After Yang

After Yang ★★★★

Small science-fiction with the largest repercussions, After Yang is an intimate story of grief in the future and yet it becomes about the way we all see life. It's set in a world of clones and robots, representative of a new futuristic family. Yet family here is cross-cultural, and partially After Yang is about unifying a family across their different backgrounds and experiences. During the energetic opening credits the lead family dance in unison, but then the film forces them out of sync with each other. They suffer a loss, but the grief is different here, since the dead can theoretically be repaired. After Yang slowly unravels the life led by its titular character, and considers what memories a robot may keep, asking us also what memories we would choose to keep. Life can always reduced to moments, shown quite literally within the film, and it is so often the trivial and incidental which we preserve in our minds. As the film digs deeper, it becomes about moving on, and how you often learn more about someone once they've passed. What a caterpillar sees as the end, the world sees as a butterfly. The world will cope. Love will travel across time, and death.

Kogonada's style is exceptional and he crafts a fully realised world in After Yang. The camera is always still, with no zooms at first and very few pans. It has the style of Ozu, just editing between static shots. Yet as the film becomes more about memory and the past, it gets more handheld and POV, moving away from the formality of the "present". It is a precise and controlled descent into subjectivity. After Yang is intelligent, unpatronising filmmaking, one that doesn't explain things directly or try to show off. It remains steady and real. This portrait of loss touches on the very soul of man, and it's a fine movie from a very capable filmmaker.

2021 Ranked

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