After Yang

After Yang ★★★★

This movie is guilty, as was Kogonada’s debut, “Columbus,” of some of the preening preciousness that has become prevalent over the past decade in indie movies—a preponderance of whispering voices, a disinclination towards dramatic plot twists, a conspicuous omission of explicit script references to key world building points, and an overriding cinematic politeness. But I’m not complaining because there’s also an emotional acuity here that far transcends its formal artifice. The film’s examination of the second class citizenship of humanity’s companion creatures—androids, nominally, though basically pets—is winningly complex and revealing. In addition to a deft understanding of the hierarchical dynamics at play here between humans and their creations, Kogonada smartly grounds the fantastical premise within quotidian details: struggling to make a family business work, straining to connect with a spouse, fretting over the emotional and cultural growth of a child. There’s also an acknowledgment of the contradictions of living with technology: ambivalence towards encroachments on privacy, irreconcilable prejudices against certain innovations and acceptance of others (clones vs. androids), wariness of over-reliance on things intended to make our lives easier, and the timeless dad urge to get a good deal on any given tech product by buying it refurbished. The world of “After Yang” is set in some indeterminate future, but like the best science fiction, it’s still unmistakably about the time in which it was made.

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