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Featured image for review of After Yang on Sean Kelly on Movies

After Yang

Synopsis:
In a near future, a family reckons with questions of love, connection, and loss after their A.I. helper unexpectedly breaks down.

A family enters a mournful state after their android helper breaks down in . Jake () and Kyra () are a couple who acquired an android named Yang () to be a sibling for their adopted daughter Mika (), in order to help her connect with her Chinese culture. However, one day Yang suddenly malfunctions and Jake is left trying to find a way to fix him. After coming into contact with museum curator Cleo (), Jake learns that Yang has stored memories of not only his time with the family but of an unknown girl named Ava ().

After Yang is a sci-fi drama written and directed by Kogonada (Columbus), based on the short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” from the book “Children of the New World” by Alexander Weinstein. After a very upbeat opening credits sequence, where the family participates in a virtual dance competition, the tone quickly becomes much more melancholy, as the family's android Yang suddenly breaks down. Jake is referred by his neighbour George () to a somewhat paranoid repairman named Russ (Ritchie Coster), who finds what he believes to be spyware in Yang's core. However, it turns out to be a hidden memory bank and Jake soon comes to realize how much Yang meant to the family and vice versa.

There is a point in After Yang where Jake asks Ava, the girlfriend he never knew Yang had if the android had ever expressed to her the desire to become human. Ava responds that this is actually a very human thought to have since she believes that it is actually worse to be human. Indeed, After Yang unlike similarly themed films such as 1999's Bicentennial Man or 2001's A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the focus is less on the android himself and more on the effect he had on his human family.

As the titular Yang, Justin H. Min (The Umbrella Academy) is seen primarily in flashbacks, as Jake and his family remember the impact that he made on them. This even includes Jake's wife Kyra, who viewed Yang as little more than a tool for their daughter Mika to connect with her Chinese culture and initially saw his breaking down as a chance for Mika to let go of her reliance on him. However, as both Jake and Kyra view Yang's memories, they begin to realize how important he was to their lives.

After Yang is a painfully sad film that is ultimately a metaphor about you not really knowing what you have until it's gone. With the exception of Mika, Yang was never truly treated as a member of the family until after he breaks down. It is only after viewing his memories that they learn how much more human Yang was and end result is one hell of a sci-fi tearjerker.

Trailer for After Yang

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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