Kogonada may be better known for his video essays and contributions to Sight & Sound magazine and The Criterion Collection. But ever since his directorial debut in 2017 with Columbus, cinephiles have been looking forward to his next project. Arriving back at Sundance, After Yang is yet another success from the writer-director.

If you could record and store just a few seconds of your life each day, which memories would you end up with? What’s worthy of remembering forever? Huge, impactful, life-changing events? Or the simple, little details of life that we, humans, take for granted? Broader topics such as the true meaning of love, family, and being human are handled with exquisite care and a heartfelt perspective within After Yang. Cultural and racial identity, heritage, and even discrimination are also studied in a fascinating, emotional manner. Every line of dialogue, every shot, every memory is arranged and rearranged in ways that will leave most viewers genuinely reflecting upon their own lives throughout the film.

Benjamin Loeb’s gorgeous cinematography sets the perfect thoughtful environment through impressive static shots. However, the star filmmaking element that drastically elevates the overall piece is ASKA’s emotionally powerful & pensive score. The score works as a hypnotising component to transform every scene into a timeline of mesmerising, inexplicably moving sequences. Not to mention that Colin Farrell delivers one of his most subtle performances to date. The actor breathes the contemplative air generated by the impressive storytelling; as if the surrounding tech-heavy location is his own natural habitat. Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, and even the young Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja are all remarkable. Unfortunately, After Yang boasts a (purposefully) slow pace that isn’t able to maintain a consistent tempo. Kogonada relies far too much on lingering shots and uneventful sequences, ultimately damaging the rhythm of the film.

After Yang may have some pacing issues, but Kogonada’s beautifully thoughtful storytelling and ASKA’s unforgettable, tear-inducing score transform this piece into a contemplative, inspirational cinematic experience. The film is a fascinating look into the core of humanity through the heart of a robot — both literally and figuratively. It loses itself amid its admittedly gorgeous wide, static shots. Still memorable, nonetheless.

After Yang premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as part of the ‘Spotlight’ category. The film is currently set for a March 2022 release date from A24.

By Manuel São Bento

A 28-year-old critic with a tremendous passion for film, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who stopped watching trailers since 2016. Member of GFCA, IFSC, and OFTA. Approved on Banana Meter. Social media: @msbreviews.