After Yang

After Yang ★★★½

“After Yang” is a gentle inflection on the interlink between narrativising and belonging. 

The film comes from director and visual artist Kogonada, who has demonstrated a fluency in seeing perspectives within perspectives of media, which he has edited into various video essays on subjects from Bresson to “Breaking Bad.” 

“After Yang” is set in the not-untouchably distant future, where human androids exist. One version of these, for the purpose of alleviating the cultural gap between children adopted from China, and their Caucasian parents. Starring Colin Farrell as the parent of one of these babies co-raised with a robot sibling, “After Yang” asks that the audience experience the interaction between empathy and memory. Also - how these aspects are incorporated into personhood. 

“Yang” is delicate. Almost painfully so. It unfolds like someone is whispering childhood reminiscences in a close whisper. Just as Kogonada must have spent hours upon hours doing nothing but examining the various representations of hands in Bresson, in “Yang,” he seems to request that we turn this sort of intense examination of sensory minutiae inwards.

Farrell begins this journey as did Kogonada; using a set of glasses to replay the memories of Yang, the Chinese robot that lives with his family. With each visualization, he is able to not only re-examine aspects of his own experiences, but step into how Yang perceived these moments. 

Between these two cognitions; man and machine, white and Chinese; stories and memories merge into one, and become something else. An understanding, of how compassion defines family and culture, while also leading to the transcendence of personhood itself; into pure empathy.

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