances meant he had to be purchased as “certified refurbished” from re-sellers Second Siblings, rather than new, direct from Brothers & Sisters Incorporated, that’s never been a problem – until now.

After an impressive performance in their monthly global dance off with 30,000 other families, Yang failed to start up the next morning. With Mika now refusing to go to school, Jake is left with no choice but to abandon his tea shop for the day and try to get him fixed. However, his original place of purchase is now a fish shop and repairers Quick Fix’s $250 diagnostics reveal a core malfunction. Their technician unhelpfully suggests the only option left available to Jake is recycling.

Despite it being potentially against the law, Jake takes his neighbour’s advice and meets with a technician named Russ (Ritchie Coster). After an internal examination reveals a camera, Russ warns against recycling due to the data Yang will have on Jake and his family, and suggests taking him to the local museum and “technosapien” specialist Cleo (Sarita Choudhury). To Jake’s shock, not only can she access Yang’s memories of his family, but also his previous owner (Haley Lu Richardson) – a young woman Jake becomes determined to track down.

Atmospheric, gentle and languid, rather than propulsive, After Yang is very much a meditation on the human condition. Despite the sci-fi trappings, it’s a story about going back to basics and reconnecting with your family. Kyra believes they have become over-reliant on Yang and need to take a more hands-on approach to parenting Mika, while Jake muses about how a cup of tea can “contain a world” and “transport you to a place and time”. “There’s not just flavour in aroma – there’s also history,” he says.

It’s not as “touchy-feely” as that sounds though. The cast and Kogonada ensure sentimental schmaltz never holds sway here, the performances and story grounded in emotional reality and the elegiac atmosphere enhanced greatly by a terrific score that includes a theme composed by Oscar-winning legend Ryuichi Sakamoto (Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence).

- James Croot, STUFF

After Yang is now playing at Light House Cuba

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