After Yang Review: A24 and Colin Farrell Robot Movie Will Make You Cry


“Meditation” may be an appropriate word to use in conjunction with the film, which is based on Alexander Weinstein’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Wang.” There are long moments of stillness and silence from both the story and the actors, sometimes plodding, that make us start to wonder if this is all meant to be some sort of indie film parody. While it’s not, it’s also science fiction at its quietest, with all the pointers to the time and place – self-driving cars, advanced robotics, and more. – woven so subtly into the background that they seem to have always been there.

After Yang can actually be overly suggestive at times, depriving us of some sort of context for this world and the events taking place in it. He feels curiously empty for one thing; is it the result of some sort of global cataclysm, even though the surrounding homes and places seem relatively untouched? What are the ramifications of “owning” a highly advanced, extraordinarily self-aware cyborg that looks more like a living being?

That these questions remain unanswered is a source of frustration, as are the excellent performances of the four protagonists who also seem strangely detached at the same time. A morose Farrell wanders from a repair shop to a museum, looking for solutions to Yang’s enormous glitch before the latter’s body begins to disintegrate. He communicates rigidly with Kyra both over the phone and in person, and it certainly seems for a time that they are drifting apart, a process that Yang’s absence hastens.

These parts of the film involve first solving Yang’s problem and then decoding his mystery, but they also lack emotional involvement. This comes – in abundance – in the third act, when the secret records stored in Yang’s core (in other words, his “heart”) are unlocked (depicted quite nicely as a vast explosion of star-shaped lights , each carrying a single memory).

Even then, questions linger about who or what Yang is, how existence is defined, and whether someone has a “soul,” but at this point Kogonada (who also wrote the screenplay) takes you into a wave of emotion which almost compensates for the sterility encountered previously. After Yang is both unsatisfying and cathartic, offering a poignant payoff to a story that leaves the viewer reaching out for more understanding.

After Yang opens in select theaters Friday, March 4 and on Showtime.


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