Basically: A science fiction story about how a family deals with loss.
After Yang is an exciting and quiet movie. In this world, people purchase humanoid robots to act as siblings for their children. We follow Jake and Kyra, who buy the android Yang to become the brother of their adopted daughter Mika. They want someone to help Mika feel comfortable as a Chinese child—to have someone else who is Asian in her life and connect her to her culture.
One evening, Yang stops working and Jake tries to see if he can be repaired. Instead, he finds out Yang is unique and, from there, he learns about Yang’s inner life and how he thinks about the nature of his family.
The regularly great Colin Farrell plays Jake and Jodie Turner-Smith plays Kyra. The two make a very realistic couple who love each other but still have issues. Their relationship feels authentic and they have chemistry because of the ease in which they show they care for each other. Farrell and Turner-Smith also work well with Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja as Mika, they really feel like a family. And Tjandrawidjaja really shows believable grief over the loss of her brother Yang.
Now we come to Justin H. Min as Yang; while the film follows Farrell’s Jake, the story is really about Yang and his life. There are times when Yang is a person full of wonder, even though no one sees him as a person. He’s just trying to figure out life, highlighted through quiet scenes and close-up shots. At times Yang feels like a calmer version of the replicants from Blade Runner. Their violence contrasts with Yang’s solemn thoughts on life and identity. Min portrays this perfectly. He seems wise yet naïve in each scene.
The wrinkle added to the story is Ada (Haley Lu Richardson) as Yang’s friend and romantic interest with a deeper connection to his past life. Jake’s meeting and interactions with Ada expand even more our thoughts on the character and what life can be.
Sarita Choudhury plays Cleo, a scientist and museum operator who studies what the film calls techno-sapiens. She helps Jake find out more about Yang and expands his idea on just how exceptional Yang and his kind are. Which is something most humans take for granted. I really enjoy this storyline because After Yang shows a future that is just a future. Life is nothing special, like you’d see in any other drama. The future isn’t a dystopia, a horror, or a utopia. It’s just a society with a new wrinkle of humanoids and you can debate about their place in the world. After Yang brings up concepts that are not explained because it’s not unknown to the people in the world we are viewing. Which feels like a breath of fresh air.
In the End: A24 has another great concept and a different type of drama with fantastic performances from everyone involved.