(director/writer: Kogonada; screenwriter: based on a short story Saying Goodbye to Yang from the book Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein; cinematographer: Benjamin Loeb; editor: Kogonada; music: Aska Matsumiya; original theme by Ryuichi Sakamoto; cast: Colin Farrell (Jake), Jodie Turner-Smith (Kyra), Justin H. Min (Yang), Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja (Mika), Sarita Choudhury (Cleo), Clifton Collins Jr. (George), Haley Lu Richardson (Ada), Ava DeMary (Vicky), Eve Lindley (Faye), Brett Dier (Aaron); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG; producers; Andrew Goldman/Caroline Kaplan/Paul Mezey/Theresa Park: A24; 2021)
“Kogonada’s future seems vastly different from the futures perceived in other pessimistic sci fi films, which is encouraging.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
South Korean-American writer-director Kogonada (“Columbus”) bases his heart-felt futuristic sci-fi tale (set at an unspecified time in the future) on the Alexander Weinstein short story Saying Goodbye to Yang. It tries to find the proper relationship between memory and technology by questioning what the future holds for us and if humans will have in the future a race-free society. Kogonada’s future seems vastly different from the futures perceived in other pessimistic sci fi films, which is encouraging.
Yang (Justin H. Min) is a “techno sapien” android, made by the factory to look and act Chinese. He was bought as a present for an interracial middle-class couple’s adopted young Chinese daughter, Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), to keep her company and teach her about Chinese culture. When Yang breaks down, it throws the household into an uproar when he cannot be restored. The shy android is an assumed older brother to Mika, the spoiled daughter of the traditional tea shop owner white man Jake (Colin Farrell) married to his black wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith). She holds down an undisclosed regular job in the business world.
Jake can’t reactivate the unresponsive android, and ends up taking it apart until he comes up with the sum of Yang’s memories from a storage place. His tinkering with Yang’s memory box, using futuristic glasses show an endless ordered universe. While fixing the android, Jake suddenly realizes that he never really knew his artificial servant and what were his true thoughts (they were hidden behind his programming about such things he found recorded as memories of a secret life of love and grief).
Through studying the android via the use of technology in this digital media age, the contemplative After Yang film wants us to meditate on how race impacts self-identity and other human things such as romantic love.
It’s a heady film for the thinking person who, for instance, might wonder if an android can want to be human so as to reflect genuine feelings for others and what would people do if they had even more technology advances made available to them.
The Theme music by Ryuichi Sakamoto is both soothing and mood setting, adding to the intellectual flavoring of the film.
REVIEWED ON 7/15/2021 GRADE: A-