Science fiction as a genre has the ability to reveal intimate aspects of the human condition while exploring fantasy stories set in distant futures or distant worlds. While modern blockbusters tend to focus on the genre show that features visual effects magic, Kogonadathe second year role, After Yang, takes the genre at its most minimal and personal, using artificial humans to explore everything from memories to identity to culture in the best AI movie in years.

Kogonada, the video essayist turned director, already navigated how people relate to places in his emotional film debut. Colon, but After Yang Aim higher by exploring how we relate to each other, to ourselves, and to the world in general. The movie is set in a future where we not only consider our electronic devices to be our most precious possessions, but we are literally members of the family. Colin farrell plays Jake, a tea vendor who bought a revamped “technosapien” AI to serve as an older brother and cultural teacher to his young daughter, him and his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) adopted from China. Yang (The Umbrella Academy‘s Justin H. Min) is primarily intended to keep Mika (newcomer Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) connected to her roots by providing “Chinese fun facts,” but ended up being responsible for raising her with both parents busy at work.

It takes a while before the movie makes it clear that Yang is not human. Sure, he seems a bit distant when he takes longer than usual to snap a family photo in the opening scene, and he doesn’t seem to notice when the family is eliminated during his regular VR dance competition (the highlight of the movie, and the best dance sequence in a sci-fi movie since Oscar Isaacthe disco scene in Ex machina). Kogonada doesn’t make Yang different from the rest of the family, until he suddenly collapses and the family is devastated by his loss as each tries to cope in a different way.

After yang creates a futuristic tactile world with minimal exposure. Kogonada evokes the feeling of a future where technology and nature have become indistinguishable from each other with small and subtle signs, such as autonomous vehicles with flora surrounding the seats or making Jake a man obsessed with the search for the perfect cup of tea. that he prepares with traditional methods. As with Colon, Kogonada uses minimalist designs and camera movements to make the world of the film and its architectural designs stand out even more.

The movie that feels closest to After Yang in its theme and aesthetics it is Alex garland‘s Ex machina, who used minimalism in his futuristic designs so as not to overwhelm the public. That movie was also very empathetic to its AI, even as the story took a turn into a dark and violent future. After Yang replicates this as Jake begins to dive into Yang’s memories, at first to see if there is evidence of spyware on the technosapien, but later to try to understand what Yang considered a moment worth remembering.

The more Jake learns and revisits the past, the more the movie begins to wonder what exactly constitutes a human being and why asking that question is so important. “What’s so good about being human?” Jake asks at one point, and the movie never really tries to answer that. Rather, the closest the movie gets to finding an answer is asking a slightly different question, what makes someone Chinese? You see, Yang was literally made to be a well of knowledge about the culture, in order to teach human children about its roots, but Yang has never been to China and does not share any connection with that culture, so why is it meant to connect others? to a culture you don’t know? When I wrote about how In the heights It made me think of my own struggles with a sense of belonging, I mentioned the dilemma of feeling connected to a place you have little or no memory of, and what that does to your identity. After Yang it takes those feelings and turns it into a full movie, one that gets to the heart of what it means to be human without its main AI character saying anything.

At one point in the movie, Yang explains to her younger sister Mika, who is being bullied at school for being adopted, about the Chinese tradition of grafting, where parts of two trees come together and grow into something new and improved. Kogonada’s sophomore feature film may be based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein, but it is also steeped in Kogonada’s own influences and sensibilities, growing to become something unique and enhanced. Yes Colon it was a strong opening statement from a new voice in film, After Yang It establishes Kogonada as one of the most humanistic filmmakers working today, and it is unknown what he can accomplish next.

Rating: A-

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