Review: After Yang

After Yang screenshot

Year: 2021 | Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ho-ly shit. These are the kinds of experiences that keep me coming back to the movies day after day, week after week, year after year. From opening dance sequence to the last scene, I was mesmerized by this moving and thought-provoking piece of cinematic art. Writer-director Kogonada is 2-for-2, and After Yang just might even be better than Columbus (2017).

Many (some may say “too many”) films are being made right now that attempt to reconcile the growing role that technology has in our lives with the desire to maintain our “humanism,” and too often those themes are tackled with an air of condescension and out-of-touchism (yep, new term) that completely undermines the point being made. Here, Kogonada explores that theme with a balanced hand, crafting a film that explores the potential dangers of technological overreach while also recognizing how technology has and will continue to deeply enrich our lives.

But that’s only the tip of the thematic iceberg, as Kogonada has much more to say than that, and he does so startlingly well. After Yang is one of the most deeply philosophical films I’ve seen in a while, offering rumination on parenting, memories, death, racial identity and, oh, you know, just what it means to be “human” and “alive” in the first place. Obviously these are not light themes, but thanks to the low-key “vibe” of the film, no one theme seems overwhelming, nor overbearing. Kogonada has crafted a film that requires the viewer to do most of the heavy-lifting, but it never really feels like it. It’s quite an accomplishment.

This vibe is aided by wonderfully understated and muted performances by the entire cast, but especially Colin Farrell, who is currently enjoying a well-deserved “McConnassiance”-esque moment and who I hope continues to select his projects carefully and deliver incredible performances within them (he was low-key the best part of The Batman [2022], change my mind). The cinematography is meditative and slow, equal parts Yasujirō Ozu and Terrence Malick (no doubt two of Kogonada’s biggest cinematic influences), but it’s arguably the score that shines the most here: Aska Matsumiya’s beautiful piano-and-orchestral score drives the entire tone of the film, aided by something of a guest appearance by legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who contributes an original piece that scores the film’s climatic (as much as that term can apply to such a calm film) scene.

Overall, After Yang is a philosophical and thought-provoking piece that is also a treat for the eyes and the ears. Video-essayist-turned-filmmaker Kogonada has proven that Columbus was not just a fluke and that he is a visionary artist that should be taken very seriously in the coming years. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Language: English, Chinese
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 1 hr. 36 min.
Rating: PG

Director: Kogonada
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Melea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Justin H. Min, Ritchie Coster

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