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After Yang

I watched After Yang on Showtime last night. I had come across it in channel listings and thought—like most people, I suppose—what an odd title.

And looking it up, like most people, I was surprised to learn it was a sci-fi film.

It’s a beautiful, intimate “people picture” about a family whose robot, Yang, malfunctions (dies), and the father (Colin Farrell) sets out to repair him.

From the premise, you might think this is some kind of Cherry 2000 sci-fi adventure. But it’s really a subtle, backdoor meditation on the nature of grief.

I didn’t love watching it, because it’s slow-paced, but I loved it by the end (which is how a lot of these films are).

This reminds me of a David Raskin quote: “My music should never be listened to for the first time.” Of course this is a paradox, but the point is you only appreciate it upon the repeat listenings/viewings.

After Yang works because it’s so simple: a family member dies...and the family mourns him. (This is a nice family: the robot is treated like one of their own, not an appliance.)

But the “getting there” is not so simple. Because the family member is a robot (that’s him in orange on the right, above), they try to just take him to the shop.

Instead (spoilers), they learn he is not repairable—but they discover and evaluate pieces of his memory that suggest the richness and beauty of his thoughts and his own, Data-like investigation of humanity and his own self.

In the end, they accept his loss and grieve all that he was and meant.

In movie marketing, they call this...“life affirming.”

And it is. The film is beautifully made, and my congratulations to screenwriter/director Kogonada, and the cast and crew.

The score is lovely, by Aska Matsumiya with one track by Ryuichi Sakamoto:

There’s also a great use of an existing, melancholy pop song, which is not on the soundtrack album but can be found on a 2001 album by Lily Chou-Chou (that has its own confusing backstory):

Wait, actually the version in the movie is this cover, which sounds very similar to the original:

Coming soon: After Yang 2!

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