After Yang

After Yang ★★★★

I don’t consider the following to be a spoiler but it describes a scene from the middle of the film so please use your own discretion. 

There’s a scene in the middle of After Yang where Colin Farrell’s character Jake is talking to Yang (Justin H. Min), a “technosapient,” which is basically the futuristic equivalent of a robot nanny. Jake is a tea salesman and he’s reflecting about his love of tea - how its flavor is fundamentally indescribable, how he was inspired to get into it by a movie he once saw. Yang is a “cultural” technosapient, so it’s his job to know about things like how tea originated in China. He’s got all kind of facts and could probably talk for hours about the origins and compositions of tea.

But something strange happens when the two share a drink of tea. Jake is thoughtful as he drinks it in. He’s tries to savor the tea, to fully understand its richness. Yang ingests the tea but he doesn’t have the same reaction.

“I wish Chinese tea wasn’t just about facts for me,” Yang says. “I like watching the way you make tea. It’s very beautiful. The way the leaves bloom and float and fall. I wish I felt something deeper about tea. I wish I had a real memory of tea in China. Of a place. Of a time.”

And it was in that moment, where this technosapient who, by all accounts, appeared to be an Asian man and could speak like an Asian man and knew many facts that an Asian man would know but who ultimately didn’t understand anything about what it meant to be Asian (maybe even less than the white man sitting across from him) that I felt I understood what this movie was trying to say.

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